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Primed For Success, Revolution Open 2014 In Houston

Friday, March 07, 2014

 

The 2013 season was a season of redemption for the New England Revolution. The Revs finished the season with 51 points, going 14-11-9, and won a tie-breaker with the Houston Dynamo to gain the third-seed in the MLS Cup Playoffs. The playoff berth was the first for the Revolution since the 2009 season. They advanced to the Eastern Conference Semifinals before eventually falling 4-3 in aggregate to the eventual MLS Cup champions, Sporting Kansas City.

Entering 2014 the Revs return almost their entire lineup from 2013, with one major exception. That exception being Juan Agudelo, the team's second-leading scorer from 2013 and an attacking forward who helped head coach Jay Heaps' 4-1-4-1 system excel. According to team General Manager Michael Burns, "Our primary focus [in the offseason], was to replace Juan and to get a forward."

With that focus, the Revolution did get their guy to replace Agudelo in a trade with Sporting Kansas City, acquiring forward Teal Bunbury. Bunbury is a 6-foot 2-inch attacking forward who has seen time in the past as a member of the U.S. Men's National team. Bunbury has 19 career goals despite not scoring in 2013 while he recovered from a torn ACL he suffered late in 2012.

Bunbury was not the only addition to the forward group. The Revolution addressed their need for attacking players in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft by selecting midfield/forward Steve Neumann with the 4th overall pick and forward Patrick Mullins with the 11th pick. "[New England] is a place where young players have had a track record of playing, especially attacking players," said Mullins.

"We want to score goals so I think they did well last year in terms of their goal count. They're obviously a very attractive team and me personally, that's always one of my main goals when I'm playing. I want to score goals all the time."

These additions come to a young, already accomplished group of offensive players including Kelyn Rowe and 2013's leading goal-scorer Diego Fagundez. In 2013, this dynamic scoring duo combined for 20 goals, seven and 13 respectively, and 15 assists, eight and seven respectively. Fagundez's 13 goals were the most for any player under the age of 20 in MLS history. Yet when looking ahead to his 2014 campaign Fagundez, much like most of the Revolution players, had a stronger focus on team success over personal success.

"We have a young attack and I think that's what team's don't understand," Fagundez said. "It's not like we're all playing one position. We all like to mix it up, we're all switching positions and we do whatever we can. And it's going to be hard to stop us. If we play as a team, there's no way we should be losing lots of games."

Even with the young, fast attacking front the Revs rise back to prominence and their key to the future lies on their back line. The Revs were one of the top defenses in 2013, led by MLS Defender of the Year and Revolution team captain, Jose Goncalves. The 28 year old central defender anchored a defense that finished second in shutouts with 14 and third in goals against with 38. The addition of Goncalves, paired with the addition of 2013 number one overall pick Andrew Farrell, helped the Revs defense drop their goals against average from 1.29 in 2012 to 1.12 in 2013.

2014 will be a big year in the growth of Andrew Farrell. The former number one overall pick in the MLS Super Draft is coming off a stellar rookie season, starting 32 games for one of the league's top defenses as a right back. As Farrell enters 2014 he knows that he will have to continue to progress with a deep group of defenders behind him. "Its team first," Farrell said. "I thank we all want to represent this organization well and I guess competition is the best way to get the guys going, get the guys fired up and get the best out of everybody."

"Its tough. If you have a bad day or a couple of bad days, someone might be jumping up into your spot but you gotta get them back. It just makes everybody better."

In 2014 the Revs will have both Goncalves and Farrell back but will also have a key defender, Kevin Alston, back at full strength following a 2013 battle with leukemia. Alston started 64 games combined in 2011 and 2012 before playing in just nine in 2013. With his return to full health, Alston adds another layer to an incredibly successful defense.

With the strong defense, the Revs also received great goal keeping in 2013. The duo of Matt Reis and Bobby Shuttleworth combined for a 14 shutouts, with Shuttleworth turning in a team-high nine. Reis ended his illustrious career in the offseason, which many believed handed the job to Shuttleworth. That was not the plan for Jay Heaps and Mike Burns though, as the Revs went out and acquired Brad Knighton from Vancouver. Both Knighton and shuttle worth were great in preseason play, making the keeper situation a tough decision for Heaps and his staff.

With all of that we come to the 2014 season opener.. The Revolution will travel to BBVA Compass Stadium to take on Eastern Conference rival, the Houston Dynamo. The Revolution and Dynamo finished 2013 with an identical record of 51 points, finishing 14-11-9. The two teams formed a bitter rivalry as they split the 2013 season series 1-1-1 with both team winning as the visitor. The Revs came away with a 2-0 victory in Houston last May, a feat that has been extremely difficult for MLS teams in recent years with the Dynamo being considered one of, if not the best, home team in MLS.

Both teams enter the game with major injury questions. For the Dynamo Warren; Creavalle, Servando Carrasco and Eric Brunner were all listed as out in the team's injury report. As for the Revs; Andrew Farrell and Lee Nguyen were listed as out on the injury report while Andy Dorman, Saer Sene, Chris Tierney and Jose Goncalves were all listed as questionable.

With all of the injuries to the Revs' lineup, the expected lineup is hard to pinpoint. Yet fans can expect to see the debut of Teal Bunbury at the top of the Revs offensive set with Patrick Mullins likely starting his first career game across from Diego Fagundez. Kevin Alston is also expected to get the start with Andrew Farrell injured.

With both teams looking to make an early statement it is very hard to predict. I will however predict a big 3-1 victory from the Revolution to start 2014 on a high note.

 

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