The LA Galaxy defeated the New England Revolution, 2-1, after extra time to win MLS Cup on Sunday. Even though the Revolution lost their record-breaking fifth final in franchise history, they're still the cream of the crop in the Eastern Conference.
New England had just two wins after their first seven games of the 2014 regular season. The Revs improved in April and May, but then lost eight matches in a row from the end of May and into the final week of July. The Revolution's chances of making the playoffs were grim.
Around a month later, Jermaine Jones was signed as a designated player. New England won 10 of their last 12 games with the American international on the roster. The Revs subsequently qualified for the playoffs as the second seed in the East.
MVP finalist Lee Nguyen was also integral to the Revolution's success in the second half of the season. The American midfielder scored nine of his 18 goals after Jones arrived at the club. Nguyen was also extremely difficult to contain with Kelyn Rowe, Chris Tierney and Teal Bunbury alongside him.
Players such as Nguyen, Rowe, Tierney, Bunbury, Jones, Scott Caldwell and Charlie Davies make up the core of the Revolution.
Goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth has become a legitimate No. 1 over the last two years after serving as a back up for former shot-stopper Matt Reis.
Defenders such as A.J. Soares and Andrew Farrell have dramatically improved since they were drafted by the Revs. The latter was shaky during the playoffs, but the experience will serve him well in the future. Jose Goncalves wasn't as consistent in 2014 as he was in 2013, when he was named MLS Defender of the Year, but some of that was to do with his contract situation.
Head coach Jay Heaps is one of many young coaches in MLS who has excelled in his new role on the touchline. When he took over, New England was in disarray. Long-time boss Steve Nicol and the Revs had mutually parted ways.
That gamble paid off for the Revolution. Heaps has led his team to the conference semifinals and an MLS Cup final in back-to-back seasons.
The only area that New England needs to work on during the offseason is their collective defending. The individual quality is there, but they conceded eight goals in five playoff matches.
The Revolution allowed 46 goals during the regular season. That was the second-highest amount out of all five playoff teams. However, Goncalves' decline, coupled with the rotation of Farrell between full-back and center back, didn't allow a lot of vital continuity at the back.
Another negative for the Revs was Diego Fagundez. The Uruguayan scored 13 goals and recorded seven assists in 2013. He followed that up with five goals and four assists in 31 appearances this season, the same amount of games Fagundez played in the previous year.
The 19-year-old is linked with many different clubs, which could have distracted him this season. David Amoyal of GianlucaDiMarzio.com said that Italian teams were looking at Fagundez. MLS Transfers claims that Fiorentina was one of the potential suitors.
The key for Heaps and his coaching staff is to teach Fagundez how to overcome this adversity. The attacker became somewhat predictable with his play, so he could snap out of his dry spell if he adds more to his repertoire.
New England is, on paper, the best team in the East heading into next season, thanks to the realignment. If the Revolution fix the aforementioned issues, they should be back in the MLS Cup final and win it for the first time in team history next year.