It hasn't been an ideal start for the New England Revolution.
The club was the media darling before the start of the 2014 season, even being named as Grant Wahl's pick to win the MLS Cup. Now two games in, the Revs haven't won a game and haven't scored a goal. Perhaps worst of all, the team is reportedly engaged in contract drama with their captain, Jose Goncalves.
It might be easy for fans to sink into a state of depression, but it's important to remember that it's early in the season. With 32 games left to play, you have to believe that the best is yet to come. With this in mind, here are four reasons to stay positive:
1. Kelyn Rowe and Lee Nguyen haven't played together
Last year's satisfying 3rd place finish made it easy to forget about the Revolution's dreadful start. After defeating the Chicago Fire in the season opener, the team endured a period of 480 minutes where no Revolution player could find the back of the net (Brandon Barklage did gift the Revs a tally through an own goal).
The drought ended on April 27th when Rowe and Nguyen connected through a series of passes to create an opportunity for Diego Fagundez. The Revs would double the lead in the 72nd minute when Nguyen tapped in a rebound that Saer Sene helped produce. The team ended the night with seven shots on target, an incredible stat considering they had two games in which they didn't manage a single shot on frame.
Part of the reason for the increased offensive production was placing Nguyen and Rowe in the center. The two players were smart in their positioning, dynamic in their movement and creative in their passing. After the game, both players stated that they felt comfortable in the middle while also expressing their appreciation for one another. The partnership become the focus of the Revolution attack.
It's unknown whether Nguyen and Rowe can replicate their 2013 form, but fans should be hopeful.
2. Andrew Farrell could be the answer to at least one pressing issue
The last few weeks have highlighted two glaring issues with the current Revolution squad: the Goncalves situation is unsettled and the roster lacks a physical defensive midfielder. Luckily for the Revs, Farrell could be the answer to at least one of those problems.
The sophomore returned on Saturday and put in a solid 90-minute shift at center back against the Philadelphia Union. Besides an egregious error that led to Sebastien Le Toux's goal, Farrell didn't look out of place in the middle of the park. He was great in the air, fearless in the tackle and vocal when it came leadership. Farrell even showed growth during the game. When presented with a predicament similar to the one that led to the game-winning goal, Farrell showed great patience.
Although Farrell would need have to simplify his game, he could make the transition to center back if the Goncalves dilemma continues. If Goncalves returns to the starting lineup, Farrell could be deployed at another troubling spot: defensive midfielder.
After sharing time in 2013, neither Scott Caldwell nor Andy Dorman have made the defensive midfielder position their own. In his two appearances this season, Caldwell has drawn criticism for not being physical enough. Meanwhile, there are questions about whether Dorman can handle the position alone. Farrell, who is known for his physical and technical play, could become the team's first-choice DM.
Of course, it's also a possibility that Farrell returns to the right back position, which isn't a bad option since he excelled there during his rookie campaign. However, Darrius Barnes and Kevin Alston are trying to take ownership of that spot.
3. Head coach Jay Heaps likes to tinker as a way of finding the perfect lineup
Obviously it would have been ideal to have a starting lineup set by opening day, but unforeseen injuries and late signings preventing this from happening. Fans should take solace in the fact that Heaps is a dedicated coach that takes an analytical approach to the job.
Since becoming head coach, Heaps has created a team where there's competition at every position. Beyond upping the overall level of play, this has forced Heaps to make difficult lineup choices on a weekly basis. In 2013, Heaps went 13 games without utilizing the same starting eleven. Even after relying on the same players against both the LA Galaxy and DC United, Heaps continued to make changes in order to reward the players that were performing best in practice.
If last year is any indication, Heaps will use the next few weeks to map the individual talents of his players and the synergy among certain combinations. The starting lineup may be in flux during this time, but it's a part of a process. Much like last year, Heaps will ultimately find a lineup that maximizes the talent on the squad.
4. The Revs has the capacity to make moves
The Revolution front office has consistently stated that building a roster is an ongoing procedure that involves persistent scouting. Furthermore, Heaps has claimed that he wants to carry a full 30-man roster, though not necessarily at the beginning of the season. The Revs currently employ 27 players, which means that they have three empty roster spots, two of which could be used on international players.
If the team continues to struggle, the Revolution front office will certainly be looking to make a midseason acquisition. Last year, Juan Agudelo transformed the team after his May arrival. The year before, Jerry Bengtson was signed as midseason help. While Bengtson's arrival hasn't exactly panned out as expected, there's no question that the Honduran striker had the pedigree to be a success in MLS.
As both a player and a coach, Heaps has shown that he hates to lose. The early season woes are certainly weighing on the coach's mind and he will look to remedy the matter, either internally or externally. If external movement is needed, it will take time to find the right player. Fans should be happy, however, that their team has the roster freedom to make additions.