FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – It’s been less than a month since the New England Revolution played their final game of the 2011 season, and it’s been just as busy – if not busier – for general manager Michael Burns (above at right, with Revs president Brian Bilello and new head coach Jay Heaps) now that the games are done.
Following the Revs’ disappointing finish, he’s been tasked with replacing iconic manager Steve Nicol with Heaps while mapping out his plans to rebuild the team during the winter. Burns took a few minutes on two separate occasions over the past month to chat about the fallout from Nicol's departure and the club's ongoing plans to rebuild for 2012.
MLSsoccer.com: It was obviously a disappointing season for the Revolution. How do you reflect upon the campaign?
Burns: The word “disappointment” is an understatement. On all levels and across the board, it was beyond disappointing for players, coaches, fans and everyone. There's an awful lot of work to do during the offseason, from a staff and coaching standpoint and from a player standpoint. [Those things] are currently being addressed and will be addressed. Changes will be forthcoming.
Nobody's pleased with what transpired in 2011. I can't sit here and tell you how much better we're going to be in 2012. But this wasn't acceptable this year on all fronts.
MLSsoccer.com: The biggest change right now is that Nicol will not be back. What sort of impact does that change have on the club?
Burns: I think it's a major impact. If you look at Steve's body of work over 10 years, there were a lot more positives than negatives. I have an enormous amount of respect for him as a person and as a coach. But it was extremely disappointing this year. In my opinion, I'm not sure there's a more important position on a team than the head coach.
MLSsoccer.com: You have Heaps in as his replacement. Now there are a whole lot of roster decisions to make in a short period of time. How do you guys settle in quickly?
Burns: The first orders of business are hiring assistant coaches, who are we protecting in the Expansion Draft ... what options are we picking up. There's a lot to do in a short period of time. Jay and I will be spending an inordinate amount of time together over the next couple of weeks to make these decisions. But they are important decisions, big decisions.
Even though this is the offseason and there are no games, there is no offseason for us. We're going to be busier now than we have ever been in the calendar year of 2011. We have a lot of work to do, but we're excited about the work.
MLSsoccer.com: How much work is there to get this club back to where you want it to be?
Burns: A couple of people have asked me that, and I'm looking at it as if this is not the offseason for me. Yeah, the players have a nice schedule, they have some time off and they get to go home, but there is no offseason this year for us. That's not the way we're approaching it. Yeah, there are no games, but, for us, it's not an offseason because we have more work to do now than we did during the season. That's on all fronts: player front, staff front, coaching front. There's so much to do. In two months, the guys will be reporting for preseason. So we've got a lot of work to do in eight weeks.
MLSsoccer.com: You’re early into your new role in the Revolution's new executive structure. How have you used this brief time to sort out how things will work?
Burns: Well, I was thrown right into the deep end. As soon as it was announced, I was on a coaching search. For me, I'm not sure if there's a more important decision to make than who is going to lead your team, right? I'm very confident, comfortable and ecstatic about bringing Jay on. Was I involved in that process? Absolutely. That's a big decision for any club. The organization structure changed and then, right off the bat, it's go find a new coach, which is fine. That's one of the changes.
MLSsoccer.com: US Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati will be staying on as a senior advisor to the Kraft family. How do you see using his expertise going forward?
Burns: Whenever I can. Sunil has been phenomenal for me personally and professionally. He's an extremely intelligent man. He knows the landscape of soccer – not only in this country, but worldwide – perhaps better than anyone in the United States currently. I will lean on him and use him probably more than he would like.