New England Soccer Today

Happy New Year?

Twenty-eleven turned out to be an interesting year, to say the least. It was a year that witnessed the long-awaited arrival of Jurgen Klinsmann as U.S. Men’s National Team coach, the U.S. Women’s National Team falling in agonizing fashion to Japan in the World Cup final, Steve Nicol’s departure as Revolution manager, the introduction of Jay Heaps as his successor and…wait for it…Hope Solo and her two step.

With all the events that stamped themselves into our collective psyche last year, it may be hard to fathom that, with 2012 now  in full effect, there’s even more to come. More changes, more triumphs and, with any luck, more Hope Solo on the hi-def set.

Let’s look ahead at five things to watch for in 2012 that could make this year at least 50% more awesome than last year.

The Jay Heaps Era in Foxboro. Filling Steve Nicol’s shoes won’t be an easy proposition for his former pupil. But that’s probably the last thing on the mind of Jay Heaps, who faces the enormous task of returning the Revolution back to respectability. Although the former defender may not have a wealth of coaching experience on his resume, there’s no doubt that he’ll bring much-needed energy and ideas to the table. How that affects the Revs will make 2012 unlike any season in recent memory. Can they rise from the ashes of last year’s franchise-worst five-win season and return to the playoffs? Or will things get worse before they get better?

The 2012 Summer Olympics. During the last installment of the Summer  Games, the U.S. women clinched gold in a 1-0 overtime thriller against Brazil while the U.S. men played compelling soccer against the Netherlands and Argentina. But storylines behind the squads could not be more different. Can the women’s side rebound from last year’s devastating loss to Japan in the World Cup final and claim another gold medal? Will London be the last stand for the likes of Abby Wambach, Christie Rampone and Shannon Boxx? Which prospects on Caleb Porter’s squad will emerge as contenders for a spot on the 2014 World Cup roster? And will the men’s side have what it takes to advance through to the group stage?

The emergence of New England’s newest PDL clubs. Boston Victory SC, Connecticut FC Azul and Worcester Hydra FC will be the latest additions from New England to enter into Premier Development League competition. Although the likes of the Western Mass Pioneers, Vermont Voltage, and New Hampshire Phantoms  – now Seacoast United – have succeeded in putting roots down at the PDL level, Boston, Connecticut and Worcester hope to use the fourth-division league as a launching pad to greater ambitions – such as that of an MLS club in the case of Worcester and a spot in USL-PRO for Boston. Will they able to successfully build their brands amid a tough economic climate? Or do the fates suffered by the likes of the Cape Cod Crusaders and Rhode Island Stingrays await?

Joe-Max Moore knocking on the Hall of Fame doors. Last year, Joe-Max Moore was a nominated for the Hall for the fourth straight year. And it’s not by accident. His credentials for club and country certainly merit serious consideration for enshrinement. His 24 goals for the National Team are fifth-best all-time while his 53 goals for the Revolution are second-best in team history.  But does his disappearance from the sport’s radar hurt his chances? Or will this be the year that one of the greatest strikers to ever don the red, white and blue finally gets the call?

The Tony DiCicco-less Breakers. For its first three years in WPS, the Breakers had one of the most successful American coaches to ever stroll the sidelines in Tony DiCicco, who guided them to a pair of playoff berths during his tenure. More than that, the coach of the memorable ’99 Women’s World Cup championship side brought stability to the Breakers despite the failing health of the league. But after DiCicco left the club last fall, the Breakers will looking at their first season without DiCicco. Can the Breakers thrive without their cornerstone coach? Perhaps more importantly – does DiCicco’s departure signal the beginning of the end for the Breakers, who are still searching for new owners?

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