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Heaps of Trouble? Three Questions for NE Revolution

The New England Revolution are a team in transition this offseason.  Long-time coach Steve Nicol has been fired and replaced by a man familiar to Revs fans: former player Jay Heaps.  The new head man comes in at a time when the team’s glory days of MLS Cup appearances seem in the distant past, which a last place finish in the Eastern Conference will do to you.
So far this offseason, the team has made a few intriguing moves to bolster its lineup and when they trot out for First Kick 2012, the Revs will be a recognizable and veteran team.  But is this the right strategy for a team that is currently mired in mediocrity?  Let’s continue our offseason “3 Questions” series with the Revs.

1. Can Jay Heaps replace Steve Nicol?
Really this is the most important question for this club, but the question might be better phrased as can Jay Heaps make a difference?  Stevie Nicol was undone towards the end by a couple of factors: the end of his dominance in collegiate scouting, his owner’s unwillingness to spend more on players, and untimely injuries to key players that have not been fully replaced.
In comes Jay Heaps from the team’s broadcast booth, and these challenges will be facing a guy who’s never been a coach at any level.  This does not mean he will not succeed; in fact, the trend in MLS is to hire former players as coaches and there is a record of success with this route.  That said, team blogs like The Bent Musket have been underwhelmed by the hiring, noting that this may have been the Krafts simply going after the cheapest and easiest coaching option.  In addition, the fact that Heaps was never a team captain is an intriguing point.  Nevertheless, all of this will be moot if he can turn the culture around and begin finding success in a “fluid” Eastern Conference.

2. Where will the goals come from?
This team has an offense and defense problem, but the glaring lack of production from the Revs’ forwards is an obvious deficiency in this team.  Shalrie Joseph was the team’s leading scorer, and with the acquisition of Clyde Simms (see below) he will be able to continue to be a threat up front for the team.  Rajko Lekic chipped in six goals in his first MLS seasons (and could be resigned for cheaper), but the rest of the forwards vastly underachieved or simply couldn’t contribute with any consistency.
There are two ways this team can improve here, and the most obvious one is to do a little shopping for new forwards.  New England will likely go sniffing around for new faces, but how much money they will commit to buying a top flight striker (especially after taking on Benny Feilhaber’s salary plus bumping up Shalrie Joseph) is a key question.  Their move to cut-and-restructure some of their higher-salaried players may clear up space.
But a second in-house option is to gamble on soon-to-be 17 year old Diego Fagundez.  The young midfielder made an impact with two goals in the Revs last six games and is being touted as an up-and-coming star.  However, as long-time MLS watchers know, depending on a teenager to lead an attack can be a dangerous proposition, and Heaps may be content to let him stay in the more veteran midfield anyway.

3. Is a more veteran team a better team?

New England was one of the more aggressive teams in the Re-Entry draft, grabbing Clyde Simms from DC United and Nate Jaqua from Seattle.  Simms is a veteran holding midfielder who can provide some consistent defensive cover while Jaqua can give some depth and a potential scoring punch.  For a team whose best players are aging, this is an interesting strategy.  If the team adds only one or two new contributors, the starting XI we will see in 2012 will be familiar to MLS fans and have years of MLS experience.
But is this a good thing for a team like New England who again has stagnated over the past few seasons?  Without making a game-changing signing this is the type of team that can tread water and maybe be a threat in the East.  Last year that may have been good enough for a playoff spot but with the improvement of teams like Chicago, it will be harder to make a playoff run being just mediocre.  However, depending on who they sign or how the conference shakes out, maybe this low-cost strategy could be the key to bringing them back to the playoffs.

11 Responses to Heaps of Trouble? Three Questions for NE Revolution

  1. Abram says:

    I’m not too concerned with Heaps making the transition. They were
    going to be bad this upcoming year anyway. They might as well be
    bad under a new younger coach. If he’s half as good as Ben Olsen
    was in his first 1/2 year then it’s a plus gain. The goals, as you
    mentioned, are the problem. When your DM is your leading scorer,
    you might have a problem. Lekic, if they can get him, will be
    better. I’m upset –though not surprised– that they didn’t keep
    Caraglio. The fact that they didn’t enter in the Nguyen lottery
    troubles me. I’d bet they’re hoping for a monstrous second year
    from Fagundez, but I wouldn’t hold my breath on that just yet.
    Jaqua and Simms sound like good additions. However, I’m not sure
    that is the right direction. Simms plays the same position as
    Shalrie, so unless we’re looking at a 4-2-3-1 I’m not sure if his
    cost is worth his ultimate production. I’m hoping Jaqua isn’t the
    scoring solution, but who even knows with them?

  2. Charles says:

    If Jaqua is the scoring solution, it will be for the Reserve
    League, which the Sounders were the best in with him in the star
    role. I don’t mean to slam on Jaqua, but MLS passed his talent
    level, so he is now borderline starter, borderline reserve.
    Borderline forwards don’t score a ton and he didn’t.

    • The original Tom says:

      Charles- The Eastern conference is like a reserve league, and with
      the end of balanced scheduling Jaqua might make an impact.
      _____________________ You know, I enjoy the MLS and enjoy going to
      games and not just watching soccer from Europe on TV, but is a
      little sobering to think that one of the MLS’s better teams- RSL,
      lost the CONCACAF final to Monterrey, who lost their World Club Cup
      quarterfinal to that Japanese team, who lost the semifinal to
      Santos, who got crushed by Barcelona this morning. Although I take
      some comfort in remembering that LA (Shield and Cup winners) are
      clearly our best team, and that Barcelona crush a lot of teams,
      both in the Champions’ League and in Spain.

      • Charles says:

        Tom, get off the ledge…………………..Europe is very hard to
        win and I think Barca is about 50/50 every year for a while
        now…………………………………. When the Sounders get
        to the CWC this year, you will see. CONCACAF is very competitive
        and we are lucky to be watching it…….you watch MLS, you can be
        your own judge, but don’t rely on one game from Monterrey……on
        your comment below. It is interesting correlation between who is
        succeeding and who is not. I think the West coast is much quicker
        to adapt. For instance, you expose Seattle to the idea that soccer
        is a big time sport. Immediately almost everyone is interested.
        Maybe not huge supporters, but at the very least would like to go
        to a game now and then. Radio host immediately have soccer
        programs, etc. In some major cities you still have morons writing
        articles, and radio hosts acting like junior high kids while making
        fun of soccer in an attempt to be cool.

        • The original Tom says:

          Charles- That’s a good point about the west being more adaptable
          and less set in its ways. ____________________________ In CONCACAF
          I’ll be rooting for Santos Laguna. They crushed the Rapids here in
          Colorado, it was a real footballing lesson. The best team I’ve ever
          seen live outside of World Cup games.

          • The original Tom says:

            Maybe I should say, best performance, not best team. We’ll see if
            they are the best team. There was something really fun about the
            night; it sucked the Rapids lost but it wasn’t like it was by a bad
            call or something, the Rapids were outclassed. Anyway, the large
            away section of fans (largest by far, ever in Colorado, they took
            one whole side of the ground), the different club colors, and the
            unique (to MLS) style of play. It was fun. I wish we were still in
            the competition; or had qualified for next year’s. It might be a
            long time before we have those nights again. It sucks that we
            didn’t play our best 11 when we were in it.

          • Charles says:

            You are seriously saying you will be rooting for the team the
            Sounders are playing, in a reply to me ?!?!?! You are off the
            Christmas list. After March 7th you can realize they are not the
            best team in CONCACAF….The Sounders are.

  3. dan says:

    THE REAL PROBLEM OF THE REVOLUTION: – they are a joke due to their
    ownership

  4. The original Tom says:

    One thing to add to my Eastern conference comment. I think the best
    teams may come from the west for a long time. The established
    sports in our country have their strongest, most established teams
    in the east- Philly, NY, Boston, Chicago, etc… MLS has less of an
    impact in these towns. The MLS teams from cities that don’t have
    all 4 major sports, and less rabid fan bases (Seattle) in these
    sports, have an advantage. Seattle, Portland, Vancouver, RSL, LA,
    and (maybe?) San Jose, have a brighter future. Exceptions in the
    east mights be Toronto and Montreal.

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