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Heaps leans on veterans

Revolution coach has field generals

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / April 5, 2012
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Clyde Simms didn’t consider crowd noise an issue in Los Angeles. The rain made the field slicker and the environment somewhat trickier, but the Revolution had muffled whatever noise the crowd could muster with some early scoring, and beyond that, Simms was tuned into a different frequency.

“I had A.J. [Soares] and Stephen [McCarthy] in my ear the entire time,’’ Simms said.

Simms, a midfielder in his first season with New England after spending seven seasons with D.C. United, was getting a constant flow of marching orders from the team’s veterans in the 3-1 win over the Galaxy last Saturday night.

The loudest voice, according to Simms, had to be that of Shalrie Joseph.

“I played against him a lot but never with him,’’ Simms said. “He does a lot of organizing on the field. Just total concentration from start to finish.’’

From veteran keeper Matt Reis to rookie midfielder Kelyn Rowe, it’s infectious.

“Whether it’s Kelyn telling someone they need to push right or left or one of those veterans, everyone’s listening, everyone’s down for the cause,’’ Simms said.

The point, for a team with so many new pieces, is to get on the same page and stay on it. Right now, it requires as much communication as possible. Eventually, Simms said, it will reach a point where everyone can do their assignments “in their sleep.’’ But what’s making it work right now is a core of glue guys - such as Joseph and Reis, who are in their 10th season in New England, and Chris Tierney, who’s in his fifth - that coach Jay Heaps is leaning on in his first season.

“You have to have experience in this league,’’ Heaps said. “I don’t care who you are. This league is different from most leagues. It’s its own entity and its own kind of beast in terms of the number of games, where you’re playing those games, the road trips, the competition.

“It’s a lot of moving parts. So when you have guys who’ve played in this league, who understand this league, it’s really important to have them be leaders in the locker room, leading the guys through different situations.’’

On Saturday night, with a defense fixed on making the opponents predictable and an attack that found ways to capitalize on mistakes, the Revolution earned their first win against the Galaxy in Los Angeles since 2008. Thursday night, they visit FC Dallas, looking to win three straight games for the first time since 2009.

Joseph, Reis, Tierney, Kevin Alston, and Darrius Barnes were all on the roster in 2009, the last time the Revolution made the playoffs, and Heaps was their teammate, not their coach.

“There’s a good group of us this year who have been in the league for a while and know what it takes to win,’’ said Tierney, who’s had a hand in two of the Revolution’s four goals the last two games. “It’s a lot of work to win in this league. There’s a lot of parity and there’s a lot of teams that offer different challenges, so just having experience and being able to pass that on to the younger guys or the new guys who haven’t played in this league, that’s always an asset to this team.’’

When the Revolution won their home opener March 24, Tierney said the victory was for Heaps, who as a first-year coach is as new as anyone else to the experience. Fourteen players, half the roster, are newcomers, and Heaps’s challenge has been to find cohesion while the team has played four of its first five games on the road.

“Jay, obviously, is a first-year head coach, and he’s in a learning process and he’s feeling us out and trying to figure out the best way to put this team together and organize it in a way to win,’’ Tierney said. “He’s just as new to it as we are to having him, so it’s a process. You just try to do your jobs and try to communicate as much as possible and try to put our knowledge together.’’

The veterans, Heaps said, have been like coaches on the field.

“If your vision is for something and you’re trying to have a team believe in something or to buy into what you’re trying to do, you need to have the right group of guys who understand what you’re trying to say, understand what you’re trying to do,’’ Heaps said. “So that dialogue is vital for any team and it’s all about getting everyone on the same page. When you have a group of guys that can see what you’re trying to do and understand what you’re trying to do, it makes it that much easier to get down to every last player.’’

Alston is listed as doubtful for Thursday night’s game after leaving the win against the Galaxy with a hamstring injury. “We’re not exactly sure if we’re going to push him this week or if we’re going to give him the night off,’’ Heaps said. “We want to make sure we’re smart with that as it progresses.’’ If he sits, he’ll have nine extra days rest before the Revolution return to Foxborough for an April 14 matchup with D.C. United . . . Tornado warnings in Dallas forced the team to seek shelter in a basement. Tierney downplayed the incident, but Heaps said, “It’s kind of like a fire drill in high school. We were all down in the basement. You’ve just got to make sure you take the right precautions.’’ Heaps said he had family affected by the tornado that struck Springfield last year. “My brother-in-law lost his home entirely,’’ he said. “So you’ve got to make sure you take the right measures.’’ . . . Reis is sitting on 99 wins (82 with New England) and his next victory will make him the sixth keeper in MLS history to reach the century mark . . . After facing the Galaxy, who were missing Landon Donovan, the Revolution will get a crack at a shorthanded FC Dallas. On top of losing David Ferreira for 6-8 weeks with a right foot fracture, starting left back Jair Benitez (violent conduct) and midfielder Daniel Hernandez (two yellow cards) will be serving one-game suspensions. “He does a ton for them,’’ Simms said of Hernandez. “Danny’s not as mobile as he used to be, but he’s definitely their leader out there. They’re going to miss him. They’re a different team without him. I think it’s going to shake them up a little, because I think they’re going to be forced to change up their lineup and put a guy or two in a position they don’t normally play. I think that definitely will be an advantage for us.’’

Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @julianbenbow.

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