Over the next three weeks, MLSsoccer.com will take a look back at the 2012 season that was for all 19 clubs in Major League Soccer, starting with Toronto FC and ending with the Supporters' Shield-winning San Jose Earthquakes. You can find the schedule and comprehensive reviews for each team here.
2012 record: 9-17-8 (35 points); 39 GF / 44 GA (-5 GD)
New England coach Jay Heaps and general manager Michael Burns sat down with selected reporters on Nov. 16 to review the 2012 season and discuss the plans for 2013. The following transcript represents a selected portion of that conversation pertaining to those topics.
Jay, you've been on the job for a year now. What was this season like for you and the team?
Heaps: It is a learning process. As a coach, you have to find your style. I think I know that well, but now you also have to blend that with your personnel. I think that's so important. This season, we had a style that we wanted to play, but you also have to build it around the players you have. We learned quite a bit about that.
For me, going forward, I think the players that we sign, the players that we have, the locker room we're trying to build is crucial. How that relationship takes us from being in a not-so-great spot where we finished the season to being a contender next season, that's going to be important. And how on and off the field we mature. That's important for me as a coach, but also for the players we have in that locker room.
What was the first year of your partnership like? What sort of challenges did you face?
Burns: I wouldn't even call them challenges. With the exception of 1996, we had more of a roster turnover [last year] than in any other year in the history of the Revs. For a first-year coach to come in and to have a greater than a 50 percent turnover in your roster and nine international signings throughout the course of the year, I know it is a lot. It is a huge undertaking for [Heaps] and the staff. While we will have some roster turnover for sure [this winter], it won't be 50 to 60 percent like we had from last year to this year.
We feel like this year, we've built more of a nucleus that we can build upon. We didn't really feel that was the case after the 2011 season. From my perspective, there's a lot that goes into that. I'm just throwing numbers at you. That's a full-time job. That's a lot. With a new coaching staff and a lot of new players, that takes time to jell. We think we're going this way and, next year, we want to continue to go that way.
Heaps: From my perspective, being a first-year head coach, having a general manager like Mike Burns – who knows every facet of this league, who has played in this league, who has an understanding of players that are going to do well in this league – [helps]. When you make that many signings and we get that many players through that I have to have eyes on, I have to trust his idea of value, however you want to put that. There's a lot that goes on here. It's important for a guy like me. If you don't have that kind of experience in his seat, we're not where we are.
We're not where we want to be in terms of the record, but, like Mike said, we've built a good nucleus here. We've started a foundation going forward. Quite frankly, the players believe in it, the coaching staff believes in it. I know we're going to get there next year.
Which areas of the field do you feel need to be strengthened?
Burns: I think we'd start at the back and probably go forward. For sure, one of our priorities this offseason is to add another defender or two and another midfielder or two [ed. note: New England signed Andy Dorman before this conversation and Kalifa Cissé after this conversation]. I think up top, with Jerry [Bengtson], with Dimitry [Imbongo], Diego [Fagundez] and Saer [Sene] coming back, you have four guys right there who we think are going to compete for a spot.
That's not to say we won't add a forward, but, this year, we were thin in the back in terms of numbers. We were probably a little thin in terms of central midfielders, as well. I think central midfield and anywhere along the backline, those are areas of emphasis.
That's another one of the big differences from last year to this year. Last year, [we needed] players. We were looking everywhere. And that's not to say that if something comes through with another forward, we won't look to add there. But we are looking more specifically in terms of the backline and central midfielders.
Heaps: We can tailor make that search a little bit better this year. I think one of the areas – whether it's defender or midfielder – it's experience. That's one area we just need overall, whether it's MLS or overall. There needs to be a little bit more of that. So that's important. Whether that comes in a midfield role or a defensive role, that's something that is an important factor for me.