2013 in Review: New England Revolution's youth movement pays off, ending four-year playoff drought
Over the next two weeks, MLSsoccer.com will take a look back at the 2013 season that was for all 19 clubs in Major League Soccer, starting with D.C. United and ending with the Supporters' Shield-winning New York Red Bulls. You can find the schedule and comprehensive reviews for each team here.
2013 record: 14-11-9 (51 points); 49 GF / 38 GA (+11 GD)
New England grew by leaps and bounds in Jay Heaps' second year in charge. The performances and the results improved. The noticeable rhythm in possession led to more entertaining fare. The promising young players in the ranks blossomed within the revised operating principles.
Those noticeable strides prompted progress toward the upper half of the Eastern Conference table and ultimately yielded the Revolution's first postseason berth since 2009. If all proceeds according to plan in Foxborough, then the Eastern Conference semifinal exit to eventual MLS Cup winners Sporting Kansas City will merely represent the first step in the club's continued resurgence.
Best Moment of the Year
Four long years passed between postseason appearances. The drought fittingly ended in Columbus, the same location where the Revs secured their last playoff berth. At the final whistle, the players erupted after their late-season push guaranteed a spot in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The swashbuckling wins over LA Galaxy (5-0 on June 2) and Philadelphia (5-1 on Aug. 25) weren't bad days, either.
Worst Moment of the Year
Two awful off-the-field occurrences – Kevin Alston's chronic myelogenous leukemia diagnosis and the life-threatening injuries sustained by Matt Reis' father-in-law, John Odom, during the Boston Marathon tragedy in April – rocked the Revs. Both men provided inspiration to the club and the squad as they recovered during the course of the year. Alston even returned to the field in July and settled back into his usual duties for the second half of the season.
Juan Agudelo shined during his brief stint in Foxboro. The former Chivas USA star's positive and tidy approach fit neatly with the the expansive work through midfield and into the final third. His pièce de résistance came with an instinctive and sumptuous back heel over the onrushing Sean Johnson on Aug. 17 in a 2-0 win vs. the Chicago Fire.
The team as a whole improve with the arrival of José Gonçalves in central defense. His consistently imperial displays shored up the revamped back four and solidified the foundation of the side. He assumed the captaincy as the season progressed in a reflection of his widespread influence on the squad.
New England invited Gonçalves for a training spell just over a year ago. Gonçalves and the Revs reached an agreement to end his spell in the wilderness with FC Sion and start a new journey in the United States. Gonçalves' presence steadied the young Revs and underpinned their progression to the postseason.
“You play for the playoffs. We definitely have had ups and downs this season, but I think we're coming together as a group. We're getting our young guys big minutes in big games. And they're winning games and finding results,” Revs coach Jay Heaps said after securing a playoff spot on the final day of the regular season.
1. Striker: Revolution general manager Michael Burns acknowledged this department as an area of emphasis with the departure of Agudelo, the severe injury sustained by Saër Sène and the uncertainty surrounding Jerry Bengtson (pictured right). Expect the club to move quickly to find a player capable of leading the line and linking the play in their stead.
2. Goalkeeper: Reis' retirement left the Revs with a glaring vacancy between the sticks. The acquisition of Brad Knighton from Vancouver last week essentially filled the berth, though. Knighton will compete with Bobby Shuttleworth for the No. 1 shirt in 2014.
3. Central midfield: The search here focuses on a robust holding player to complement the current group of technicians. A similar move for Kalifa Cissé during the close season last year did not pan out, but the Revs will try again to locate an authoritative presence to complement holdovers Scott Caldwell and Andy Dorman in the traditional No. 6 role.