FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – At the present moment, the New England Revolution roster features the following attacking talents: a striker who’s going to the World Cup, a winger who tallied 13 goals last year, and a midfielder who can score and assist equally well.
And yet, even though Jerry Bengtson, Diego Fagundez and Kelyn Rowe are in no danger of losing their roster spots, the following question curiously remains: Where are the goals going to come from?
The loss of Juan Agudelo is undoubtedly the reason why so many have concerns about the club’s offense this year – specifically at forward. But, rest assured, Revolution coach Jay Heaps is aware of the situation – and is doing something about it.
“Right now, attacking-wise, we have two or three guys that we’re pursing pretty actively,” Heaps said. “We continue to want to build our roster certainly in that area of the field because when you lose a guy like Juan Agudelo, he’s not easy to replace. We have good players in place, but we always want to have competition there.”
So far, the club has brought in two of the most talented college goalscorers in Steven Neumann and Patrick Mullins via the SuperDraft to address the void left in the wake of Agudelo’s departure. They’ve also invited three attacking talents for trials: Evan Melo (FC Sion), Juan Perotti (Estudiantes) and former team MVP Marko Perovic.
While Heaps knows he’ll need to find a striker capable of boosting the offense the way Agudelo did last year, he’s also trying to find a way to bolster the competition at defensive midfielder.
“It’s another area where we’re looking (to improve),” Heaps said. “It’s an area where we feel we’re very good, but we always want to add depth there. I think that, toward the end of last year, we were asking a lot of Scotty Caldwell. He played admirably, and so he’s obviously a great choice, but we’d like to add some depth there as well.”
TIERNEY THE GRAYBEARD?
After longtime goalkeeper Matt Reis retired in December, left back Chris Tierney suddenly found himself as Revolution’s longest-tenured player – even though he turned 28 earlier this month.
But on a club whose average age is 25.3, Tierney admitted that playing on a squad that features so much youth does make him feel old.
“A little bit,” Tierney said with a laugh. “(But) there’s a good group of senior guys. Actually, I think this is one of the more experienced groups we’ve had in a while, even though it might not be age-wise. A lot of good leaders coming back and we’re all excited to get going.”
Even so, Tierney embraces his role as a mentor, especially to young trialists like Melo and Perotti, as well Pierre Omanga and Alec Sunldy, both of who are in camp as unsigned draft picks. And it’s no mystery why.
Six years ago, Tierney was drafted in the second round of the Supplement Draft. With the future far from certain, his only recourse was to work, and then work some more in between finishing up his studies at the University of Virginia during the Spring semester. It all paid off; the Revolution signed him to his first pro contract mid-way through the 2008 season.
While putting in maximum effort is the must for any young player, Tierney said the best thing an unsigned trialist can do goes beyond the amount of blood, sweat and tears he’s willing to endure.
“Just (learn) how to be a part of a team, how to fit into a role within a system, and how train properly,” Tierney said. “I watched players like Taylor Twellman, Jeff Larentowicz and Shalrie Joseph - guys that brought it every day to training. I picked up a lot about how they carried themselves, and I tried to emulate that as a young player.”
PREACHING THE IMPORTANCE OF THE PRESEASON
If there’s anyone who understands and appreciates the need to carefully plot and, when necessary, fine tune a preseason schedule, it’s the Revolution’s detail-oriented coach.
Heaps admitted he began the task of setting training sessions, scheduling preseason games and planning out a preseason road map almost immediately after the Revolution’s Conference semifinal loss to Sporting K.C. in November.
“It’s important that we take care of the next couple of weeks,” Heaps said. “Your preseason’s really important - it’s an important (part of) a season. (It’s about) getting set up and making sure that you not only get in the right work in tactically, but you’re getting the right fitness levels (as well as) managing the body.”