New England Soccer Today

Five Questions: Revolution at Fire

Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis shined during the preseason. Was it enough for him to keep the starting goalkeeper's spot? (Photo: Kari Heistad/

Matt Reis shined during the preseason. Was it enough for him to keep the starting goalkeeper’s job? (Photo: Kari Heistad/

Is there anything that cures the doldrums of a New England winter better than the shining beacon that is the start of the MLS season?

No more games being broken up into three periods. No more faulty live streams from Arizona. No more following a match via Twitter. No more trying to figure out who #50 is (it was Cameron Brown). Or #51, for that matter (Nerman Crnkic?). And sayonara to mispronouncing the surnames of potential signees (see: Marko “it’s YESS-ick” Jesic).

Most importantly, points are finally on the line. Real points. Not Desert Diamond Cup points. Rather, bonafide, tested-and-true MLS regular season points. The ones that matter.

Remember those MLS spots that concluded by some dude saying “Football. Futbol. Soccer. MLS.”? This time of the year, it’s “Football. Futbol. Soccer. MLS. Hell, yes.”

Soccer’s back, my friends. The weather’s making a comeback (trust me on this). The soccer lines are back on the Gillette Stadium field. The Rev Girls are readying their t-shirt launchers. And soon, things will be back to the way they should be.

Yes, the MLS season is already here. It kicked off last week with the Revs, coincidentally (or not coincidentally, depending upon your opinion of Don Garber) given a first week bye. This week, though, nothing – not even a late-winter snowstorm – can stop the Revs from getting their 2013 campaign underway.

Similarly, nothing could stop the season premiere of Five Questions.


1. Who gets the start between the sticks? Jay Heaps gushed about Matt Reis following the DDC Consolation Game. Gushed. Said he looked sharp, and compared his footwork to that of Nick Rimando. It seemed like the kind of comments a head coach makes when he’s made up his mind about a positional battle. Yet, when the projected Revs starting XI was released to the media, Bobby Shuttleworth was listed as the starting goalkeeper. Um, OK. It could be gamesmanship on the part of the powers that be. Or maybe it’s to set up one of those classic “gotcha” moments for the media. The smart money, though, says its going to be Reis.

2. Can Jerry Bengtson get the season started on the right foot? It doesn’t matter what foot the Honduran gets started on, to be fair. Right or left, it doesn’t matter. So long as it isn’t the wrong foot. All kidding aside, Bengtson success this season rests on a quick start. Without Saer Sene to partner with for the first few weeks, the club’s Designated Player must reassert himself as the poacher, just as he has for Honduras. He has to like his chances this weekend: Chicago’s defense comes into Saturday’s clash reeling from last week’s 4-0 thumping in L.A.

3. How will Andrew Farrell fare in his MLS debut? Stop me if you’ve heard this before: The Revs’ first round pick had an impressive camp. See Kelyn Rowe, A.J. Soares, Zack Schilawski, Wells Thompson, and so on and so on. What may separate Farrell from that conversation, though, is his innate ability to strengthen the defense, then spark the offense at a moment’s notice. Farrell hasn’t wasted any opportunity to remind us why the Revs traded up to select him first overall so far. Like any rookie, he’ll go through his share of growing pains this year. At this juncture, though, it looks like he’s poised to continue his torrid preseason form at Toyota Park.

4. What can we expect from the Kalifa Cisse-Clyde Simms partnership? For Revs fans, it better be a lot more than what we saw this winter. Yes, it was tough to judge how this tandem would fare in the first four preseason tilts, with fitness being the name of the game(s). Yet, even in the final two DDC matches, the midfield failed to set any kind of rhythm or tempo. Simms wasn’t terrible, but Cisse looked like a shadow of himself against second-string players. If the Revs are going to take another step forward, it’ll be necessary for Cisse to step up when the games actually count.

5. Will we see a different Jay Heaps on the bench for Year Two? It was like clockwork: when the Revs searched for the lead late, Heaps tabbed an attacking sub nearly every time. And why not? The Revs were going to be hard pressed to contend in 2012, and thus, Heaps remained true to his “We’re going to attack” credo. But in Season Two, the expectations have been raised. The playoffs are no longer some exotic island in the south Pacific. Ambition often yields to pragmatism, and it’ll be interesting to see if Heaps’ in-game adjustments follow suit this season.


  1. Kari Heistad (@TravelingCEO)

    March 8, 2013 at 11:58 pm

    Ah, I love the smell of a fresh set of 5 questions to get the weekend rolling. So good to have you back and to provide some humor along with a dose of soccer reality for the Revs. Here’s to hoping that our aspirations for the team (more than your 8th position prediction) are fulfilled.

  2. James

    March 9, 2013 at 8:54 am

    This article is hilarious. Especially the beginning. I agree with your 5 questions. The problem is that they are all major questions. Again we have to hope that a midfield partnership forms well, a rookie has a stellar year, and that our (arguably) most internationally-successful-and-proven-striker-ever-to-wear-a-revs-uniform can acclimate to our squad. Or rather, can the squad acclimate to him?

    What is suit-on-cleats Jay doing for a formation? Empty bucket? I suppose it sounds like a sure fire way to get more physical.

    I was so exited that I saw “5 questions” in my news feed on FB!

  3. Chris B

    March 9, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    Brian, I can’t tell you how happy I am that the “5 questions” are back!

    The most intriguing question to me is the last. I certainly hope we see a different Heaps on the sideline. I liked him in his first year but he made inevitable rookie coach mistakes. This year, I expect him to complain less at and about the referees and show us if/how his tactics have evolved with a year’s experience under his belt!

  4. Brian O'Connell

    March 9, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    Thanks for the kind words, everyone! Glad ya’ll enjoyed it, and believe me, it’s good to be back writing 5 Q’s again.

  5. Confused

    March 9, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    What exactly does question 5 mean? When searching for a goal, what kind of sub might any coach anywhere make other than an attacking one? ‘We need a goal, let’s put on another defender’? Might as well point out that when his starting keeper got hurt, Heaps puts in his back-up keeper every time, or mention that when it rains he wears a rain coat. Yes, it’s good to ask if we’ll see any changes in Heaps’ coaching this year, but I’m betting that he’ll continue to do things like put 11 players on the field to start each game, and put on an attacker if the team is down late, I don’t know that we need to ask about obvious things like that.

    • Brian O'Connell

      March 9, 2013 at 6:33 pm

      I probably could’ve been a little more clearer, but I was thinking more of a level game in the waning minutes on the road. I think most managers go conservative (unless they absolutely need three points, like in a playoff race) and insert a defender or like sub. Heaps almost never went with a defensive sub in a tie game, even on the road, unless it was due to injury or fitness. To me, it was the classic “all or nothing” approach, which more experienced managers seem to eschew. Case in point: Stevie Nicol had no problem going with defensive subs late in tie game, even at home. So that’s more of what I was alluding to than anything else. It was the notion that Heaps could be tempted to turn more conservative in his second season, and I attempted to use the choice of late games subs as an example. Again, probably could’ve crafted the argument better.

    • Brian O'Connell

      March 9, 2013 at 6:36 pm

      ‘We need a goal, let’s put on another defender’?

      You’d be surprised how common an occurance this actually is, especially on poor performing teams.

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