After a promising start to the 2014 season, the Revolution dropped eight consecutive matches, failing to earn a single point from May 31 to July 26. But in the months that followed, the Revolution righted the ship, ending the season on 10-2-2 run. Of course, Head Coach Jay Heaps ultimately led his team to the MLS Cup Finals, where an underdog Revolution side took the LA Galaxy to extra time.
For a moment, fans overlooked the summer dip. But now, as the Revolution navigate another summer collapse, the trend feels all-too-familiar.
In four summers with the Revolution (June-July), Heaps has amassed a disappointing 7-19-6 record. Simply put, that's not good enough. But can the club justify firing a coach who took a 5-16-13 club in 2011 to the MLS Cup Final in 2014—a coach who made a playoff run in just his second season at the helm?
Alexi Lalas and Taylor Twellman have already already weighed in; they believe the gaffer should stay. Now, Jake, Seth Jon and Nick join the conversation.
As much as I want Heaps to try different formations and looks to get out of this funk, some of his experiments have had disastrous results (A.J. Soares at defensive midfield comes to mind). And quite frankly, this team started off rather well without Jermaine Jones, and we still haven't seen him play much in the midfield in 2015. The lack of defensive depth on this roster is not on Heaps, but on the front office. There still hasn't been even a short term replacement for Darrius Barnes this year and I think the fatigue for the regulars and lack of minutes for the reserves is hurting the team right now.
There's still a good chance the Revs get Jones back and do the exact same thing they did last year, but at the same time, we have to expect veterans like Jeremy Hall and Kevin Alston to step up as well when called upon. This has always been a defense-first team and, despite the wealth of attacking talent, it doesn't mean anything if you're giving up three or four goals every other week.
Cutting a coach mid-year generally doesn't accomplish much and is a sign of resignation in regards to the season. The Revolution's current spell of one win in 12 tries isn't good, but it also isn't the kiss of death. With six teams in each conference making the playoffs this year, the Revs still have a good shot at the postseason. From there, anyone has a chance. Instead of sacking Heaps, who has shown great improved over the course of his tenure, the front office should offer support by signing players and possibly adding another assistant coach. If things don't turn around, this debate should be reopened in the offseason, perhaps leading to more negative consequences for the Revolution gaffer.
I'll be the first to say that I think Heaps is a great guy for the organization and has as much fire now as when he played, but something needs to give. For reasons we will never know, the summer is like the plague in New England and the blame for that falls on the coach. No, he can't step onto the field and force the issue himself, but it's his job to get players right mentally and prepare an approach from the opening whistle to final kick. That simply doesn't happen anymore, as hot starts fizzle out and defensive pressure right now is practically non-existent. I don't want to see Heaps go, however, it's time that new blood comes in and spices things up some.
Over the past three-and-a-half seasons, Heaps has made soccer in New England interesting again. He turned a club that finished 17th in 2011 into an MLS cup contender in 2014, all while coaching Lee Nguyen to an MVP caliber season. But at some point, we have to stop using 2014 as a crutch; we have to start thinking about the present. Yes, this club lacks talent in the back. And yes, injuries to Jones and Barnes have played a role. But in 2015, Heaps has failed to get the most out of an elite midfield, unsuccessfully relied on a 4-2-3-1 formation and struggled to make adjustments when needed most. I'm willing to wait this slump out—but if this club fails to make the playoffs, it may be time to make a change in Foxboro.