New England Soccer Today

Nowhere to Go…

Former Revolution trialist Gabe Mercier elevates on a header against Real Salt Lake in a 2-1 preseason win on Feb. 29 (Photo: Joshua Pearson).

For many inside the Revolution locker room last year, it seemed as if the 2011 season couldn’t end soon enough.

Five wins. Winless streaks of seven and nine. Ten attacking shutouts. A negative-20 goal differential. And a reservation for the bottom of the conference.

Of course, once the season that would not end finally reached its merciful conclusion, few escaped unscathed. Goodbye, Stevie Nicol. See you later, Steve Myles. Farewell Milton Caraglio, Rajko Lekic, Monsef Zerka and nine others.

Today, the Revolution, after a host of changes from top to bottom, are eager to ascend the Eastern Conference standings. And while it may be a bit premature to crown them Conference champions, here are five reasons why things are looking up in 2012.

1. The stamp Jay Heaps has put on this squad will be unmistakable. Nine years is an extraordinarily long time for any coaching relationship to last. And it became clear that Nicol’s tenure had reached its conclusion following the 2011 season. Enter Heaps, who in a few short months, has brought new energy into the locker room. But, even more than that, the bar has been raised. The deaf ear to the excuses, mental lapses and mistakes? Gone. Accountability – from the head coach himself right down to the 28th man – is now the name of the game. Each game in and of itself will be a test. And if there’s one mission Heaps set out from the start, it’s that his squad will not be outworked, nor will it be outsmarted.

2. Clyde Simms will be the solid holding mid the Revolution have missed since Jeff Larentowicz was dealt. Following the Kaiser’s last kick in a Revolution kit, the front office has scoured for a capable midfield partner for Shalrie Joseph. Ousmane Dabo looked promising – until he retired. Pat Phelan was serviceable – then saw his option declined. Joseph Niouky had potential – but not much else. Although Simms came to New England as an unheralded Re-entry selection, his experience as a true holding mid to should help seal the holes the opposition exploited with alarming frequency during the last two seasons.

3. The defense will be better. It can’t get much worse, right? Fifty-eight goals allowed – 13 of them coming in the final 10 minutes – and countless miscues all spelled doom for the Revolution last year. With Heaps observing it all from the booth, changes were needed. Ryan Cochrane and Franco Coria – out. John Lozano, Tyler Polak and a re-positioned Stephen McCarthy – in. Although the defensive hiccups didn’t disappear completely during the preseason, Lozano played well and McCarthy made strides as a central defender in training. If Polak can deliver the form that warranted him the Generation adidas tag, and Heaps can add some depth on the edges, this edition of the D could make 2011 seem like a distant memory.

4. More playing time for Diego Fagundez will equal more goals. The Homegrown star was one of the few bright spots on an otherwise disappointing team last season. But after the organization slowly eased him into the lineup, Heaps will count on Fagundez to deliver more this season. More creativity, more class on the ball, more dangerous runs and, well, more life in the final third. Yes, he’s still in high school. And yes, the coaching staff has to be cautious not too overuse him. But, there’s little doubt that Fagundez plays with the confidence and mental focus of players twice his age. Count on him getting much more playing time in 2012.

5. Kelyn Rowe will evoke memories of Clint Dempsey. OK, so that might be the most premature statement made since “Luis Figo is coming to Foxboro.” But, even though the competition Rowe faced when he scored four goals, collected four assists and locked up the imaginary preseason Rookie of the Year may not have been fierce, the 20-year-old was a force. Crossing? Check. Finishing? Check. Smart positioning? Check. Exceptional touch plus good vision mixed with good runs and a hint of unpredictability? Check, check and check. We may not know what the future holds for the former UCLA Bruin, but all indications point to Rowe having a Dempsey-esque rookie year.


One Comment

Leave a Reply