New England Soccer Today

The Hunted

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The hunter has become the hunted. And the Revolution, who within the span of two short seasons have gone from the depths of the table to title contenders, know full well what that entails.

After tearing through the competition last autumn, and pushing the eventual champions to the brink, Revolution midfielder Teal Bunbury knows that each opponent will carry extra motivation going up against his club this year.

“We know there’s a target on our back,” Bunbury said. “We know teams are going to come into Gillette Stadium and try to beat us, so it’s about maintaining that level of play that we had last year, and being able to push ourselves and take our game to the next level and always keep that ultimate goal in mind, which is to win championships.”

And perhaps no squad in Revolution history has a better chance to claim that elusive championship than the one before us.

The strong core of players that coach Jay Heaps hoped to mold since he took the reins four winters ago has made the Revolution, at the very least, favorites to win the conference table. With Bunbury, Jermaine Jones, Lee Nguyen and a rejuvenated Diego Fagundez all returning, it’s easy to see why opponents will have to bring their A-game when they face the Revolution.

Oh, and they also brought back Juan Agudelo, the talented striker whose superb hold-up play and instincts allowed Fagundez and Rowe to enjoy career years in 2013. And with Charlie Davies, last year’s postseason hero, also available to Heaps, 2015 could see the Revolution unveil its most potent attack to date.

“It’s another dimension,” Heaps said in reference to Agudelo’s skill set. “I think Juan has shown that he fits really well with how we want to play. We feel he can also give another layer to our attack, we can push him in different ways where we can bring Charlie into different areas and start Charlie and put Juan somewhere else. So we’re excited about the different layers of our attack.”

Yes, Revolution supporters: the old saying about the rich getting richer finally applies to your club.

While the current squad certainly appears stronger than the one that came within inches of lifting the MLS Cup trophy last December, there’s still plenty to tackle if they’re going to meet the expectations set before them.

As good as the offense looks on paper, one area of concern is the back four. After A.J. Soares left during the offseason, Heaps plugged in right back Andrew Farrell to take over the spot next to Jose Goncalves. So far, the reviews have been mixed.

But Heaps doesn’t just want to see improvement in the rear. Knowing how crucial a sound defense is to securing a championship (see last year’s Galaxy), the fourth-year coach needs everyone – from top to bottom – to make things difficult for the opposition.

“It’s an area where we want to be better,” Heaps said. “But it’s not just going to be in the back four or the goalkeeper, it’s going to be team defense. Once we solidify which guys are going to be the main guys, and how we handle that, it’s the entire team that’s going to determine that.”

For the most part, it appears that the primary components have already been identified. But questions remain at right back and in the center of the midfield.

Jeremy Hall battled Kevin Alston for Farrell’s former spot during the preseason, and it appears that a winner hasn’t yet been chosen. Centrally, Rowe and Fagundez both looked sharp in Desert Diamond Cup action, but their minutes may have to be juggled once Jones and Nguyen return from injuries.

On the whole, though, there’s no reason to think the Revolution can’t secure a championship this season. And Bunbury is well aware that the standard for success has never been higher in New England.

“Obviously, there are going to be higher expectations,” Bunbury said. “But I feel like we’re all professionals, and there’s always going to be high expectations no matter what we’re doing.”

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