MLS 2012: New England Revolution Season Introduction
The New England Revolution ended its 2011 season in the same forgettable manner that had preceded all year long. A disappointing 2-2 draw against Toronto ended a dismal campaign that saw the Revs finish dead last.
Worse still, longtime coach Steve Nicol left the team after being a fixture on the New England sideline for a decade.
With the 2012 season now two games in, little seems to have changed. Still, a bottoming-out last season was undoubtedly a sobering experience.
The silver lining to such a disaster is the change it caused, and Revs fans are hoping that starts to reflect in the results.
Nicol Era Ends, Enter Heaps
No other MLS coach has meant more to his team in his tenure as Steve Nicol did to New England.
He guided the Revolution to the only trophies they’ve ever won.
Yet success in the early and mid part of the last decade gave way to growing mediocrity and eventually worse.
Finally, after New England slumped to their 2011 franchise-worst finish, Nicol and the Revs management decided it was time to move on.
To fill the void, management has made a bold choice: former Revolution stalwart, Jay Heaps.
On the surface, it seems like a natural fit. He’s a club legend who has been in and around the team for a decade. Not to mention he’s a New England native.
Yet since his retirement, he’s either been working for Morgan Stanley’s private wealth division or calling games as a commentator. He’s only 35 and has had no significant coaching experience.
Were this to happen in any other major sport, his lack of experience would be a much bigger story.
It’s definitely a gamble, but considering the circumstances (both Heaps’ own and the club’s), the decision is admirable.
The wholesale changes that began at the top with the departure of Nicol continued to a large extent throughout the team.
Gone are many of the faces who wrought last year’s debacle.
In have come players who aren’t necessarily star names, but are certainly gifted.
American winger Lee Nguyen returns from a short career abroad, most notably with PSV Eindhoven.
Frenchman Saer Sene’s last team was Bayern Munich (though he was a reserve).
Colombians Fernando Cardenas, John Lozano and Jose Moreno arrive, bringing varying levels of big-game experience and a refined approach.
Recent German signing Florian Lechner typifies the continued trend toward a more international roster.
That said, it’s been additions of a local variety that are causing a stir.
Diego Fagundez, the first product of the Revs' youth academy, is primed to shine in his first full season and is certainly a project for the future.
And Kelyn Rowe, the third overall pick from this year’s draft, appears to be ready to make an instant impact.
Thoughts on the First Two Games
The opening-season 1-0 loss to the Earthquakes and a 3-0 loss to Kansas City would seem to indicate that nothing has changed.
That would be inaccurate.
It would be hasty to judge the 2012 Revolution as the same as their 2011 counterparts after one game.
A new coach will inevitably bring a new style, and that takes time to instill, particularly in soccer.
Yet the inability to create a goal is worrying. Much will be riding on whether Sene and some of the new additions up front can deliver.
At a more basic level, the New England Revolution will be more exciting this season considering some of the new faces (on and off the field).
As to whether this will translate into success? That remains to be seen.