It’s safe to say it was the biggest weekend of the season for the New England Revolution. A 1-0 home win over Chivas USA on Saturday, was followed up by the signing of United States international Jermaine Jones on the following day.
The major signing helps put the Revolution back on track at the perfect time, returning optimism for the future of the organization.
With the 2013 MLS season seeing huge progress for the team, 2014 was met with higher expectations.
New England looked like an early Eastern Conference front runner, with a massive 5-0 victory over Seattle in May highlighting the true potential of the young team.
However, New England under-performed during an eight game losing streak through June and July. Injuries, and a less-than-favorable schedule, left the team with decisions to make going forward.
The actual pursuit of Jones was a surprise to many. New England’s front office has historically gone for less expensive signings in most transfer windows. They generally choose to spend more money on youth development, which has produced players like Diego Fagundez and Scott Caldwell out of its youth academy.
“We thought Jermaine was the best player for the U.S. in the World Cup and we are excited to welcome him to New England. Robert and I have always said that any major DP signing would need to make an impact, on and off the field, and we believe the addition of Jermaine will do just that,” said Revolution owner Jonathan Kraft in a press release. “When we learned that he was interested in signing with MLS, we immediately informed the league of our interest. He is a dynamic player and is certain to have a tremendous impact on our team and in our community. We look forward to his many contributions.”
Aside from being arguably the biggest signing in club history, Jones will bring a wealth of experience to a midfield in desperate need of a true box-to-box midfielder. The 32-year-old can add much needed physicality to an undersized midfield, helping the team compete in a chippy Eastern Conference.
Head coach Jay Heaps will now have more options tactically, with the team’s default 4-1-4-1 formation being less effective as of late.
“I think there are a lot of different roles within that center midfield that we see him playing,” Heaps said. “Tactically, we can change the way in which we pivot the triangle. He plays a lot of those roles.”
Heaps went on to state how Jones seems like the perfect fit with the team’s current personnel.
“He fits exactly what we we’re looking for in a ball-winning midfielder,” Heaps said. (He has) a great presence in there, and so our philosophy stays the same in how we want to coach the team. Now, we feel that we have a really big piece of the puzzle, right down the spine.”
With the recent offensive struggles, Jones will allow Heaps to play with just four in the midfield, creating more chances to play with two forwards. Recent acquisitions of former US youth international Tony Taylor, and Dutch striker Geoffrey Castillion, compliment the team’s need for finishing, and add more potential pairings for in-form striker Charlie Davies.
Currently sitting in sixth place, the team is a mere three points outside of third placed Toronto FC. With both teams meeting at BMO field this weekend, defender Andrew Farrell was optimistic following the victory over Chivas,
“We have to build on this, it is really important to go onto Toronto and get a good result,” Farrell told New England Soccer Today. “We knew that after the tie against Portland, tonight was a must win.”
All of New England’s remaining opponents are in the Eastern Conference, meaning that each game will have an added since of importance. The addition of Jones could give the team a badly needed edge,
“I don’t wanna get ahead of ourselves, but I think we can do big things this season and playoffs are something that’s very attainable and I think we’ll have to take it game by game,” said Davies. ” I think he’ll fit right in and I think he’s just the player that we were missing, really, that bite in the midfield, that experience I think everyone looks at us and thinks this team is pretty young, but his experience now, it really puts us as contenders so I’m excited definitely.”
As New England looks to find its early season form, Jones will first be tasked with getting match fit. His last game was with the U.S. National Team against Belgium, which came nearly two months ago.
“After a long break, it’s not easy to come back, but I will work hard to come back…it’s not easy to find out (right away) which runs the guys do, but it’s a process that will need time,” said Jones.
Once Jones returns to the field, the Revolution could be running on all cylinders ahead of the most critical stretch of a very long season. The Bundesliga veteran feels that the places are in place.
“There’s only 10 games left in the season,” Jones said. “I think it’s tough, but you have to have talent and I think we have a good group. They have a great roster, they have good players that are really young and we will see what happens. I try to be one of those leaders…”
The recent signings show that New England is trying to put the pieces together to be strong at the right time of the year. With the front office taking full advantage of the situation at hand, it may be a new era for an organization many have written off.