The 2011 New England Revolution underwent a face lift this past off-season. Call it promoting those who failed, changing titles or whatever clever dig you used; but one can't deny the team's style and attitude has changed and overall expectations have been raised as a result.
With changes comes questions and variables, especially when 40-50% of your lineup week in week out is comprised of new faces. Here's what's been proven so far in 2012 and you could say with confidence.
- Clyde Simms had quietly been the best acquisition this off-season. He plays as disruptive as Pat Phelan did as a CDM, but far less spastic, more organized with far better touch and passing ability. Simms has been a distribution machine with an insane passing accuracy. Clyde Simms' existence has reduced defensively responsibilities for both Shalrie Joseph and Benny Feilhaber drastically, allowing them to focus more on the attack. Remember in older FIFA games there was an attribute for players called "Defensive Awareness" and you thought what does that even mean? It's what makes Clyde Simms good. Clyde won't light up a stat sheet and the things he does aren't really quantifiable but he's shutting down passing lines and closing up space for opposing teams and has become an integral part of the central midfield. In a year where Shalrie hasn't been really been Shalrie...Simms has become all the more valuable to the Revs.
- Lee Nguyen was a gift from Vancouver and he's a toy who can contribute every game. He's that gem you found at last weekend's yard sale, you know the one where those fools who just wanted to clean out their basement and didn't care to realize that some of their unneeded junk had value. Yeah, it's like that. Vancouver's waiving of Nguyen has to be one of the worst Front Office moves in the league so far this year. Young, quick, athletic, flashy and committed is how I describe Lee Nguyen as a Rev. You can tell he's been a celebrity before in Vietnam by the way he's connected with fans via social media immediately upon joining the club. His fancy footwork has made the game more exciting to watch for fans and added a much-needed creative tentacle to the octopus that is the Revs attack. He's attack minded and a competitor as he trails only Saer Sene in total shots with 27. Lee is a professional and once he fully adapts to the brute physicality of MLS defenders he will be a pest for outside backs for years to come.
- Saer Sene is really good. He's not great...but he can be. 7 goals, 2 assist and a team leading 21 SOG and .59 goals per 90 average. Sene can dribble, move deceptively fast, use his size to win balls in the air and score goals. It's refreshing to see an off-season forward signing actually produce and want to be here. Sene could probably have 10 or 11 goals if he improved the angle he takes on attack or learned to trust his right foot. His goal scoring will trail off if he fails to develop his right foot. MLS teams prepare for games and watch film and it's no secret Sene relies on his left foot to finish. A consistent compliment paired with Sene hasn't really developed and a revolving door of Pepe Moreno, Diego Fagundez and Blake Brettschneider have all seemed to work and fail at times. Perhaps a mid season acquisition could solve this problem?
- Welcome to New England, where we convert midfielders into defenders. First it was Chris Tierney now it appears Stephen McCarthy aka Big Creepy Steve aka Macca has fully made the transition to center back. There have been some hiccups along the way but with the release of John Lozano it appears that Jay Heaps is confident in his 6' 5" tower of power. Kevin Alston originally featured as a RM or RWB in college, Tierney came into the team as a LM and Steven McCarthy who battled injury and Pat Phelan for time at CDM last year have all found homes on the back line.
- Fernando Cardenas is best used as a substitute. Cardenas off the bench is a different animal than Cardenas in the starting XI. His footwork, speed and small frame pushed at tired defenses can abuse back lines around MLS. Around the 70th minute when defenders have acclimated to a team and the rhythm of a game, you add Cardenas to the recipe and it can bring a simmering attack back to a boil. Dude's a catalyst.