The Revolution’s Familiar “Fracaso”

Well, we’re there.  We are at that part of the season in New England Revolution-ville where the natives are restless, everything sucks, the world is grey and the sun may never shine again.

Along with this (pretty darn well deserved) angst, comes a buckshot worth of vitriol.

  • Fire Heaps.  (He’s winging it and is tactically overwhelmed.)
  • Fire Burns. (He gets lousy players and couldn’t find a star in the sky.)
  • Kraft apathy is killing us.  (MLS 3.0? We’re still in Beta.)

Generally the anger is expressed in some combination of those three.  Usually, with all three.

It’s easy to get caught up in it and join the chorus. This blog post, however, isn’t intending to explain who should be fired or why – though you could fill volumes with explaining how each of them have a shot at that crown.

Instead, I’m not exactly sure where this post ends – but here’s how it begins. I feel my own angst about this team, its current losing streak, and its general “uninterestingness.”  (It’s now a word.  Deal with it.)

I’ve never made any secret of the fact that I hoped for a more creative team. A more intricate style of soccer.  Better passing. Some more “did you see that?” moments. A more Latin style, if you will.

That’s not right or wrong, but it’s what I prefer.

And I can discuss how I see the current team and if I think it has any discernible style in another post, but this topic of my hoped-for of Latinizing (yup, new word, enjoy…) got me thinking. Why can’t we get some Latin American influence to maybe put the ball in the back of the net?  Or add a creative pass?  Or, something…

The reality? The team has tried. And failed.  And my presumption was this: we stink at finding good Latin talent, they come in and are just not up to MLS standards.

FIRE BURNS.

What came next, however, was the eye opener.  Because it feels quite a bit more complicated than that.  And that may not be a good thing, because Mike Burns is replaceable.

This all started in a rather roundabout way.

 

Benny Feilhaber.

Remember #BringBennytoBoston.  Yeah.  They did.  It didn’t work out.

But oddly enough, it seems to be working out OK for Benny in Kansas City.  In fact, he’s the current MLS Player of the Week.  Check out the recent highlights. Not bad.

Thought not really the Latin American influence I was craving, he potentially fit the bill for better passing and some creativity.

Why couldn’t he have worked out here?

Before we presume an answer, it made me think of the “true” Latin American players which were “not up to it” and flushed out of town before making the impact Revolution fans had hoped for.

Let’s start with one of our pretty big flops. One that really got people’s attention.

Our first “Designated Player.”

 

Milton Caraglio.

After confusing career moves, extended injury recoveries and a very interesting resume, Caraglio played 15 games for the Revolution, scored five goals and was sent on his way.

So maybe Diego Maradona (who called him in to Argenina’s National Team before he injured his knee) and West Ham (where he went on trial) were mistaken, or maybe he’d never really recover from the knee  injury he’d suffered.

Oh well, we tried. He’s past it. Let’s move on.

Except, for one issue.

YouTube seems to think that in 2014, in Argentina, he is doing this:

and this:

and this:

And this cheeky scoop in 2013:

You know, being a goal scorer.  In the Argentine first division.  You see, after joining Chilean Club Social de Deportes Rangers (CSD Rangers) he played a few games in Italy, and came home to Argentina.

Why not for New England?  Isn’t that the exact story we hoped for? Take the risk, have him make his professional resurgence in Foxboro?

Frustrating.

So let’s restore the Revolution’s image a bit, and at least all agree on the biggest, most obvious, most glaring failure.

 

José “Pepe” Moreno.

I mean, talk about a disaster.

You sign a player who apparently doesn’t want to join and who flirts with other clubs after you announce him.

But he arrived. And didn’t do much. We called him porky and talked more about his pizza and attire than much else.

What a waste of space, right?

Well, if it were only that simple.

You see, Pepe, it turns out is still playing this funny game of ours.  In fact, he’s a member of Colombian First Division club, La Equidad.

And, last year he scored this STUNNER… seriously watch this (and try not to punch the device you are using to watch it on):

And apparently wasn’t afraid to mix it up in the box –> see here.

You know, that whole elusive goal-scoring thing we need so bad? The one he was brought to Foxboro to do, he’s doing it.  But not for New England.

7 games and one MLS goal later. He was gone.

Mouth agape, I decided this was clearly another weird anomaly.  Maybe if we look back a bit further, I’ll feel better about some of the outcomes.

 

Gabriel Badilla.

Remember him?  No?

Signed in 2008.  Got six games.  Didn’t do much.  Was gone in 2009.

It happens.  “It’s a physical league.”  Etc. Etc. Sometimes people just don’t have what it takes.

Except he went back to Costa Rica, and to his prior club, Saprissa – a team I don’t think the Revolution would fancy playing frequently – and for last year?  He was its Captain.

And he’s still there now, 5 years after it was decided he couldn’t cut it in Foxboro.

Because in 2009, ironically in a release that also included our re-signing Kahno Smith (I cannot make this stuff up), he was gone.

Face. Palm.

Ok, so a midfielder got away, right?  Not that big a deal.

Well, that is true I guess. Any others to replace him?

 

Mauricio Castro.

Can you guess where this is headed?

Well, to be fair, the talented midfielder isn’t ripping up a big league, but he was still setting up goals last year in Honduras for Atlético Choloma.  That’s three years after he was waived by New England.

I wonder what we missed?  I’m guessing that maybe we missed some of the creativity that he could have brought to our midfield and showed in flashes.

Maybe not the league leading Number 10 I may have wanted, but a start that I enjoyed watching.

However, the Revolution DID have a player, a fan favorite as I recall, that while not quite a traditional “Number 10” perhaps, but who came pretty close.

And fans missed him when he left.

 

José Carlos Cancela.

Pepe Cancela.  Yup, another Pepe.

Now, this story is a bit different. Cancela had a good run with the Revolution.  Hard to argue that.

In fact, in that critical midfield role he still has the (rather obscure) record of having more assists per 90 minutes than any other Revolution player, ever.  And he’s tied with Steve Ralston for the most post-season assists.

But there was a feeling that we lost him too soon.  That there was more to be had.  But he was taken by Toronto F.C. in an expansion draft, and ended up in Colorado, and was eventually bounced from MLS.

And look, he was past 30 at that point.  So no harm done. Right?

But of course, there’s a twist.

Not only did Cancela continue playing, but he played over 150 games in Costa Rica.  There is even a Facebook page that proclaims “Yo también creo que Pepe Cancela es el mejor jugador de Costa Rica” – or for the less Spanish-inclined “I too think Pepe Cancela is the best player in Costa Rica.”  499 Likes. Adorable.

If you think the Revolution fans remember him fondly (they do) after 90 games, impressive assists and seven goals.  Imagine the impact he had on Herediano, where he played a similar amount of games and scored over thirty goals.  Yeah.  They liked him. A lot.

And what did old-man Cancela (now 38) do less than a month ago, he signed with small, first-division Costa Rican club Belén FC.  And they don’t look too sad to have him. 

So, a good run with the Revolution, but the sense we could have had more of a potential “legacy” player.

Another Ralston?  Another Twellman? Maybe, maybe not. But the kind of player you’d think we would like to have associated with this team at a much deeper level.

 

Franco Coria.

Hardly a loss of a similar character by any means, Coria came in a from the Argentine 2nd division team Chacarita Junior, and is now at a different Argentine 2nd division club, called Club Atlético Sarmiento.

Maybe that’s the right level for him. Though arguably that’s also a good feeder level for MLS “fill in” players.  And being that he’s only 26, and we let him go in 2011, it does make you wonder how he could have developed.

But, no harm, no foul on this one. It seems to me.  Though, I would have liked to see a bit more of him, no crying here.

Perhaps we have a better beat on defenders.  Steve Nicol was world renowned defender.  Mike Burns had quite a career, as did Jay Heaps.

Maybe that’s why one decision always puzzled me so much.

 

John Jairo Lozano.

After arriving from America de Cali, he saw six MLS Reserve League games and two MLS starts.  And about six months later, he was gone.

Of course, maybe he didn’t show well in practice.  Maybe it was something else.

But America de Cali’s not a bad team.  And, as you may have guessed, John Lozano still soldiers on.  After a season or so with Cúcuta Deportivo in Colombia first division, he signed with Atlético Huila on May 01, 2014.

Not a world-beater, perhaps, but you would think a player capable of first-division South American soccer would have seemingly gotten more than a two-game run at our not-quite-World-beater Revolution.

 

So what now? 

There are two more players I’d like to mention, but let’s first call out the obvious: something certainly feels awry.  Coming into this, I wanted to believe the “Fire Burns” story that these players are just not MLS worthy.  I am forced to believe there’s a bigger issue here.  Some quick examples of why…

  • We were told that Pepe Moreno was “…a strong, target forward who has a lot of experience playing at the highest levels in both South America and Europe.”
  • We were told that Gabriel Badilla was “… a strong, versatile defender who has gained tremendous club and international experience at a young age.”
  • We were told that Milton Caraglio was “…a talented player who has played against some of South America’s best competition.”

I could go on and on… but the point here is that all those statements actually appear true – or close to it.  But none of them came true for New England.

Why?

And why am I bothering to ask this now?

Because clearly within the fan base there’s a big desire for change, and maybe there are some opportunities still left.

In researching this, I also saw a similar story pattern with a player I really enjoyed watching. He was at times frustrating, but talented. Tricky and elusive. He seemed desperate to make an impact.

 

Fernando Cárdenas.

And while I don’t know anything beyond what Google helps me find, he seems to have done pretty well down in Colombia with Independiente Santa Fe.

But he’s appears to be on his way out.  I don’t know why.

But maybe he’s worth a call?  Our offense could maybe use a bit of a spark, no?

Would the result be any different than the before?  Than any of the others?

I sure don’t know, but I really have my doubts.  And that is what’s most worrying, this pattern seems unlikely to be broken.

Which brings us to fan favorite (choke, cough, ahem) and current Designated Player…

 

Jerry Bengtson.

I sometimes enjoy playing Jerry’s own personal Devil’s advocate, or in this case, the person who offers that maybe he’s not actually the devil.

And no, he’s not done what a New England fan would have hoped for. Not by a long shot. Not at all.

But, forget everything you’ve seen of Jerry for a moment.  I know, it’s tough.

Now imagine you are told that a player is joining the Revolution, that…

  • Scores at the Olympics
  • Scores in World Cup qualifiers
  • Scored 26 goals in 54 games for his last club
  • Is 27 and should be in his prime

One would imagine that, upon hearing this, any Revolution supporter would be buying Mike Burns a beer anytime they could.  But no, but both Burns and Bengtson are unloved figures.

Why?

Because Jerry’s not gotten it done.  Maybe not been given a REAL chance to, but certainly hasn’t made an impact.

But here’s the thing.  I really, really don’t want to be writing this same article next year about a player that stunk for the New England Revolution, and went on to be a star elsewhere.  I really don’t.

And we know that Jerry shows up in the right moments elsewhere, event when maybe we don’t want him to.

Maybe the goals aren’t always pretty. But they count. And that’s something for a Revolution team that cannot seem to score.

So, the question isn’t whether Jerry’s done what we wanted.  We know that answer.

The question is WHY hasn’t he?

Or Caraglio? Or Moreno? Or Badilla? Or even Feilhaber.

Maybe it is Mike Burns who is at fault.  That seems like the easy answer. But these are good players.

How many times can we say “that player would be great on another team” and not just admit, maybe it’s not THEM.  Maybe it’s US.

It seems to me another team could make a good strategy of picking up after each of our Latin American “fracasos” (failures) and laughing all the way to a very strong squad.

I think our problem runs deeper. Until the Revolution is seen a place where people want to play and know they can succeed, we’re not not going anywhere fast.

For me, that is worse than any single losing streak.

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The (Revolution) Thrill Is Gone.

Judging by activity on Soccer Soap Box you wouldn’t think that I’ve been an active Revolution watcher in 2012.  In fact, you might have thought I fell off the earth if you weren’t following on Twitter. But job changes, family obligations and good weather conspired against blogging and pushed me towards the 140 character variety of self-expression.  Ah, yes, Twitter: blogging-lite. So easy, it’s like cheating.

So it turns out I’ve not fallen off the earth, but like most people, I haven’t been to many Revolution games in person either. I have, though, watched nearly every game.  So despite a clear enthusiasm lag, I’ve far from ignored the team. But there’s more, and it is undeniable… my emotional connection to the Revolution has been tested this year.  It’s like a long-term marriage that has kept all the familiarity but lost all of the energy and intrigue. (Mrs. Soap Box, please note, I speak only theoretically, we’re all good.  Now, back to the program…)

Soccer, for me, is a game of passion and beauty.  I want to be enthralled.  I want to think the team I’m watching can deliver something of an emotional connection both on the field and in how they view the game and conduct their business. Yes, I want to see victories, but the intangibles are probably, or nearly, as important for me.

Sadly, the Revolution aren’t living up to such expectations.  (Mine or pretty much anyone else’s.)   The team has largely been incapable of creating the beautiful game on the field, certainly have continued having trouble creating passion within the fan base and simply doesn’t make decisions I can defend with both my heart and head being in agreement.

The year started positively enough, at least relative to the debacle of 2011, with an attempt at a fresh style and with a young and popular (as a player) new head coach.  New players, like Lee Nguyen brought skill and optimism. Possession improved and we occasionally didn’t boot the ball up field. It was delusional bliss, and I miss it so.

On top of that, the addition of three Colombians appeared to add skill, experience and guile from my adopted second country – heck some of these player acquisitions were announced when I was vacationing in Colombia… things looked – and felt – pretty good.

And while I was worried that appointing Jay Heaps head coach was an underwhelming and risky decision – thinking he was too inexperienced to right a ship that clearly needed a special brand of leadership (or quite possibly an exorcism), he’s a hard character to root against and I was willing to buy into the “we will attack”  battle cry.

But it wasn’t to be, was it?

The Revolution will miss the playoffs again, and were simply not good enough to suggest they deserved better.

So where are we?

Ironically, the team is full of good players.  The problem, is that ‘goodness’ is no longer enough across a team – some level of greatness is required. And we lack greatness.

Let’s review… our most exciting import?  (Arguably) Saër Sène.  He’s good.  Is he great? Not clear.  Maybe, but ‘great’ would bring that left-footed magic as well as the ability to occasionally win a header and an intensity that sometimes seems missing.  There’s potential for greatness though if he’s not done growing.

Jerry Bengston? He had a great Olympics, but has only looked good for the Revolution.

Lee Nguyen.  Certainly a good MLS player.  Can he be great at this level?  Maybe.

I could go on and on, but fundamentally the Revolution lacks stand-out leaders. It lacks All-Stars, officially or otherwise.

So to find “greatness” shrewd personnel moves would be required. It is far from clear that the Revolution have made the wisest personnel moves or that they even get the best out of what they have. Though, this year it’s the personnel decisions that baffle me most and have sucked the much of the passion out of me.

I am on record as thinking that trading Shalrie wasn’t the worst idea – and I can still see the rationale. He was not the same player from a few years ago, yet he was being paid based on that history, and certainly not his current performance.  Of course, his presence hasn’t really be replaced.

The Pepe Moreno fiasco isn’t worth commenting on at this point.  His arrival was a mess so his departure certainly was neither a surprise nor a real disappointment.  But let’s be clear, though imperfect, the guy didn’t get into European clubs because he couldn’t kick a ball.  What a mess.

Another head-scratcher was the undying affection for the Bromance-duo of AJ Soares and Stephen McCarthy.  Fine guys, but would they be a center-back pairing on any other MLS team?  Doubtful.  Unless John Lozano keyed the coach’s car, I’ll never understand how we walked away from a center-back with good history in the Colombian league without giving him a real run out.

Now, this will probably set off some warning bells for folks, but the last games, for me, are perfect examples of how my views of what I want to watch are nearly not the same as what the team is thinking.  On the bench Benny Feilhaber and Fernando Cardenas watched Ryan Guy and Kelyn Rowe get the start.

Really?

Sure, Rowe got a (deflected) goal.  And he’s a good player, a solid rookie who probably has a nice little MLS career in front of him if he keeps improving.  Heck, the Revolution fans even voted him “Man of the Match” for last game. (Oh those Revs fans, they never miss a goal…)

But for my eyes, when Cardenas is on the field the team the moves the ball more quickly and play wakes up. It becomes watchable and interesting.  He’s imperfect too, no doubt, but it is baffling he’s on the bench for this team – one that is static and constantly in search of the unexpected.  Yeah, yeah, “super-sub.”  We’ve all heard it – and some of you are guilty of saying it, “clearly, Fernando is better coming on late and running at tired defenders.” (When isn’t that the case?  Isn’t that patently true of any player? “Messi would be more effective coming on against tired defenders.”  Ugh.)

The Super-sub cliché is a great way to write off a player you cannot figure out how to properly integrate.  On a team this devoid of movement and ideas, that’s a darn shame.

And Ryan Guy. He works hard and is a good player. Better than Benny Feilhaber?  Not for my money.

My last blog (from what seems like years ago) was about how – during an almost-good stretch of Revolution soccer – Benny seemed to have a vastly improved on-field demeanor attitude.  Well, he’s struggled to get time recently and the team hasn’t done that well either.

Both of these examples show a lack of conviction to prioritizing skill and creativity in choosing players. Rowe and Guy instead of Cardenas and Feilhaber suggests effort over style is still the plan.  The team’s style has taken a step backwards since the beginning of the year, which points to a lack of belief that they can win with attractive football.  I blogged earlier this year that if nothing else, I hoped the Revolution would “keep the faith.” That faith seems betrayed.

Let’s be clear… I know it’s not exactly Rowe vs. Cardenas or Feilhaber vs. Guy, but the comparison it creates is illustrative as far as priorities, decision-making and what type of product we’ll see on the field. Maybe if the Revs were winning ugly, it would be forgiven.  But it’s not.   The team appears half-committed to half-attractive soccer.  It remains a team without a discernible style.

This all points back to an initial worry – is Jay Heaps really ready to fix this mess?

The evidence before us is damning. Young players that aren’t game changers get more faith that seems logical. One time stars fall out of favor (Joseph, Feilhaber.) Commitment to attractive soccer has waned. Players that might be on the verge of “great” are stuck squarely in “good.”

I’m not sure what the final games of another throw-away season can show us, and despite my sliding passion… but I’m sure I’ll watch.  I’ll almost certainly tweet.  I may even blog.

But will I be connected?  Enthralled?

Right now I sense that might it take World Cup qualifying, not the Revs, to rebuild such passion.

And you tell me, what does all that say for MLS?  It is bad that a team can so frustrate a die-hard fan and squelch his hope for seeing attractive soccer in his own backyard, or it is a positive development that the league has improved enough to have marginalized teams that simply are good, but not great.

I’d normally close this post with a request for ‘greatness.’  But I’m tired: of the night, of the season, of the same-old, same-old.

So screw greatness, just give me a sign you and I speak the same soccer language. I am not writing off the idea that I could fall in love all over again.  But as they say, once-bitten twice-shy.  I have a couple season’ worth of really bad bite marks on me, so you better get working.

Will The Revolution Keep The Faith?

In theory, it’s way too early on a Saturday morning to be typing, but a coughing son is wide awake and there’s little convincing him that bed is a better option than dragging me downstairs.  Perhaps he’s just too excited about the Merseyside Derby cup match this morning to sleep? Not likely, as he’s sitting on the main computer playing pbskids.org games as I type away on a laptop.

So be it. The blog is dusty and I’m awake. Not only that, but I’m going to miss tonight’s New England Revolution home game versus D.C. United as we have important birthday plans with a friend. DVR (or MLS Live) to the rescue, once again.  Without the game to watch tonight, this is my outlet then, early and bleary eyed, but still hoping for a Revolution victory.

More than that, actually, I’m hoping for more signs that the team continues to build toward something than can make me, and the rest of the fans, smile.  Now, let’s be clear. Victories bring smiles. And I’d like to see more of them.

But as we touched on in a recent “The Midnight Ride Podcast” (you do listen, right?) there’s also something about how a team plays that drives the “smile” factor. OK, perhaps that was my babbling only, and it involved talk of Fernando Cardenas and how he plays. Stepovers? Yup. Try that (seemingly random) shot? Sure. Smile-worthy.  If you cannot tell, I forgive and often celebrate the unexepected – at least as far as offensive creativity is concerned.

Other players are doing things that make me smile too… Lee Nguyen for example. Benny, I suspect, will when he returns. Crafty? Creative? Sure. Effective? Admittedly, the jury is out on some of this so far for the Revolution.

But that brings up the eternal debate, is there a necessary trade-off between creative (attractive) play and success? On the world stage, one would think that Brazil squashed this years ago, or that Barcelona/Spain had driven the final nail into the coffin.   Closer to home, teams like Real Salt Lake have made a compelling argument that winning can come with a good brand of soccer.  But of course, this debate will continue for as long as we talk about the sport.

However, let’s not let the validity of the debate stop any progress that this team has shown in building something new and exciting. There’s a fragile hope, a tentative excitement, building within the fan base that is fueled by a better than expected showing against LA and an attempt to keep the ball and play good soccer.

Coach Jay Heaps has instilled a new energy, new attempts at possession soccer and a positive attitude. He took his first real criticism related to late substitutions during the 0-1 loss to F.C. Dallas. Starting in the 64th minute, offense either replaced offense, or offense replaced defense. And then gave up a last-minute goal.  The calls for “wiser” substitutions came quickly.

Of course, the knee jerk reaction here is to blame the coach for not “battening down the hatches” and filling the field with defense minded players. And sure, that would be a standard response by coaches around the world.  But ponder these two thoughts…

First, offensive solutions didn’t lose the last game. Not playing the ball out when our player was down, hopeful long balls out of the back (which was intercepted and sent immediately back down field), a foul by a hurting and frustrated center-back and poor marking on a free kick… that’s what lost the game and erased 94+ minutes of effort.  Those errors, mind you, didn’t come from those “unreliable” creative players.

Second, would you rather support a team that throws defensive bruisers at a problem, or looks to offense and hopefully possession to solve a challenge. Who keeps it the ball up by the opponents goal or who tends toward desperate clearances out of the defensive third? Critics will criticize both… either “too defensive, too soon” or “too naïve, why didn’t they lock down their lead with defense?”

I choose offense. I prefer possession.

But let’s be clear, with a young coach and inevitable questions and pressures that come, the temptation to batten down the hatches and only “boot the ball to the big men up front” will always be there. Heck, with the addition of Bjorn Runstrom, the team now has three six foot or taller forwards eager to jump around after the long ball.

But please, Revolution, keep the faith. Spring is in the air and there are seedlings of optimism growing in the fanbase. There is some excitement that you now have creative players who might be able to play attractive soccer.

Realize that criticism will come, no matter what you choose. So choose wisely, and stay the course.

Because I sat through the “successful” season of 2002 as a season ticket holder.  I remember the wonderfully large (if not particularly animated) crowd that filled Gillette Stadium for the MLS Cup final. Winning got the Revolution there and got butts in the seats. But most of that season, what was on display was ugly, sad soccer.  Ugly soccer doesn’t do much to stir the soul nowadays.

A decade later, and following a “fresh start” with a new coach there is a chance for something new.

Keep the faith Revolution. And keep the ball.

Introducing The Revolution’s Love Doctor

I don’t much like Mark Willis.

It makes no difference to me that his New England Revolution rebranding effort and his recent post about “The Revs in the Age of Mutual Love” are good. Really good. (Though, just in case, perhaps you should go check them out.)

Now, please don’t misunderstand, I’ve not met him or spoken to him and only recently found his work online. And he’s done no obvious wrong to me. But that “Mutual Love” post was, well, an assault on my blogger dignity and identity. So something had to be said.

You see, way back in my first post for 2012, I acknowledged a lingering, unfinished blog entry about what the New England Revolution could be doing differently. That post never really came together, and I ended up taking bits and pieces of it and using them in other posts.

All fine, except the crux of where I was in many ways similar to the excellent “Mutual Love” post by Mr. Willis, rendering me and my meandering thoughts all but obsolete. So no, I don’t much like him and his massive exploitation of my habits of procrastination, even if done in a compelling, thoughtful and clever way.

Yet, as I re-read his interesting article, I found a glimmer of hope. A question, in fact, that Mr. Willis asked, but maybe didn’t fully answer. A poignant, “that’s exactly it” type question.

“Who’s in Charge of Thinking Like a Fan?”

You see, my never-published diatribe was started just after the Revolution announced its “sweeping” (ahem) organizational changes. But I longed for more. Yes, we could argue the validity of who was promoted and to what position, but the time for that has long passed.

What I was found missing was a net-new position. One that would have essentially answered the question – especially as it relates to both fan interaction, and the team’s marketing success (or lack thereof) – “who’s in charge of thinking like a fan?”

I imagined a role that would sound a lot like: VP of Marketing and Fan Engagement. In my mind, this person would lead all marketing, communications and fan engagement efforts, and assume responsibility for the current marketing and communications staff. I see this person as a new hire from outside the organization offering an injection of new blood, new thinking and new enthusiasm. I see this person as living, breathing and promoting the Revolution experience.

This position wasn’t announced, of course, and there are any number of reasons why it won’t be any time soon. Cost might be one. Others could be that the Revolution might be a bit too smart, and loyal, for its own good.

For instance, Brian Bilello is clearly a very smart guy and he may be thinking he can offer hands-on marketing leadership on his own. And maybe he can. But, given the challenges that surround the team on and off the field after what was a dreadful 2011, I’d hope he’d reconsider. There’s much to do elsewhere to right this ship, and he best not spread himself too thin.

So another person would be needed, and some of this new hire’s long task list would be somewhat obvious, things like:

  • Develop a consistent, repeatable and compelling vision for the team that translates “Front Office Speak” into something fans (and the media) can rally behind. Train every staff member on it.
  • Review all advertising, marketing and branding efforts for consistency, passion and relevance in today’s MLS world, and beyond. (Saying that the team is spending money (3rd highest in league?) can no longer be seen as a positive without corresponding results.)
  • Define and initiate co-marketing efforts with team sponsor United Healthcare. This could be both in-kind collaborations or specific net-new investments that drive toward both organizations’ goals, and would go a long way to increasing the Revolution brand credibility.
  • Construct media engagement efforts, potentially finding inventive ways to pivot off of the Patriots’ ridiculous leverage in the local market.
  • Etc., Etc., Etc.

This new person needs to have the desire to quickly become credible to the soccer community. However, I have the unpopular opinion that a long-history in the game is beneficial, but not mandatory. What’s mandatory is the ability to properly market the product of New England Revolution soccer. Yes, having the ability to speak to the soccer cognoscenti would be nice, but comes second to having proven marketing chops. Besides, what those soccer lovers will find credible are marketing efforts that prove their love of the team is being reciprocated, not placated.

Just as important, given the organization currently in place, would be augmenting the marketing skills with an engaging personality. This team needs someone who can credibly empathize, energize and relate to fans. Today, many of the most die-hard Revolution fans today feel talked-at, marketed-at and nearly scoffed-at from the smarter-than-thou team management. And having met much of the team leadership at one point or another, I’m not at all convinced that the Front Office actually feels this way or intends to send this message. But it is often the message that is accidentaly delivered.

Media too needs this empathy and enthusiasm. Most local media struggle to differentiate a free kick from a penalty kick, and might hide under a desk if they needed to describe the passive-offside rule or MLS roster restrictions while live on camera. This person needs to be a trusted advocate and advisor to these potential media allies.

This personality requirement is a hard qualification to quantify. It doesn’t necessarily show up on a resume. Like has been said about pornography, this is a quality that in the “I know it when I see it” genre. There’s a fairly fine line between being an engaging, inspiring and empathetic marketing leader and coming off as an overly-slick salesperson. But it’s a line that the team best not cross.

But skilled, yet aloof marketers – no matter how smart – are not what this team needs right now.

The team also doesn’t need a timid personality, because for this role to be successful, glass would need to be broken, assumptions challenged and a certain free reign promised, in order to try new ideas. Not all of which will be stunning successes. That creative leeway will be important, because this new person would also quickly become the VP of Tough Love.

What types of tough love?

First, he/she should insist on media/presentation training for Mike Burns, Brian Bilello and Jay Heaps, and be the one true voice of the front office until comfortable that the others are ready. Those three team leaders offer very different skills, but are all critical to getting an improved team image out to market.

Mike Burns may have the perfect qualifications for his role and have one of the best soccer brains in MLS. (Hey, it’s possible.) But his media and fan interactions have not portrayed him as a sympathetic figure and have not delivered a sense of his competence nor a consistently cogent view of where the team is headed. If success doesn’t come quick and his reputation is not shored up, he will continue to be an easy target for frustrated fans.

Brian Bilello does better with fans, but needs to realize that business as usual won’t work in terms of cryptic sharing and the inability to answer questions about the team’s style, goals and direction. Sure, player commentary needs to be closely guarded, but it’s time for some risk taking there as well. At the risk of giving too much away, the team needs to share as much information as they can to better show its level of activity (scouting) and some insight into the rationale for decisions that seem odd for us mere mortals (Perovic?, etc.) to comprehend.

An increased amount of Twitter correspondence has been a better start in 2012 for Bilello (though it has notably slowed after a strong start), but old habits die hard. For example, waiting weeks to mention that José Moreno’s contract wasn’t effective until March 1st, after fans had almost completely turned against the player, continues a streak of under-sharing with this key audience.

Jay Heaps is a bit of a media mystery at this point. He speaks well, is a fan favorite and people seem to genuinely hope for his success. That said, he’s also vastly inexperienced and in the honeymoon period of his appointment. The team should leverage him now, but ensure he’s prepared for communications when things aren’t so easy.

More tough love needs to be delivered to ownership.

This marketing leader needs to also tell his boss (presumptively Bilello) that the Krafts need to be seen as educated, active and visible owners – now. (Hopefully they are all of those things, but either way, appearances matter.) They need to be able to field questions about the team, its strategy and the choices that are being made. The conversation needs to be deeper than “we are planning for a Soccer Specific Stadium.”  One way to start, is to be visible at games in the stadium that the team does have. It’s not that hard really.

Frankly, the fact that the immensely successful Kraft family has been turned into anything but an asset for a New England team either speaks to their absolute disinterest or a dismal marketing failure. And personally, despite the relative lack of engagement and failings, I still struggle to believe they simply don’t care.

Is the team ready for someone to come in and tell management and ownership that they are part of the “product” and need to shape up? I would hope so.

And while not tough-love, there is some love to show the fans.

Better (extreme?) engagement on social media? The appearance of over-sharing (even if carefully orchestrated behind the scenes) about team plans? Worth a shot.

Why not involve the most vocal fans in “crowdsourcing” new promotional ideas. The best way to get the negativity out of the fan-base is to engage them in the marketing turnaround. Make them part of the solution. It’s hard to go on social media and half-wittedly slam something you are working to help create.

Heck, why not involve them in picking the new social media hashtag to replace #Revs? A contest anyone? (Sorry dear readers, that #Revs allusion could not be avoided…)

I could see this new VP pouring beers alongside the players at the newly announced Pub Tour, or drinking a pint with the fans – while jotting down their ideas. In fact, couldn’t there be a place for this person in The Fort? If it’s mutual love that’s needed, there are ways or providing it.

Yes, there’s work to be done and some ideas will be better than others.  But the team should get a person, leverage the new energy, give them some autonomy and power to say what needs to be said and promote this product.  Sure, new stadiums and new Designated Players could help.  But this product is marketable as-is.

So I guess I don’t need to detest this Mark Willis character after all. He may have “stolen” (yes, I am delusional) my completely stagnant, dust-laden, and largely under-developed idea in his extremely clever and thoughtful article, but he left me a crumb to dine on. And so I did.

Question: “Who’s in Charge of Thinking Like a Fan?”

Answer: The new VP of Market and Fan Engagement that the team should go find.

And in his discussion of Mutual Love that the fans so desperately deserve, he could also have wondered who would deliver the tough love the team so obviously needs.

The answer would be the same.

The Revolution’s Words, Actions And Colombians

To kickoff 2012, my first (and only) blog entry centered on a plea for the New England Revolution to be “blog worthy” in 2012.  A hope that it would “show the fanbase how big the Revolution dream is, and steps you are taking to achieve it.”

Given a week of activity, I’m concerned the team still cannot explain the vision of the team’s future the way I’d like, but its actions actually give me hope.

The two news items of note are the addition of two reasonably young Colombian players (Fernando Cárdenas and John Lozano from América de Cali) and two additions from the MLS SuperDraft (Kelyn Rowe and Tyler Polak.)

For most of us, the addition of four players is news enough to get the chatter going. However, I’ll admit (as I have along the way on this blog) that despite being a full-blooded, US Men’s National team supporter, I have a particular soft-spot for Colombian players and Colombia generally. So my heart fluttered just a bit more than might have been necessary. It also led to my latest team suggestion, so read on…

First, I’d like to personally thank the team for bringing these players in to appease yours truly. Clearly, the fact that the team added two Colombians a couple days after I plead for news-worthiness means they were reading the blog, knew my Colombian soft-spot and jumped at the opportunity to please me.

OK, perhaps not.

But the fact that one of my fondest, foreign soccer adventures was going with my brother and family-in-law to a Millonarios vs. Tolima match at “El Campín” (quick clips here and here), and that I’m a couple weeks from my next visit to my adopted second country, means I may well overstate my impact and the likely impact of these players on the team.

So, with my biases stated, I’ll do my best to avoid hyperbole.

The reality is that the Colombia’s First Division is not the league it once was. With clubs that were once the hobby of ridiculously wealthy drug kingpins in the late eighties and early nineties, the main teams of the league “benefited” from an influx of ill-gotten cash to fund player acquisitions and operations. (A trade-off none of us should want for the country or league to revisit.)

Despite the change in stature, the league continues to produce, and provide MLS with, quality players that tend to have strong ball skills, a creative outlook and impressive composure. In Colombia, the game is typically played at a slower pace, with a greater emphasis on skill, passing and even (gasp) dribbling capabilities. These are not the skills we are used to from our own youth development efforts here in MLS and US Soccer.

Of course, the same can be said of other leagues as well, but there appears to be an ongoing clearance sale on Colombian talent, with MLS being a primary shopper. Until Colombian professional clubs start seeing better success in pan-South American competitions, this will likely continue, and MLS would be wise to keep an eye out for continued discounts.

I know very little about these new players, so I will not venture to estimate their upcoming fortunes in MLS and with the Revolution, but the fact that the first foreign additions new head coach Jay Heaps and “revitalized” team management have made were Colombian, young (Lozano is 27, Cárdenas is 23) and yet have experience in tense first-division soccer, is a good step.

That one is a creative attacker and the other a stout central defender and the team also gets credit for shoring up two of its weak spots as it readies for the 2012 season.

The team still has some significant shortcomings though, which brings us to last week’s MLS SuperDraft.

I’m less of a draft-junkie as some of my compatriots (which is pretty obvious when you listen to my fumbling on The Midnight Ride podcast from earlier this week…) but there were a couple things any Revolution-watcher knew going-in.

First, the team needed strikers. (Among other positions that also needed addressing.)

Second, the team had the highest pick it’s seen in quite a while.

At least in Revolution terms, expectations were high and interest was intensified.

The results? Pretty darn good.

Now, “pretty darn good” might not sound like ticker-tape parade stuff to most people, but in Revolution country, team followers will worry about more than “pretty darn good” after it once again provs an ability to hit that low-bar with consistency. At this point, local supporters have become realists.

Now, there are questions to ask, as the major gap for a “pure-forward” went unfulfilled. But two solid, Generation adidas players with US Youth National Team pedigree were added. Forgetting everything else, the Generation adidas status of these players is a major coup. Players in this program bring two major benefits, 1) they have already signed with MLS and 2) their salaries do not cost against the team’s salary cap.

Without even delving into the players’ skill-sets and credentials (which are solid), these facts point to a – dare I say it – savvy draft strategy – and make even critics forgive the lack of a pure forward.

First, the team needs players, and it knows it. The fact that there is no negotiation with these players (as they have already signed with the league), there is no risk of losing them to the lure of a European dream, among other distractions.

While to a casual onlooker this could seem trivial, contrast it against the fact that only one (Clyde Simms) of the team’s three Re-Entry Draft selections has signed so far, with both Nate Jaqua and Danleigh Borman apparently still deciding what direction their soccer futures will take, and the pre-signed nature of these Generation adidas picks seems like a wise move.

Second, the team knows it needs room under its salary cap to bring in the players needed to become competitive again. To that end, the Revolution have cleared out high-priced European imports, given Designated Player status to Shalrie Joseph (which, based on the sometimes counter-intuitive rules of MLS, means he’ll cost LESS against the salary cap) and have now added two promising young players for no-charge against the salary cap.

Savvy indeed.

Now, all this money-saving and movement toward skillful youth (Colombian or college) aside, the team still needs to figure out how to fill out the roster. That flickering of light of hope which is ever-present in the Revolution faithful should glow a bit brighter when it looks as the signs in front of them.

When Jay Heaps was appointed as the Revoltuion’s new coach, there were serious questions about what type of soccer local fans should expect to see. As Jay readily admits, his impressive playing career was highlighted by dedication and effort more than pure soccer skill.

But, in bringing in Kelyn Rowe, as opposed to a forward to fill in a glaring hole in the team’s roster, Jay Heaps noted that Rowe’s skill was “…important for us because we want to be a possession-oriented team and we want to keep the ball. He’s a player that can do it.” Interesting words.

If the team’s followers hadn’t heard Steve Nicol tell them for the last two years that the Revolution were looking for a “possession oriented style” – while delivering something quite a distance from that goal – it might be a bit more believable.

However, these early player additions – which on the surface seem to point toward creativity, youth and an acute understanding of MLS rules – might just point to a brighter future. This is the kind of surprise many have been waiting for, and were not expecting. Interesting actions.

The question will be, what will follow this promising beginning? Do these player acquisitions point to a different direction – potentially one that focuses more on soccer-skills and creativity and less on athleticism? I sincerely hope so.

Does Mr. Heaps have the chops to coach fluid, possession oriented soccer out of skillful, creative players? Good question.

The imminently likeable Mr. Heaps, likely realizing some of his own potential deficiencies, added “longtime U.S. Soccer coach and talent evaluator Jay Miller” who is known to be a savvy tactician and student of the game. Tactics are important, yes, but in US Soccer coaching ranks are far too frequently prioritized ahead of talent, rather than seen as an augmentation of that talent. Hopefully, that will not be the case with the Revolution.

But it’s clear that Mr. Heaps is still in the market for a second assistant coach. In my last blog, I continued chasing Colombian shadows with a pipe-dream that Leonel Álvarez would get a look for some type of coaching association with the team.

Other than his history of a brief stint as a Revolution payer and his recent ousting as Colombian National Team Coach, perhaps this was a reach. But I still like the idea of a Latin coach, one who brings Spanish (or Portuguese, I suppose) to the team. And considering our two recent South American additions, and the success the league has had with Colombian player acquisitions lately, a Colombian coach doesn’t seem like a reach. Of course, one that understands how to deal with younger talent sure would be a bonus given our recent moves and the high hopes around Diego Fagundez.

Whether I simply need to pull my head out of the clouds or not, I’m not quite ready to give up on my vision of a Colombian on the coaching staff for the Revolution. In fact, if there hasn’t been a call placed Wilmer Cabrera at this point, it’s a terrible oversight. He would bring a unique and extremely valuable addition to the staff, with almost too many positives to mention.

He’s a Colombian, with exceptional years at América de Cali where he won three Colombian championships. That is, of course, the same club from which our two new Colombian signings came from.

He has worked within, and is clearly familiar with, MLS as its one time “Manager of Fan Development.”

He brings a solid coaching record as both an assistant (Under 18 US Youth National Team) and as the head coach with the Under 17 US Youth National Team – with very good recent results – including a a 3-1 victory over Brazil in December.

He is likely already bringing a familiarity with some of the Revolution Youth Prospects from time they spent at the US Soccer residency program.

It was an article in Soccer America is what both excited me about this possibility and immediately worried me about its likelihood to come true.

Exciting because I knew all of the above areas that would seemingly bring a new and interesting addition to the Revolution sideline, and Wilmer is quoted in the article that he is “in conversation with an MLS club to try and join the staff and we’ll see.” Why not the Revolution?

Worrisome because while much has changed with the Revolution, and as we’ve seen here, some of that is very good news. But some oddities remain, like the team’s propensity for near over-the-top, hard-ball contract negotiations that sour ex-Players on the team and the process.

Unfortunately, despite his seemingly good record and positive momentum, this sounds eerily similar to Cabrera’s departure with US Soccer. From the Soccer America article we learn that he was offered what a much shorter contract than he had been accustomed to (and which would be the norm in the youth coaching ranks) and that he rejected it. “I had been working very well with the Federation but I couldn’t accept that offer. It wasn’t good enough for me or my family.”

Rajko Lekic would sympathize. Of course, Sunil Gulati, President of US Soccer, is just a “consultant” to the Kraft family now, right?

So, what we’ve learned this week is that the team has taken positive steps forward in terms of adding some apparently skillful players who have their best soccer still ahead of them. Jay Heaps and the team may still lack the ability to cohesively describe WHAT they plan to turn the Revolution into, but if actions speak louder than words, than I don’t see much to complain about.

And if the team wants to make a strong statement, I’d love to see a continuation of the Latin focus, the emphasis on technique and skill and the growth of young promising talent by adding someone like Wilmer Cabrera to the coaching staff.

It would also be an action that would speak louder than words about this team’s new direction, a lessening reliance on Mr. Gulati and a departure from whatever tactics have seemingly poisoned contract negotiations of the past.

Because as much fans want to hear the vision, but they will get excited by the actions.  Speak loudly Revs.

Dear Revolution: A 2012 Request

In the spirit of honesty, I can let you know that I’ve been writing the same Revolution-focused blog post for well over a week. It’s a long winding tale of where the team stands and what you might do differently from a business and marketing perspective. Goodness knows, I didn’t have the heart to also tackle on-field possibilities in the same post.

But there it sits… half developed, half logical, and quickly sliding down the “recent files” list in Microsoft Word.

Typically a post (aside from the sometimes-needed fact finding missions) take me an hour or so. Well, usually more as often I’m writing, falling asleep, writing, falling asleep…

Why is it taking so long this time? Well, there are many reasons (as there are for the frequently large gaps in posts of any type) they include having a family, a day job… basically, a life of priorities outside of soccer.

But there’s one other reason, and it ties to my primary request as we move into 2012.

Please, Revs, be blog-worthy.

Because as much as my life gets busy and can intrude on my soccer attention span, when there are things going on that can stir the imagination, it is not hard to write about you or the game I love.

Revolution faithful are bemoaning the lack of New England media attention for the team and sport they love (as they should!) but the reality is that “our team” consistently feeds the media cold shoulder by serving up lackluster news. The media could be more attentive, but you need to help them. While your fans are doing their part on Twitter by calling out local media for their inattentiveness, they can only hope that the team will help their cause.

I’m NOT “real” media… shoot, I’m barely a blogger during slow periods… but if I lose attention from time to time, how will the real media ever PAY attention? And it’s not that I’m falling out of love with the game. I wasn’t in France for the recent USA friendly because of a lack of love. In fact, the only reason I found time to write this was I woke up early mistakenly thinking there was a big game on at 8AM this morning. My bad.

So I’ll work on my issues, and hopefully you’ll work on yours. Otherwise, maybe I’ll need to figure out what the Boston Victory Soccer Club is all about. I mean the Victory already “Likes” the Soccer Soap Box Facebook page, someone over there must have good taste.

Or perhaps I could help promote the much-closer-to-home Worcester Hydra‘s longshot dream somehow.

Maybe.

But Revolution, it need not be this way. Newsworthy soccer is not an impossible dream. Your fans can see it happening all around you.

And it isn’t just big headlines that motivates the fan base. The whereabouts of Mr. Beckham and Mr. Henry are interesting topics, but it doesn’t need to be galactic news item to stir the imagination.

You need to show the fan base how big the Revolution dream is, and steps you are taking to achieve it.

Colorado wanted to change its style (and who would argue with that desire from them?), so they hired Óscar Pareja. He’s a Latin-trained, MLS veteran that is both seasoned professional and has coaching experience and a perspective to share. Despite having won a final recently, Colorado knows that standing still in MLS is really falling behind nowadays.

The Revolution hired Jay Heaps. I like Jay. I hope he’s successful. But which team made a bigger statement to soccer-people? Which was more convincing? Which let fans know how big the team dreams?

Oh, maybe you remember Óscar, he was a Revolution player at one point, so you probably interviewed him for your recent opening, right? Or, since you must be watching the Latin markets including the recent MLS talent hot-bed of Colombia, I presume that ex-Revolution star Leonel Álvarez got a look with all the recent turmoil in Colombia’s national team coaching ranks? We are dreaming that big, right?

(Now THAT would be quite the assistant coach or would have made a very interesting head coach if his English is up to par, not that I think he’d accept an assistant role with the Revolution… watch for him in Dallas though, who still seems to dream big.)

Speaking of Dallas, they wanted a goal scorer. They signed Blas Perez. Granted, Thierry Henry he’s not. But he is a big, skillful forward who can appeal to the constantly growing Latin fan-base, presumably fit into the attractive style of play Dallas has and who brings a name that USA fans remember for how we gave the USA National Team defenders fits in prior meetings.

The Revolution don’t want a goal scorer. You are desperate for one. (Or three.) Where’s the news? The only news so far is that our first ever Designated Player Milton Caraglio is probably already another club’s player and the conciliatory Rajko Lekic seems on the way out as well. Despite fan support for Lekic, neither set the league on fire, so it’s hard to attack you for starting fresh. But it is just as hard to see how this is addition by subtraction.

So, you’ve told us Mike Burns and Jay Heaps are looking at players. Hopefully they are newsworthy. At this point, let’s hope they are even “blog worthy.” Because when it comes to your fans, it’s well past time to feed the (news) hungry.

In 2012, please be blog worthy. Do it by showing us a dream and explaining your roadmap to get there. Otherwise, us dreamers will let our imaginations focus elsewhere.

Coaching A Revolution: Are Heaps Of Passion Enough?

I thought I might be writing about a coach tonight, but certainly not like this.  I hoped to offer commentary on Juergen Klinsmann and his lackluster start with the US Men’s National Team.

But since I’ve not even finished watching the USA v France game on DVR, and still don’t feel the US fan corner I watched the game from in France allowed me much perspective (too much fan-watching, too bad an angle)… I was struggling.

Then, it happened.

The Boston Globe broke a story, and Twitter storm, about Jay Heaps being announced tomorrow as the New England Revolution’s next head coach.  Let’s, for the moment, just take it as fact. If the Boston Globe cares enough to pay attention to the Revolution in the post season, they are probably not guessing.

In some ways, this is no surprise, as Jay’s name had come up for some time in the conversation about people potentially interested in the role. However, I think most fans thought it was a cute conversation about a prior Revolution player and current TV color commentary guy.  It wasn’t taken particularly seriously.

It’s not that Jay Heaps isn’t a popular figure in Revolution circles, he most certainly is. Revolution fans hold him in high regard, and for good reason. He always brought an intensity to the game that was infectious.   If there was a player who embodied the Revolution’s (somewhat ironic) catchphrase of “Pride and Passion” it is Jay Heaps.

So this announcement has supporters. Fans looking for nostalgia, for the fire-in-the-belly attitude that Steve Nicol seemed to have lost will love this announcement. Fans who remember Jay as a member of the Revolution teams that made it to finals, had winning seasons and battled for Eastern Conference domination will hope that the fighting spirit returns.

But a strong initial reaction, even from fans who like Jay Heaps, was one of disappointment and resignation. With a team stuck in a deep funk, the idea of a bringing aboard an inexperienced coach who was a “team guy” with questionable readiness taking over smacks of being “the easy way out.”

The prior ex-player to be seriously discussed as a coaching option was Steve Ralston, and I set out a bunch of considerations by which a Ralston appointment might be viewed. It’s an interesting comparison to use those same measurement areas for Mr. Heaps.

  • Knowledge of MLS. Like Ralston, this is a strong positive for Jay’s candidacy, though Ralston has side-line specific experience from his current Assistant Coaching role for the Houston Dynamo.
  • History as an attack-minded, passing-oriented player. This was a non-standard metric to judge a coach in anyone’s book, but one I was hopeful would play in to the decision. If you believe that coaches only offer inspiration and motivation, ignore this. But if you think that coaches influence the brand of soccer that is played, Jay’s record as a hard-nosed defender doesn’t inspire confidence for the arrival of the beautiful game at Gillette Stadium.
  • Foxboro fan favorite. I don’t know who would win a popularity contest between Ralston and Heaps in Foxboro, but both would do very well.
  • Mentoring Benny Feilhaber and Diego Fagundez. Jay would serve as a positive mentor for young Revolution players, but one might think the young defenders (Alston, Barnes, etc.) would see a greater benefit than a Feilhaber or Fagundez who offer the potential for a more skillful brand of soccer.
  • Revolution history. Heaps offers the same nostalgic view of the Revolution’s good-old-days as Ralston would have offered and will undoubtedly push to return the team to that former glory.
  • Personality. Jay’s much more active and forward personality might well be better suited for MLS coaching, especially in shaking the Revolution from its funk, than a more reserved Steve Ralston.
  • Coaching Experience. Steve Ralston is currently an assistant coach at the Houston Dynamo, a successful MLS organization. Jay Heaps hasn’t ever been a coach, and will have to manage some significant personalities (and ex-teammates) like Shalrie Joseph and Matt Reis, in order to find success.
  • International Experience. Both Jay Heaps and Steve Ralston saw time with the US National Team, though Ralston had far greater exposure. In reality, neither of them would bring any international coaching credibility that’s likely to ease the acquisition of DP level foreigners to Foxboro or impress likely signings.
  • Go big or go home. This was the idea that the Revolution are in need of something big to prove to the players, the fans and MLS that they are “in it to win it.” After a management reorganization that, while potentially beneficial, was hardly seen as a big advancement, the choice of a Kraft-family favorite with no coaching experience who is already on the payroll for doing TV broadcasts looks quite like a cop-out.

One area I didn’t cover with Steve Ralston was whether or not he’d actually be interested in taking the job.  Ralston is about to be on the sidelines of an MLS Cup challenger, learning from an experienced coach and getting ready for the excitement of a soccer-specifc-stadium opening.   What would be the draw to return?  Heaps, meanwhile, grew up in New England, played more games for the Revolution than anyone and still works with the team and seems ready, willing and able to consider a coaching position.

(Or maybe ex-right back Mike Burns wanted to replace ex-right back Steve Nicol with ex-right back Jay Heaps.)

There are two major concerns with this Jay Heaps being announced as coach.

First, does an inexperienced coach (does he have a coaching certification at all?) have what it takes to right a ship that’s clearly off course.

Second, we can expect Jay to bring intensity, but ugly soccer with the volume turned up does not get better looking, and often gets worse.  And this product could use some polishing.

There’s much to learn about what a Jay Heaps managed team would look and play like, and it’s certainly hard for anyone to wish Jay Heaps or the Revolution any ill will.

It’s less difficult though to find some concerns with his choice as the new coach of the team and the significance of the recent organizational changes.

Because, while a Heaps–>Burns–>Bilello reporting structure might not be striking fear in the hearts of our rivals, it has brought indigestion to fans looking for a big statement of commitment, investment and higher-expectations from team ownership.