I'm pretty bad at New Year's resolutions. I should go to the gym more and Taco Bell less. I should write more columns and spend less time playing FIFA13. I should stop antagonizing Revs fans watching the Patriots in the off-season on Twitter...but I can't it's too much fun.
So I got to thinking, since it is now the preseason of the 2014 MLS season, what should be the New Year, or rather New Season, 2014 Team Resolutions for the New England Revolution? What we're the things that drove me nuts last year while watching the games and what are some of the things the Revs can do to improve individually and collectively on the field in 2014? Some things are specific to individuals and some are assumed things, like increased leadership and mentoring roles but all of them, at least in theory, are important in some way.
Well, here goes something...
Dimitry Imbongo - Keep the elbows down and stay on the field: Imbongo took great strides midseason as far as being a holding, lone striker in MLS, especially in the second half of the year. But even with that improvement it's hard to forget that Imbongo led MLS with three red cards overall (two of them straight reds) because he often let his emotions get the better of him and let his elbows get a little high a little too often. Building on his solid end of 2013 and learning from those red cards could lead to a nice breakout year for Imbongo.
Diego Fagundez - Impact the game outside of the scoresheet: One of the only knocks I had on Diego's stellar 2013 campaign, that included 13 goals and 7 assists, was that too often if he wasn't on the scoresheet (and he's on the scoresheet A LOT), Diego had stretches in games with few memorable moments. For a playmaking winger with his talent, I should remember at least a few half chances and/or shots, memorable key passes or some solid defensive plays almost every game. And for long stretches of games Diego just didn't have that "WOW!" impact I know he's capable of and to be fair, late last year the Revs could barely possess the ball, so it's not always his fault. But 2013 was a good year and 2014 has a chance to be a monster year for the talented youngster and while he's likely to rack up lots of goals and assists, he can have great games that don't appear on the stat sheet as well.
Kelyn Rowe - More Roweing in the US Open Cup: Mr. Rowe, the Open Cup hero of 2013, I ask you for only one thing: if you have the opportunity in 2014 (because for some reason the USOC isn't taken seriously by all MLS teams), I would like an encore of your ridiculous Open Cup campaign in which you scored four goals, two each in starts vs. the Rochester Rhinos and New York Red Bulls. I would like the Revs to take the USOC seriously and make a run to the final (or semifinals, improve on last year) and you seem to have a resume for that task. I will petition for advertising/sign boards at Harvard so that you can continue your trademark celebration there as well.
Lee Nguyen - Be the leader of the offense: The Revs are an incredibly young team, particularly in the attack. So at 27, Nguyen is basically the old guy as far as Revs attackers go and it's a team that is going to need more veteran leadership in general with Matt Reis' retirement. Lee did a little bit of everything last year, goals, assists, fouls and will called upon to do even more this year. The Revs are going to need him to be more aggressive by dropping back less to receive the ball and spending more time generating attacking plays up field. The Revs offense is too talented to be stagnant for long stretches and Lee needs to be the driving force behind the offense when necessary. I think the rest of the attack will follow Lee's example on the field and he'll need to stay active and create the attack directly rather than supporting it.
Scott Caldwell - Go forward young man: I am not going to crap on Caldwell's solid rookie campaign. Overall stats do not give justice to what he did for the Revs last season, but in all fairness, Caldwell plateaued late in the season. While his possession and passing skills were evident from the holding midfield role, it wasn't the lack of physicality that bothered me, it was his lack of anything going forward that I thought hurt the Revs. Caldwell only had two assists and six total shots (one on goal) in 2013 and seemed shy going forward despite having the skills to do. With the Revs perhaps needing an extra source of offense in 2014, Caldwell could very quietly have a big offensive impact in 2014.
Chris Tierney - Take more free kicks!: One of the biggest complaints about the 2013 season was that the Revs were dreadful on set pieces, especially free kicks. It was thought that no one on the team could hit a decent free kick anywhere near goal. But then, Devin Pleuler, MLSSoccer.com's Central Winger, wrote that you are the most accurate free kick taker in the league. And if I recall correctly, I remember you pinging two balls off the post in one game...so, yeah, take more of those. I want to complain less about how awful the team usually is on set pieces in 2014, which means you're the guy I'm hoping will keep my angst at bay.
Jose Goncalves - Keep that chip on your shoulder: Remember, in 2013 you were not an MLS All-Star or even on the reserve list and yet you were MLS' Defender of the Year. Contract issues aside, this team needs you to keep being you, which is the best defender in the league. You carried this team on your back in Columbus and into the playoffs. We'll follow you anywhere as long as you play as hard as you can every game.
A.J. Soares - Stop bombing the ball forward: Be composed, find Scotty and maintain the possession when you can out of the back. I'm all for clearing the ball when it's necessary not almost every time you see it and especially late in games when it barely relieves any pressure on the backline. 60% passing (12/20) out of the back against Columbus in the regular season finale isn't good enough even if you have 7 clearances and 8 headers in the same game. Get those passing numbers up, you can do this I have faith.
Andrew Farrell - Learn to hit a cross: This is the last thing you must learn, the elusive cross. You have the skills, the speed and knowledge to be an MLS All-Star and beyond. Your lone assist in 2013 was the secondary assist on Kelyn Rowe's goal vs. LA in the famous 5-0 rout, and that was basically a passing triangle between you, Chad Barrett and Rowe who side-foot curled one from Boston past Carlo Cudicini. If you can keep pace with Tierney in the assist department, the Revs are going to be really, really good with the added danger of you going forward. I know you have that awesome bet with your brother about not shaving your beard until you score a goal, but I'll settle for a handful of assists.
Bobby Shuttleworth / Brad Knighton - Just be yourselves: Matt Reis is a legend, and asking both of you to replace a legend on your own isn't fair in my opinion. But as a platoon, together over the course of the entire 2014 season, I think you'll both push each other and have your chances and you'll both succeed on the field. You've got a solid defense in front of you and both of you have proven to be capable MLS keepers. Whether one of you earns the number one spot outright or if Heaps goes with the hot hand, either way, this team is going to need both of you at your best the whole year, no matter who starts.
Jerry Bengtson - Be the player we all see with Honduras: Everyone knows that you have the talent and sadly the Revs have been playing with only one striker up top. Since you're more of a poacher and play better with a partner, your opportunities in New England have been limited of late. But the Revs will be in need of offense, particularly until Saer Sene gets back and even with the Revs attacking draft picks, you might be the most ready option they have. You can contribute with Honduras internationally and regardless of why or how it hasn't worked out in New England. So if given the opportunity in 2014, let's see you show off that international talent we all know you have.
Paolo DelPiccolo - No fun until Farrell learns how to hit a cross: Okay, you and Farrell are good friends and you both played at Louisville. You're here to bolster the holding midfield spot on the depth chart first and make sure that your best bud fulfills his 2014 Revolution Resolution. Zero fun (i.e. those solid YouTube videos the two of you made at Louisville) until Farrell is sending in crosses that look like Ray Allen's jump shot into the penalty area on a regular basis. I'm holding you responsible for making this happen, don't let me down.
(On a serious note, the two of you have my permission to have as much fun as possible but try to sneak in some extra crossing practice on the side. Thanks.)
The Veterans - Andy Dorman, Stephen McCarthy, Saer Sene: Be leaders off the pitch: Dorman, at 31 years old, is now the oldest player on the roster. That makes everyone listed here in a leadership role by default. Sene is out injured but that should stop everyone here from taking a younger/new player under their wing and helping them develop. You'll all get your chance on the field as well at some point, but like Lee in the midfield, the Revs are going to need players to step into leadership roles by default.
The Defense - Kevin Alston, Darrius Barnes, O'Brian Woodbine: Be ready: The three of you, along with Macca, are the second string defense. We saw last year in the playoffs how deep an MLS team needed to be with Barnes filling in well at LB after injuries to Tierney and Alston. You guys are still part of a defense that was really, really good last year and the Revs are going to need everyone to contribute defensively at some point.
The First Rounders: Steve Neumann and Patrick Mullins: Have fun, try stuff, and score some goals: New England is genuinely excited to see both of you play. Don't think that you have to replace someone like Agudelo or Sene. Just play, everything else will work itself out. Score some goals, try stuff that shouldn't work and have fun.
To the Four Rochester Rhinos - Make the most of it: For the sanity of our beloved Rhinos beat writer, Brendan Doherty, please do not let him endure another season like 2013. The Rhinos finished 11th overall and didn't make the playoffs for the first time in their history over various versions of USL Pro/Lower League soccer. Show up, play games, contribute. That's a pretty storied franchise that you play for, they're the last non-MLS team to win the US Open Cup. Dom Dwyer won the US double with Orlando and Sporting KC last year, maybe you can too.
New England Revolution, Team Goals - Improve on last year: What I mean to say is that I'm looking for the Revs to improve on what they did last year. Making the playoffs is great, but now a serious run into the Conference Final and the USOC semifinals would be pretty awesome. Would I love to play in the CONCACAF Champions League next year, sure, but I'll stop short at saying that it's a make or break deal. The East is going to be super competitive this year, there won't be any late run into third place like last year. It will be a battle to the end and I know that this team is ready for it.