For the next two weeks, MLSsoccer.com will preview each of the 19 teams in Major League Soccer, beginning with the clubs that brought up the bottom of the table in 2011 and ending with the league's newest addition, the Montreal Impact. This is part one of two previewing the New England Revolution's 2012 season. You can find Part 2 here.
Setting the Scene
After sliding down the table over the past couple of years, the Revolution tumbled all the way down to the bottom of the Eastern Conference in 2011. The repercussions from another disappointing campaign drastically impacted the offseason activities.
Veteran coach Steve Nicol departed the club after 10 largely successful seasons. Former defender and TV analyst Jay Heaps replaced him, while president Brian Bilello and general manager Michael Burns moved into revamped front office roles. Several players also made way to create room for Fernando Cárdenas, John Lozano, Säer Sène and Clyde Simms as the Revs plotted a new course for 2012.
In and Out
IN: M/F Fernando Cárdenas (loan/América de Cali); D John Lozano (loan/América de Cali); F José Moreno (loan/Once Caldas)*; D Tyler Polak (SuperDraft/Generation adidas/Creighton); M Alec Purdie (supplemental draft/Indiana); F Mike Roach (supplemental draft/Saint Louis); M Kelyn Rowe (SuperDraft/Generation adidas/UCLA), F Säer Sène (Bayern Munich), M Clyde Simms (Re-Entry Stage 2/D.C. United); M Rick Smith (supplemental draft/Bethel Univ.)
* – loan deal scheduled to start on March 1
OUT: F Milton Caraglio (option declined/C.S.D. Rangers); D Ryan Cochrane (option declined/San Antonio Scorpions); D Franco Coria (option declined/unattached); F Kheli Dube (Re-Entry Stage 2/Chicago); F Alan Koger (option declined/unattached); F Rajko Lekic (option declined/Lyngby); D Otto Loewy (option declined/unattached); M Pat Phelan (option declined/unattached); M Andrew Sousa (option declined/unattached); M Monsef Zerka (option declined/unattached)
COACHING INS: coach Jay Heaps, assistant coach Jay Miller, strength and conditioning coach Nick Downing
COACHING OUTS: coach Steve Nicol, assistant coaches Stephen Myles and Peter Fuller
Star Attraction: Benny Feilhaber
Heaps' insistence on a short passing game should benefit Feilhaber as he starts his first full season in MLS. The US international schemer possesses the creativity to marshal the attacking proceedings, but he will need plenty of support from the likes of Shalrie Joseph and Kelyn Rowe to ensure opposing teams do not focus solely upon restricting his time and space on the ball.
Unsung Hero: Chris Tierney
The versatile left-sider (pictured at right) has plugged plenty of holes during his previous four seasons with the Revolution, but he will likely draw a regular assignment at left back in 2012. It isn't the easiest of transitions for the natural midfielder and he will have to work diligently to carry out his permanent defensive duties. One silver lining for Tierney: the 26-year-old should enjoy plenty of license to push up the field and swing enticing crosses into dangerous areas.
Ready for Primetime: Kelyn Rowe
The US U-23 international midfielder has settled well into Heaps' squad after completing his Olympic team duties in January. His technical ability dovetails nicely with the club's current brief to keep the ball on the ground, while his versatility opens up options in midfield. He will receive every chance to stake a claim for a regular place if he continues to perform as he has done so far during preseason.
WATCH: Meet Kelyn Rowe
Storylines to Watch
1. How will the José Moreno transfer saga conclude? Revolution officials landed Moreno's signature on a loan deal in early February, but the Once Caldas striker has reportedly expressed some reluctance to join the club when his contract starts on March 1. If he doesn't arrive, then the Revs will have to locate a suitable replacement to lead the line.
2. What impact will Heaps have on the squad? The new boss has injected his energy into the group and implemented his vision from Day 1, but he must still to prove his ability to manage his squad and weather the inevitable difficulties over the long haul.
What He Said
“We have a lot to accomplish, but we're getting there. We're still, obviously, a couple of players short of where we want to be. Some of it, we still have work left to do. Some of it, it's still a waiting game right now.”
– Revolution coach Jay Heaps, on the state of his squad heading into the FC Tucson Desert Diamond Classic and the start of the season.
If Everything Goes Right:
This rebuilding effort likely won't yield immediate results. If everything breaks the right way and the Revs secure further reinforcements during the summer, then a playoff push isn't entirely out of the question. Without those additional signings and a few strokes of luck, the Revs will likely struggle once again.
WATCH: Revs preview 2012 season