The New England Revolution are back as they are set to play their first scrimmage of 2015 against Real Salt Lake today at 11 am EST at the Grande Sports World in Casa Grande, AZ. It can be fruitless to overanalyze preseason fixtures as they often include plenty of substitutes while placing a heavy emphasis on fitness. Still, here are five storylines to follow as the Revs march toward their season opener on March 8.
- How will the Revs cope without A.J. Soares? While he hasn’t officially signed elsewhere yet, the Revs enter preseason without their reigning team Defender of the Year. As a result, Jose Goncalves will be looking for new partner along the back line, which will likely be Andrew Farrell. It has long been said that Farrell’s future is in the center and the third year pro will now get the chance to make the permanent move. Farrell made 10 appearances at centerback in 2014 going 5-4-1. The Goncalves-Farrell partnership was only used on three occasions, finishing with a record of 1-2-0. Can the duo forge the chemistry needed, or will the team need to look elsewhere?
- Who is the Revolution's first-choice right back? Farrell's likely to shift to the center, creates a vacancy at right back. Kevin Alston, Darrius Barnes and newcomer Jeremy Hall are all applicants. Alston had one of his best seasons last year as he contributed one goal and three assists in eleven appearances. Barnes also had a standout year with the Revs went 10-5-1 with him in the starting XI. Hall is new to the team, but brings a wealth of experience as he’s heading into his eighth MLS season. Which player will lock down the right back spot?
- How do you accommodate so many talented midfielders? Jermaine Jones, Lee Nguyen, Teal Bunbury, Kelyn Rowe, Diego Fagundez, Scott Caldwell, Steve Neumann, Daigo Kobayashi, Andy Dorman, Donnie Smith. That’s 10 midfielders, and there are others that can play the position. Jones and Nguyen are the only guaranteed starters, followed by Bunbury and Caldwell. Rowe was an important contributor during the late stages of 2014, but he will face heavy competition from a resurgent Fagundez, an experienced Kobayashi and a hungry Neumann. How will coach Jay Heaps organize his midfield?
- Do we see a formation change? Heaps has shown that his go-to formation is the fluid 4-1-4-1. This may change, however, as the team now employs two productive forwards in Juan Agudelo and Charlie Davies. In all likelihood, we see Agudelo as the starter with Davies challenging defenses late, which would create a formidable attack. You do have to wonder though if Heaps might consider a two-striker system.
- Which trialists will earn contracts? The Revolution presently have 22 signed players which leaves them with some spots to be filled. Eight trialists are currently in camp, including drafted forward Marco Fenelus, former J-League forward Yuzo Tashiro, and FC Dallas Homegrown defender London Woodberry. Will any of these players catch the eye of the Revolution coaching staff? Who else will the team bring in on trial?