On New Years Eve 2012 I posted an article titled Ten Question Marks Leading into 2013. With every new year, promise and anticipation of the new MLS season gets the best of us; seeking to temper and direct that anticipation we looked the top ten question marks for the 2013 Revs. Let's revisit the first five. The original comments are italics.
1. If 2013 ends similarly to 2012 is it the end of the Jay Heaps era?
December 2012: Self explanatory here...Jay says all the right things and shows unrivaled commitment. Yet, there has been some friction with veteran players like Shalrie Joseph that indicate there may be layers to this onion we haven't smelled yet. Is two years not enough time to turn around the sinking ship he inherited from Stevie Nicol?
July 2013: No. Coach Heaps, after some early fumbles and inconsistent lineups and anemic offense settled on a lineup, a formation and a game plan which brought the Revs back to relevance in the conference and has us talking playoffs.
2. Will Kevin Alston transition to left back?
December 2012: According to Jay Heaps, Alston's passing rate improved when moved to left back and his ability going forward looked better. I'd have to agree with Coach Heaps here; Kevin Alston is born to be a speedy overlapping outside back that gets forward and involved in the attack. Any decision that moves him closer to that I am for.
July 2013: The answer to this was a clear yes. Kevin Alston and Andrew Farrell as outside backs flying forward is a reality. Unfortunately Alston had missed significant time while battling a treatable but rare form of leukemia. Healthy and available now we'll likely see him continue to feature at left back. God speed KA!
3. Is this the year we see Bobby Shuttleworth transition into a starting role?
December 2012: Who doesn't love Matt Reis? One still has to wonder how and when the succession plan will take place. Bobby saw regular time late last year and could this be the year where Reis takes on the substitute role?
July 2013: This absolutely is the year for Bobby's transition to a starting role. The circumstances in which it has occurred maybe have been unplanned, with the terrorist attack the Boston Marathon personally affecting Matt Reis' father-in-law. Reis was on scene seconds after the explosion rendering first aid to his father-in-law John Odom in what must have been a difficult series of mental images to contend with. Seamlessly Bobby Shuttleworth stepped in for Reis and his play has helped turn this Revs back five into the best defense in MLS. Yes, we are paying a lot for Matt Reis not to play...and everyone should be fine with that. Rarely do teams get to transition into a new keeper while having an absolute professional on the bench as an insurance policy. Reis is a hero, a gentlemen, and a professional. His career is certainly nearing it's end, so remember that when we do see him on the pitch this year and give that man the respect he deserves.
4. Are Andy Dorman and Kalifa Cisse guaranteed to start in 2013?
December 2012: We have a ton of talent the midfield on paper. Unless the New England Revolution plan to deploy a 0-10-0 formation they will have to narrow their midfield selections to four or five. Lee Nguyen is only one in my estimation that has solidified a starting role for 2013. Are the three remaining Cisse, Dorman and Toja's to lose? I'm sure Clyde Simms and Ryan Guy would have something to say about this.
July 2013: Not only are Andy Dorman and Kalifa Cisse not guaranteed a start...but they aren't even guaranteed to be first off the bench. Rookie Scotty "Braintree" Caldwell is the preferred choice of Jay Heaps at defensive midfield. With high price tags and few minutes are Dorman and Cisse worth that much as depth players? I suspect we may see Cisse leave in the Summer window.
5. Who will Captain the 2013 Revs? Is Reis a shoe-in?
December 2012: Again, who doesn't love Matt Reis but is it time to develop a new on the field general in the likes of an A.J. Soares? Who would you want wearing the arm band?
July 2012: Early on...yes, but now...enter Portuguese defender and off-season acquisition José Gonçalves. AJ Soares sidelined by injury and Matt Reis off the field saw the role naturally fall to the veteran. JoGo has the look, feel and play of a Captain. Anchoring the stingiest back line in MLS, the man has one yellow card while playing the most amount of minutes on the club! He speaks six languages and commands respects from teammates, foes and referees alike. Many didn't see it coming as JoGo is one of the best acquisitions the Revs have made in years and looks to represent the Revs in the MLS All-Star Reserves. Sign him up.
Have your questions been answered? What mysteries from preseason still go unsolved? Stay tuned for Part II where we follow up on questions 6-10!