Jay Heaps' first season as Revolution Head Coach can be described in a multitude of ways, but after watching his club battled to two victories (and clean sheets) in their final two matches, I'll soften the blow and just call this season "eventful".
While I'll have a series of 2012 Couch Captain in Review pieces over the coming weeks, suffice it to say, that at the end of the day, the Revs won four more matches than last season, and improved their Goal Differential by FIFTEEN. It wasn't always pretty or without drama, but the 2012 Revs managed to improve over last season.
Now, to be fair, there was nowhere to go but up for this club, but with all of the moving parts, the new staff, and even the departure of a long-standing captain (I still love you, Shalrie), I felt like things could have gone worse (seriously).
So, let's take a look at Saturday's match, with an eye towards the offseason and 2013!
QUESTIONABLE: Clyde Simms (R quadriceps strain)
DOUBTFUL: Stephen McCarthy (concussive like symptoms), Juan Toja (patella femoral pain)
OUT: Flo Lechner (R MCL sprain), Lee Nguyen (R shoulder surgery), Saer Sene (L ACL surgery)
Tough to see Stephen McCarthy miss out on the final few tilts of the season, as I felt he truly was one of the best stories of 2012. Juan Toja was also listed as doubtful, and with nothing to play for, I felt like keeping him out was the best course of action.
JAY HEAPS LINEUP vs MONTREAL: Bobby Shuttleworth, Kevin Alston, A.J. Soares, Darrius Barnes, Ryan Guy, Chris Tierney, Clyde Simms ©, Benny Feilhaber, Fernando Cardenas, Diego Fagundez, Jerry Bengtson
A good, solid lineup for the final match. Was pleased to see that Simms once again made the starting XI, as he had played so well against Chicago. Kevin Alston continued his odyssey out at left back, and it was Chris Tierney seeing the left midfield spot for the first time in a while as a starter.
Love seeing Fagundez getting more and more minutes, as it will really help with his growth and development as he progresses through his late teenage years.
COACHES' CHALKBOARD AND STYLE OF PLAY
First and foremost, the formation. Kyle McCarthy penned it a 4-1-4-1, which is something I truly don't remember seeing too much of. Cardenas and Feilhaber were the center midfielders, with Clyde Simms playing the deep lying CDM role. Fagundez was out wide right, with Tierney out wide left, and Honduran international Jerry Bengtson in a lone striker role up top.
One of the biggest differences in the latter stages of the season as far as style goes was how the addition of Fagundez changed up the pace of attack. Fagundez is not afraid to take on defenders with the dribble, which in turn cut down the long ball hoofing upfield considerably.
With Chris Tierney out on the left flank, as well as Alston overlapping, the service was noticeably better on the night. Given the struggles of talisman Jerry Bengtson in a Revs uniform, the more quality service this team gets, the better ALL of the strikers will produce.
In the midfield, Clyde Simms had a little more room to operate against Montreal, hence why it felt like he wasn't that involved, but in reality he truly was. Benny Feilhaber played a solid game in the center of the park and looked dangerous at times, and as the offseason approaches, I still hope he's in a Revs uniform in March.
Defensively, it was Ryan Guy getting the start at right back which gave the Revs an extremely fast right flank (he partnered with Fagundez) which played to the Revs advantage all night long. It's not the defensive coverage that worries me about Guy, it's times like the one in Philly where he gets out-jumped or out-physicalled due to his lack of size. If Alston is going to stay on the left side, New England need to decide what their course of action is going to be on the right, because I don't think Ryan Guy is the permanent answer.
SUBSTITUTIONS AND COACHES DECISIONS
All three changes from Jay Heaps in this one had a pretty straightforward purpose, which was most likely attributed to what he had available to him:
Blair Gavin for Diego Fagundez 64'
Kelyn Rowe for Fernando Cardenas 67'
Dimitry Imbongo for Jerry Bengtson 81'
Blair Gavin played very well against Chicago, so I was glad to see (given his injury history recently) the midfielder get minutes in back-to-back matches.
When Kelyn Rowe came on for Cardenas things looked a little different, with Gavin slotting in centrally, and Rowe manning his usual right flank spot in the formation. This gave the Revs a nice look, with Gavin and Feilhaber pairing in the middle.
Given all of the minutes Bengtson has played this summer and fall all over the world, I was surprised the substitution didn't come earlier. Hopefully, a full offseason, as well as some well-deserved rest, will do wonders for Bengston. Imbongo brought on some fresh legs to trouble the tired Impact back four, and eventually, the Revs found the equalizer.
There's going to be plenty to talk about all winter long when it comes to this team. I'm sure there are going to be a few surprising moves, as well as some moves we see coming. In the coming weeks we will take a look at this team going forward, and also review what we saw over the course of the 2012 season.
For now, just a couple of points from Saturday:
Blair Gavin. I'm excited. IF Benny is dealt, Gavin could slot in centrally and do a decent job of fulfilling that role. He looks invigorated, motivated, and most importantly, he looks like he possesses the necessary tools.
Kevin Alston. I think he may stay on the left in 2013. It's not that his play on the right was terrible, it's just that his play on the left was so GOOD.
Diego Fagundez. The teenager might have a much bigger role in 2013 than he did this season. He showed me things down the stretch that displayed some real maturation and progression, and it looks like he could be a key piece in this squad next year.
Jay Heaps. I'm going to talk about this a lot in the offseason. At the very heart of this discussion is that in the face of all that happened to this club in 2012, the results improved. Say all you want about player moves, drama between players and coaches/management, and some of the poor results on the road, the bottom line is the team won four more matches than last year, and improved their GD by 15 goals. This season may have fallen short of the lofty expectations, it was in no way a failure.