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)
The most consistently good club of the 2000s has been one of the most consistently bad clubs of the 2010s, and for last season, anyway, it seemed to defy belief. How could a team with so much talent, so much ability, so much promise in the midfield find ways to lose week after week?
It’s a fair question, one without a good answer though the first half of the year. Jay Heaps – a significant cog in those consistent winners of last decade – took over the Revs and had them keeping the ball on the ground, using it as a weapon on both defense and attack, and generating chances that would surely turn into goals once the starting No. 9 spot was upgraded from Blake Brettschneider (who still has promise, but was a lamentable finisher) to the presumptive star import (which turned out to be Jerry Bengtson, who honestly wasn’t much better).
The Revs were at their best and were one of the league’s most fun teams to watch early on with Lee Nguyen, Benny Feilhaber, Kelyn Rowe, Saer Sene and Clyde Simms pinging the ball around. The defense remained frail, of course, but those guys did a good enough job of keep-ball that New England were a respectable 6-7-4 at the midway point.
They went 3-10-4 the rest of the way.
In the process, they became more direct and long-ball oriented, with left back Chris Tierney particularly guilty of skipping the midfield every time he had an inch of daylight. Whether that was under Heaps’ orders or freelancing of his own is still an open question, but whatever the cause, the effect was that the Revs no longer had any sort of grasp on the game in midfield and spent the last four months of the season chasing.
Bye bye, offense.
The chasing meant that Nguyen and Feilhaber had to drop deeper (when Feilhaber wasn’t dropped from the lineup outright, that is), and that new man Juan Toja, who had what we’ll call “fitness concerns,” was a non-factor. Once Sene went down with a ruptured ACL, that was all she wrote.
Expectations should remain justifiably low for 2013. Heaps has probably upgraded his defensive midfield with the addition of Kalifa Cissé, and Kevin Alston somehow managed to look more at home at left back than he did at right back – weird, because he’s right-footed – but there are bound to be big, big changes coming once again all over the pitch. Feilhaber’s on the trading block, Nguyen and Sene are recovering from injuries, Rowe is still just a youngster with promise, and Bengtson didn’t look anywhere near as comfortable making the transition to MLS as most of his Honduran countrymen.
It’s a fair bet that means the Revs will once again be a very direct team – one with their annual very high SuperDraft pick come January 2014.