FOXBORO, MA - OCTOBER 15: Benny Feilhaber #22 of the New England Revolution salutes the fans after the game against the Columbus Crew on October 15, 2011 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The Columbus Crew defeated the New England Revolution 3-0. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
There are shocking good feelings surrounding the Revolution heading into 2012, but that can be scary writes The Bent Musket's Steve Stoehr.
2011 record (finish): 5-16-13, 9th in Eastern Conference
Key additions: Saer Sene (ST, 25, France); Kelyn Rowe (MF, 20, USA); Tyler Polak (LB, 19, USA); Fernando Cardenas (MF/FW, 23, Colombia); John Lozano (D, 27, Colombia); Jose Moreno (ST, 30, Colombia); Clyde Simms (MF, 29, USA); Jay Heaps (Head Coach)
Key losses: Rajko Lekic (Option declined); Monsef Zerka (Option declined); Milton Caraglio (Purchase option declined); Pat Phelan (option declined); Ryan Cochrane (Option declined); Franco Coria (Option declined); Kheli Dube (Re-Entry Draft to Chicago)
Projected starting XI: New head coach Jay Heaps has not settled on one particular formation yet, so here are projected starters for two separate formations:
(4-4-2): Reis; Tierney, Lozano, Soares, Alston; Feilhaber, Joseph, Simms, Rowe; Moreno, Sene
(4-3-3/4-5-1): Reis; Tierney, Lozano, Soares, Alston; Joseph, Simms; Rowe, Feilhaber, Guy; Moreno
This is all contingent, of course, on Jose Moreno arriving in Foxborough with a desire to actually suit up for the Revolution. Saer Sene has been the most effective forward in camp so far, although trialist Michael Roach has also scored. If it is taken for granted that Moreno will be a professional and will impress in the run-up to the regular season, he should have a starting role in either formation.
Bold prediction: Preseason is just preseason, but the Revolution have been on a serious tear in the last month or two, posting a 5-0-0 record, including back-to-back victories against the LA Galaxy and the New York Red Bulls in the Desert Diamond Cup. It is tough not to feel a sense of optimism in Foxborough, or a notion that maybe shaking things up at the top and changing some philosophies on the training pitch could result in this team unlocking its true potential.
If the Revs continue to play as effectively and with as much attacking verve in the regular season as they have in preseason, there is no reason why this squad can't make a run at a last-seed playoff spot. Going from worst to playoff contender is not unheard of in a league as obsessed with parity as MLS, but the general feeling about the Revolution entering 2012 was that they might get even worse, not so much better that they could make a postseason appearance.
Another bold prediction: Kelyn Rowe will win rookie of the year, and Saer Sene will score at least eight goals.
Biggest fear: Optimism is a double-edged sword; it breeds hope and good-feeling, but also sets everyone up for an even bigger disappointment. This won't mark the first time in the last few seasons that Revs fans have been optimistic about an upcoming season, and it certainly wouldn't be the first time such optimism has led to heartbreak if the club's preseason form does not translate to regular-season success. All New England fans fear that Jay Heaps will be totally out of his element in his first coaching gig, the new signings will flop (as so many have in the last few years), and the front office will once again commit an extreme blunder that either jettisons a valued player (a la Marko Perovic in 2011) or alienates more die-hard fans (a la Fortgate, also in 2011).
The greatest fear, though, is that another embarrassing season will fail to result in further organizational changes. All Revolution fans fear the status quo more than anything else in the game.
- Steve Stoehr, The Bent Musket