Sitting just a few days before the regular season begins, we must start taking into account that, minus some last minute roster tweaking, the team is all but set until at least the Summer Window. This is the team that Jay Heaps will lead into battle for a good portion of the season. Ultimately, what are the goals we are looking for this club to reach? Could this team qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs? Well, let's take a look.
Several preseason MLS Power Rankings have come out on a multitude of blogs and websites. For the most part, the only Eastern Conference team that is consistently ranked below the Revs is the expansion Montreal Impact. Other than that, the Revolution typically find themselves ranked anywhere from 17th to 19th in the majority of these polls. Of course, these polls are based on preseason, where the Revs did much better than expected, and are completely subjective. Nevertheless, no one truthfully knows how a team will look until they are out there competing on a regular basis against other MLS opposition.
With the new unbalanced schedule, I am predicting that the Supporters' Shield winner (who, barring some huge roster moves or unexpected performances, will most likely not be based in Foxboro) will come from the East. Odds are it will be Houston Dynamo or Sporting Kansas City. Those two clubs are undoubtedly in the playoffs, probably as the top two Eastern teams. New York Red Bulls, based solely on the amount of money they spend, should qualify as well. So those teams are penciled in as three of the five from the East.
After that, this conference is pretty unpredictable. Could D.C. United build upon last season? Will Toronto's play in CONCACAF Champions League hold in the MLS regular season? Do the Columbus Crew continue to over-perform? How do the offseason moves of the Philadelphia Union affect team chemistry and unity? Will the Chicago Fire, who really did not add a whole lot of new pieces in the offseason, be as strong as their end-of-season form suggests? Is there a possibility that the Montreal Impact make a splash (a la Seattle Sounders during their first year) and sneak into the playoffs in this season?
I've seen tweets that suggest that Jay Heaps will be on the hot-seat if the Revs do not qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs. While I'm not sure that is necessarily true, I do not think playoff qualification for an Eastern Conference MLS team with Benny Feilhaber, Shalrie Joseph, Matt Reis, and A.J. Soares is not completely out of the question - then again, maybe I rate those players too highly.
Still, after Sporting Kansas City and Houston (who, lest we forget, will be splitting time in CONCACAF Champions League later in the season), the East is wide open. And if the Revs can qualify for the playoffs, well, all bets are off from there.
Could New England squeak out enough points to grab onto that fourth or fifth Eastern Conference playoff spot? Is that an unrealistic goal? Does Jay Heaps' job depend on making the playoffs? Is a qualifying for the playoffs a necessity to judge 2012 a successful season? Discuss below.