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Revolution fall 1-0 to Dallas as scoring woes continue

Posted by Julian Cardillo March 30, 2013 08:26 PM

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Bobby Shuttleworth stands in front of his net exasperated following the Revolution's 1-0 loss to Dallas on Saturday after nearly ushering his team to another shutout and positive result. (photo credit: Kristian Cardillo)

FOXBORO, MA- Putting the ball in the back of the net continues to be a problem for the Revolution, who fell 1-0 to Western Conference leaders FC Dallas (4-1-0, 12 points) on Saturday night and extended their scoreless streak to three games. Meanwhile Dallas snapped a streak of its own, getting its first victory at Gillette Stadium since July 16, 2003.

With the attack fumbling, the defense, which entered the game having allowed only one goal in three games, had added pressure to retain its form. And though Bobby Shuttleworth, in goal for Matt Reis (knee), and the back line dealt well with Dallas most of the game, they eventually caved in the 87th minute when Blas Perez scored the winner off a cross by David Ferreira.

The result extends the Revolution's (1-2-1, 4 points) scoreless drought to 298 minutes. It's also the second consecutive time this season that Shuttleworth has seen a positive result fly away because of a late goal.

"Itís frustrating [losing on late goals in both my starts]," said Shuttleworth. "Thereís no other way to put it. I donít think we gave away a whole lot, and they get a half chance in the 87th minute and weíre punished for not moving forward with our chances. Itís definitely frustrating."

The return of Jerry Bengston, who was away last week with the Honduran national team, plus starting Diego Fagundez, was expected to provide ample firepower for the recently gun-shy attack. But aside from not finishing, the Revolution had a sloppy passing game and only won 38 percent of the possession in the first half. Fagundez had the team's only shot on target in the first half, a slow rolling effort from 18 yards out that Raul Fernandez gobbled up in the 36th minute.

"We got a nice speech [from coach Jay Heaps] at halftime saying that we needed to work harder and that our possession was slow," said Fagundez, who earned his first start on the left flank.

"I think that the first half, there wasnít enough movement, there wasnít enough playing the ball quickly and a lot of what we worked on all week just seemed to go away," added Heaps.

The Revolution tried to put Heaps's halftime words into play, though they remained sloppy and still couldn't break through. They did, however, create the second half's first scoring chance.

In the 58th minute, Toja crossed a failed clearance by Dallas into the center of the penalty area for Bengston, who had his headed effort tipped over the crossbar by Fernandez.

Then, New England's offensive pressure folded and Dallas took over. Kenny Cooper headed a cross by Jackson into the goal in the 63d minute, but had his effort called offside by the linesman. He was replaced by the eventual goal-scorer Perez a moment later. Next, Lee Nguyen cleared a header by George John from a Michel corner kick off of the goal line in the 66th minute.

Kevin Alston replied just two minutes later, picking up possession in Dallas's penalty area after two defenders crossed legs and coughed up the ball. Alston went for the loose ball, took a touch, went in alone on Fernandez, but fired right at him. Toja tried again from close range, off a feed from Bengston in the 77th minute, but had his effort stopped once more by Fernandez.

It appeared that the Revolution's shutout streak would continue until Perez broke through and scored in the 87th minute. He found space in between AJ Soares and Jose Goncalves, heading a cross by Ferreira in off the left post and past the diving Shuttleworth for his first goal of the season.

"It looked like [David] Ferreira just kind of cut it back and there were two guys at the back post," explained Shuttleworth. "Perez got up and headed it across, and to be fair, he put it in a good spot, probably the only spot I couldnít have saved it."

Even with a defense in good form, mistakes will happen or opposing teams will come up with a tactic that produces a goal. On Saturday, the Revolution weren't hurt by a defensive error. They were hurt by their offense, which couldn't complement the defense's performance by scoring a goal. Converting on any of their five shots on target would have made the difference.

"Right now our play is a little bit out of sync with what our runs are, and thatís where I think we just have to continue to get better every week," said Heaps. "Obviously, we practice [finishing] and practice it. I mean, itís something that we do a lot of. Maybe we do it too much. We work on those things and you want to get yourself in a place to finish. I thought tonight we had chances to score and we didnít and so, we go back and work harder as a staff, as a team to take care of those chances when we get them."

The Revolution have a bye week, giving them plenty of time to find their scoring boots before they visit the Seattle Sounders April 13.

Top 5 MLS homegrown players

Posted by Julian Cardillo March 28, 2013 09:00 AM

Since 2008, Major League Soccer has allowed each team to sign local players from their academy programs directly to their senior team. The Revolution has been one of the league's most successful teams in adding homegrown players, signing forward Diego Fagundez (Leominster, MA) in 2010 and midfielder Scott Caldwell (Weymouth, MA) last December.

According to league rules, up to two homegrown players do not count against a team's salary cap. Players need to have spent at least one year with their local team's academy program, lived in their club's territory, and met more unspecified league requirements to be eligible for a homegrown contract.

It's been a popular way to keep young, local players with the teams they grew up with, especially since some of the 70 players that have signed homegrown contracts have become regular fixtures with their teams or moved beyond American professional soccer.

Here are the top five homegrown players in league history:

5. Ashtone Morgan, Toronto FC

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Credit: Toronto FC

Ashtone Morgan joined Toronto FC's academy in 2008 at age 16. Now 22, Morgan has been a member of Toronto's senior team since 2011, emerging as a regular starter at left back. Morgan, who was the TFC Academy's first-ever graduate, has also begun earning looks from the Canadian national team. In 2011, he was Canada's U-20 Player of the Year. He earned his first international appearance in September of 2011 for a World Cup qualifier against Puerto Rico. Toronto decided to sign the speedy defender to a multi-year deal just a few months into his professional career. That's a testament to Morgan's skill, seeing as Toronto have struggled since they joined the league in 2007 and have seen a slew of defenders come and go. But Morgan appears to have found a home in Toronto, being one of the only defensive players to be offered a contract extension.

4. Diego Fagundez, New England Revolution

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Credit: New England Revolution (photo credit)

Born in Uruguay's capital of Montevideo, Diego Fagundez moved with his family to Leominster, Mass., when he was 5 years old. He joined the Revolution Academy at age 14 and subsequently signed a professional contract with the Revolution in 2011 at 15. It took Fagundez a few months before former coach Steve Nicol rewarded him with playing time. But on Aug. 6, 2011, Fagundez earned his first appearance off the bench with his team trailing Chivas USA by two goals. Fagundez drew a penalty kick within moments of taking the field, which cut Chivas' lead in half. A few minutes later, he scored his first professional goal by collecting a forty-yard pass, rounding the goalkeeper, and slotting the ball into the back of the net.

Skill-wise, Fagundez can go toe-to-toe with almost anyone on the Revolution roster. Talent-wise, the sky is the limit. The Revolution signed Fagundez to a multi-year deal earlier this month, though the youngster is still competing hard for playing time. But the beauty of Fagundez's play is that he makes something happen almost every time he's on the field. He's got the foot skills, positioning, and scoring ability to make a formidable soccer career. Unfortunately for the US national team, Fagundez appears to have chosen to represent his native Uruguay at the international level.

3. Juan Agudelo, Chivas USA

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Credit: US Soccer


Juan Agudelo, 20, actually signed as a homegrown player for the New York Red Bulls. Interestingly enough, the Colombian-born Agudelo earned his name in top-down fashion rather than bottom-up. He earned a call to former US national team head coach Bob Bradley's camp for a friendly against South Africa while he was struggling for playing time in New York. Agudelo came on as a substitute against South Africa for his first international appearance and proceeded to score the game-winning goal. He scored his second international goal less than a year later in a 1-1 tie with Argentina in front of his homecrowd at New York's MetLife Stadium.

Agudelo was traded to Chivas USA last year in a multi-player swap. Though he's not a power scorer, he is still one of the US' best young attacking players. He appears to have his heart set on continuing to represent the US national team. Agudelo has followed the advice of US coach Jurgen Klinsmann to train during the MLS offseason. During his downtime with MLS, he has trained with the likes of Stuttgart, Liverpool, Celtic, and West Ham United.

2. Bill Hamid, DC United

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Credit: DC United

Generally, young goalkeepers wait years before they break into the starting role with their respective clubs. Not only has Bill Hamid become the regular starter between the pipes for DC United, but he has also started earning serious looks with the US national team. He signed for United in 2009 after playing for the club's youth team and made his first professional appearance on May 5, 2010.

Hamid, 22, is arguably the league's best young goalkeeper. Not only can he stop shots, but he confidently commands his penalty area and knows how to organize his back line. He has a career 1.20 goals against average and a save percentage of 73 -- better than most goalkeepers in MLS' all-time player register.

Hamid has just one appearance with the US national team, though he has participated in most of Jurgen Klinsmann's training camps. Hamid could be the player who steps in for the US in goal in the future.

1. Andy Najar, DC United
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Credit: DC United

Andy Najar, 20, is probably the beacon for Ashtone Morgan, Diego Fagundez, Juan Agudelo, Bill Hamid, and the 65 other homegrown player contract holders. Young players want to play professionally, earn notoriety, represent their country, and make it big. Najar has done all of the above.

He's no Lionel Messi and he's made some questionable decisions on the field (see referee disrespect here) but Najar's career is very much on the rise. He left DC for Belgium's Anderlecht on a permanent, $3 million deal in January. The 2010 MLS Rookie of the Year has also represented Honduras at the Olympic Games and is beginning to get attention from the senior team.

At 5-7, Najar was never a physically imposing player in MLS. He is known more for his quick passing and darting runs down the flank. Najar took to MLS quickly, becoming a regular starter not long after he made his professional debut in March of 2010. From then on, Najar's confidence only went up as he established himself as a player who could change a game and make a difference. He finished his DC career with 10 goals and 11 assists.

Breakers need to clean up in defense

Posted by Julian Cardillo March 27, 2013 11:26 PM

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The Boston Breakers will need Cat Whitehill (right) to step up and command the defense in 2013 (photo credit: Kristian Cardillo)

SOMERVILLE -- The Boston Breakers need to shore up their defense before they kick off the 2013 season April 14 against the Washington Spirit in the brand new, National Women's Soccer League. On Tuesday night, the defense was hung out to dry too often as the Breakers fell, 3-2, to Sky Blue FC in a preseason game at Dilboy Stadium.

Against Sky Blue, veteran defender Cat Whitehill, now in her second season with Boston, paired in central defense with Kia McNeill, recently signed from Atlanta, while Bianca D'Agostino started at left back and Canadian national team midfielder Rhian Wilkinson slotted in at right back.

The learning curve for this group of defenders has been steep.

D'Agostino is a converted midfielder and made her first appearance at left back on Tuesday. And Wilkinson is still getting used to playing right back since she's played in midfield for her most recent international games with Canada.

"D'Agostino is new to being a defender, Whitehill and McNeill are used to leading their own backlines, and Wilkinson has had a huge adjustment with us because the way she plays for Canada and the way we want her to play is different," said Breakers coach Lisa Cole.

Heather Mitts, whom the Breakers signed via the allocation draft in February, unexpectedly announced her retirement two weeks ago. A veteran of two World Cups and three Olympic Games, she would have aided Whitehill in transitioning the new defenders to a new style of play.

Casey Short, whom the Breakers signed in the first round of the college draft, tore her ACL and will likely be out for the entire season. She was expected to add another dimension to the defense. Her absence now only provides Cole with a shorter list of options for the backline.

Whitehill will be charged with establishing familiarity in defense, though 2 1/2 weeks worth of training sessions and preseason matches should help her in the gelling process.

She already communicated to Cole what the team needs to work on defensively in their next session.

"Two of the goals on Tuesday were all about marking," Whitehill explained. "I just told Lisa that we need to work on marking in the box for next week. I want that to be a focus, not just for defenders."

Whitehill will need help from her goalkeepers too. And there's plenty of work to be done in that department. Cecilia Santiago, Mexico's starting goalkeeper, will join the Breakers later, but doesn't speak English, a setback in establishing familiarity between her and the backline.

Santiago's understudy, Colleen Boyd, played the entire game on Tuesday and made important saves, while also making key errors. Boyd didn't challenge a cross off a corner kick that led to Sky Blue's second goal.

"Boyd is a young player, she made young player mistakes," said Cole. "She's young, she's still learning. On that corner, she's 5-10, she should dominate in the air. Sheís at least got to go out and make a challenge on the cross."

"It takes a while to get used to a new defense, and I think that's preseason blues a bit," added Whitehill. "It's only the second game we've played together. Boyd and I are still sorting out each other and she's still sorting out the defense."

"But she's a tall goalkeeper. If she can own the box the way we know she can, then we'll be successful. She just has to gain the confidence and slowly but surely it's coming."

Revs loan four players

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff March 27, 2013 11:16 AM

The New England Revolution have loaned four players to their USL PRO affiliate, the Rochester Rhinos, for the Rhinos' upcoming season.

Defender Bilal Duckett, forward Matt Horth, midfielder Gabe Latigue, and defender Tyler Polak will join the Rhinos this week.

Rochester's season opener is April 13 at VSI Tampa Bay FC. The Revolution are allowed to take back any of the four players during the loan period.

ďBilal, Matt, Gabe and Tyler are young players who should benefit from consistent playing time,Ē said Revolution general manager Michael Burns in a statement. ďWe have a very deep roster this year, and having these four players get time in Rochester will benefit their professional development, as well as our clubís depth.Ē

USA earn tie, important point at Mexico

Posted by Julian Cardillo March 27, 2013 12:27 AM

Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez may have fewer than 10 international appearances between them, but their central defense combination helped the US claim a valuable point away at Mexico. Playing at Estadio Azteca, a place where the US has never won a competitive match, Besler and Gonzalez commanded the back line like veterans and kept the game level at 0-0 from minute one to minute 90.

Geoff Cameron patrolled the flank as right back and performed well, while DeMarcus Beasley struggled all night as the replacement left back. He was cautioned in the eighth minute for tackling Javier Aquino and was exploited on the left side for most of the game.

Besler and Gonzalez were able to cover for Beasley while Brad Guzan, who replaced the injured Tim Howard (neck), made two saves on the game and confidently dealt with every cross that came his way.

Guzan and his defense were able to thwart Mexico's potent offensive weapons that include Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, Giovani Dos Santos, and Andres Guardado. The trio helped earn Mexico a 14-1 edge on shots over the US, plus 15 corner kicks.

That Guzan made so few saves is an indicator that Mexico's finishing was off. By the time the half hour mark arrived, both players and spectators started getting impatient. Mexico tried to force the perfect play, though the US was equal to challenge every time on defense.

Mexico also had two good shots for a penalty kick, one in each half, both of which were denied.

The result leaves Mexico's team scratching their heads. They walked into the game with a 13-0-1 record against the US at the Estadio Azteca, but couldn't create the decisive play. They are also now winless through their first three games of the final stage of World Cup qualification, sitting next to last in the six-country group with three points.

Meanwhile, the US will be celebrating a hard-fought point and will move into third place behind Honduras and Panama. The top three teams qualify automatically for Brazil 2014, with the fourth place team going to an intercontinental playoff with New Zealand for a spot at the World Cup.

The result also provides the US team with the sense that they're on the right path, especially after last week when it was leaked that some players were frustrated with Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann for his tactical and game time decisions. Klinsmann appears to have silenced his critics for the time being, though there are still seven games to go.

For the players, the result will bring confidence and a sense of belonging. Talk of no Howard, Landon Donovan, and Carlos Bocanegra made it seem as though this young group of players were like sheep without shepherds. But despite their youth and inexperience, players like Besler and Gonzalez were excellent in a difficult situation. Guzan filled in honorably for Tim Howard. And Clint Dempsey seems to be settling into the captain's role in the absence of both Donovan and Bocanegra.

The teams will play each other again in Columbus, Ohio Sept. 10. Their next game is June 7 at Jamaica.

Eye on Brazil 2014, Spain slay France

Posted by Julian Cardillo March 26, 2013 05:02 PM

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France's goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, center, lies one pitch after Spain's Pedro Rodriguez Ledesma, right, scores during their World Cup 2014 qualifying soccer match at the Stade de France in Saint Denis, north of Paris, Tuesday, March 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Spain fought hard to earn a 1-0 win over France at the Stade de France in Paris on Tuesday, reasserting themselves as the leaders of Group I. France went toe-to-toe with the defending World Cup and European Champions but eventually caved in the 58th minute when Pedro sloppily made the ball go into the net off a Nacho Monreal cross.

France attempted to rally for a draw in the final third of the match but were unsuccessful due to the goalkeeping of Victor Valdes, in for Iker Cassillas (arm), and being cut to 10 men after Paul Pogba was shown his second yellow card and sent off in the 77th minute for clipping Pedro.

Though away from home, Spain controlled the match from the opening kickoff. They maintained their possession-based style, inching their way up the field with patient, deadly passes.

Xavi got the game's first look, finding himself open in the six-yard box off a Monreal feed in the 5th minute, though he sent the ball over the crossbar. In the 32nd minute, Pedro found his way into the penalty area via a long ball from Xabi Alonso. He took one touch and rounded French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, who then brought down Pedro. Referee Viktor Kassai did not award a penalty kick, despite serious protest from the Spanish players.

France came up with the first half's best scoring chance in the 39th minute when Mathieu Valbuena sent Franck Ribery into the penaltly area on a breakaway. Ribery's first touch was too heavy and he needed to fire earlier than he wanted, allowing Valdes to block shot from sliding into the net.

Spain resumed their offensive approach in the second half, putting heavy pressure on the French backline. But France came close to preventing Spain's goal.

First, Patrice Evra nearly slid Monreal's cross away from Pedro. Once Pedro shot, the ball deflected off of Lloris and flew weakly toward the back of the net. Lloris, on the turf, gave one last attempt at clearing the danger by attempting to punch the ball clear, but he inadvertently ensured that it would find its way into the net.

France sought an immediate response, with Blaise Matuidi's shot from just inside the penalty area saved by Valdes in the 64th minute.

France pushed forward despite losing Pogba in the 77th minute, but weren't rewarded. Valdes thwarted their final chance by parrying Evra's header off an inch-perfect Valbuena cross in the 87th minute.

Valdes' performance preserved Spain's victory in a game the French thought they could take. France had a two-point lead over Spain for control of Group I going into the game, with the group winner earning an automatic berth to Brazil 2014. But now only an upset will prevent Spain from winning the only nine-country group in European qualification.

France could reach the World Cup via home and away playoff just as they did four years ago. But being in a group with one less team takes six points off the table, which makes qualifying harder because France would need more points than at least one of the other group runners-up to move to the playoff round.

Europe

Almost everything went as expected for Europe's competitors on Tuesday. Belgium, Italy, Germany, Montenegro, and Netherlands maintained their group leads. Russia, Switzerland, and Bosnia-Herzegovina did not play, but remained first in their respective groups. Portugal is in second place behind Russia in Group F with 11 points, though the Portugese have played two more games than Russia. Montengro maintained first place in Group H, rallying late to earn a 1-1 draw with England. European teams in danger of not qualifying for Brazil 2014 that played in South Africa include Serbia, Denmark, Slovenia, and Slovakia. Belgium and Russia, who haven't qualified for the last two World Cups, have looked particularly impressive in qualification.

North America

The biggest game will be Mexico against the United States, both of whom are favorites to reach Brazil 2014. As of now, Honduras leads the six-team group with one win and one tie. Honduras look as if they'll definitely compete at the World Cup. Panama look out-classed, having barely managed two draws. Jamaica and Costa Rica look like they'll duke it out for fourth place, which goes onto an intercontinental playoff against New Zealand for a spot in Brazil.

Asia

Japan could have officially qualified for the World Cup by beating Jordan on Tuesday, but instead fell 2-1. Nevertheless, they still lead their group by six points. And with the top two countries earning World Cup berths in this double-hexagonal stage, Japan will still likely qualify for Brazil. In Group B with Japan is Australia, who have qualified for the last two World Cups, but have been struggling in this qualification process. Australia is currently in third place and had to rally for a 2-2 draw against Oman on Tuesday, a very unconvincing performance for a team that is supposed to qualify easily for the World Cup. It's much more of a dogfight in Group A, where Uzbekistan lead the group with 11 points with second place Korea Republic following close behind with 10 points. 2022 hosts Qatar still have a shot to qualify too, tied for third with seven points with Iran. The two third place teams in Groups A and B will move on to a home and away playoff with each other for the fifth and final qualifying spot out of the Asian zone.

South America

Argentina tied lowly Bolivia 1-1 on Tuesday but retained their lead of the nine-country group. With Brazil qualifying automatically for the World Cup as hosts, this may be Argentina's group to win. Colombia, Ecuador, Uruguay, Venezuela, and Chile all look like viable World Cup competitors, though only four teams can qualify automatically. With half the process complete in the South American zone, Argentina look like favorites not just to qualify, but to perform well yet again at the World Cup. True to recent history, Paraguay, Peru,and Bolivia look out-matched and don't appear to be at a level where they can compete with the other group members.

Africa

Former US head coach Bob Bradley's Egypt defeated Zimbabwe in a qualifier today, making them a shoe-in for the next and final round of Africa's qualification process. Countries are currently playing in ten four-team groups with the winners moving on to a knockout round. The knockout round features a home and away playoff for the ten group winners. Tunisia and Congo look like they'll definitely make it through to the knockout round, though it's too close to call in the other seven groups.

Oceania

New Zealand have rounded up World Cup qualifying in the Oceania with 18 points, finishing unbeaten against New Caledonia, Tahiti, and Solomon Islands. But to qualify for Brazil, they will need to defeat the fourth place team in North America's region in a home and away playoff scheduled for November 15 and 19.

Klinsmann, US won't be distracted

Posted by Julian Cardillo March 26, 2013 10:02 AM

The US' World Cup qualifying campaign won't turn into a soap opera. Brian Strauss' Sporting News article about players' lack of faith and growing impatience with head coach Jurgen Klinsmann took the back burner last Friday when the US defeated Costa Rica, 1-0. Nevertheless, doubts will continue to swirl over Klinsmann's direction, especially if the US loses tonight's game at Mexico.

But regardless of the score of tonight's game, don't expect to see Klinsmann, the players, or even the Federation hit the panic button.

Strauss' article aside, the US is not favored to win in Mexico City tonight. They have a 1-22-1 record at tonight's venue, Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. The US' only victory there was in a friendly last August by a 1-0 score, a result that seriously battered Mexico's pride and will motivate them more tonight. Mexico also has only two ties so far in the final stage of World Cup qualifying due to lapses and blown leads, and will push even harder for a result against the US.

With those kinds of odds stacked against them, neither the US players nor Klinsmann can afford to worry about one article.

But players are well aware of the cauldron of opinion, sensationalist, and analytical pieces churning together in the soccer world. And while pieces like Strauss' gain momentum, players and coaches simply ignore them and do their jobs.

Klinsmann faced a journalistic firestorm, again for his coaching strategies, before the 2006 World Cup where he helped Germany finish in third place. All of the US players are subjected to that kind of scrutiny too, though it happens more often in Europe than the states.

Strauss' research on the innards of Klinsmann's coaching was noteworthy. But so is Klinsmann's inability to find a goal scorer and his arduous task of teaching his players to consistently employ an attacking, possession-based style.

Klinsmann may need to work on his communication with players and find a better way to teach his tactics. But he consistently demands that players play to their potential. And players won't play to their potential if there are internal disagreements between the team or against the coach. Klinsmann seems to be aware of that. It's the reason that he has training camps that are closed to the public. It's why coaches in every sport sit down with their team when times are tough.

Klinsmann will likely continue to stay cool over allegations that he's out of touch, even if he loses tonight against Mexico or anytime down the road. If Klinsmann has a discussion with his team, expect the players to rally around their coach again.

Watch: Revolution-Sporting KC recap

Posted by Staff March 23, 2013 04:16 PM
Final, 0-0: The Revolution might have gotten the better of the play, but their scoring chances were few and far between in their home-opener on Saturday afternoon. With their top two forwards missing from the lineup and an atmosphere at Gillette Stadium that provided unpredictable winds, getting a clean impression of this new Revolution team might have been difficult. But grinding out a physical game against a tough opponent, and earning a point in the process, is always a positive.

The takeaway... Hold your breath. The Revolution do have goal-scorers on this team. Jerry Bengtson (with the Honduras national team) and Saer Sene (recovering from knee surgery) can each cause defenders fits. The creativity in the midfield is fun to watch. This team is capable of playing European-style soccer, with fast-moving passes on the ground and a focus on possession. It should get better.

The big picture... The Revolution (1-1-1) moved into a tie with D.C. United for fifth place in the Eastern Conference. They host F.C. Dallas next Saturday at 4 p.m.

Across the field... The offense: Chad Barrett was solid in his Revolution debut, with his high-energy style of play appreciated in a windy game that saw the ball spend a lot of time in the air. Coach Jay Heaps said Barrett played good, but he was subbed out for Ryan Guy in the 64th minute because Barrett is not yet in the best shape. He was a late arrival to training camp. With the windy conditions, the game was generally a tough one for forwards.

The midfield: The defensive midfield, with Clyde Simms and Scott Caldwell, played solid. They pushed possession up the field and were quick to clear out the chances Sporting KC presented. They were beat occasionally by Benny Felihaber, but overall won the battle. The offensive midfield, with Lee Nguyen, Kelyn Rowe and Juan Toja, generated consistent possession. They were often a bit sloppy, creative in their play production but without the finishing effort. That's to be expected this early in the season. The signs were positive. This is also where Diego Fagundez and Andy Dorman can add value in a different type of game. Heaps said he considered bringing each of them on the field in the 65th minute, but decided against it. Heaps said the risk of losing something defensively didn't out-weight the possible reward. The rhythm of the game wasn't heading in a direction that favored the crafty Fagundez, in particular.

The defense: This was where the Revolution were at their best on Saturday. Across the back four, Kevin Alston, Jose Goncalves, A.J. Soares and Andrew Farrell were impressive, not only at preventing chances, but often creating them with productive passing. At one point, Farrell, the top overall pick in last year's draft, was caught too far up the field and KC's Claudio Bieler earned a breakaway seconds later. But the aggression that Farrell has shown, and the fact that Heaps is OK with his outside backs getting forward, shows that this Revolution team should be more offensive than those of the past.

Take the explanation from goalkeeper Matt Reis: "We want to encourage our outside guys to go and thatís why we have Clyde and Scotty there to help us. And we balance out with those three guys (in the attacking midfield) to help us ... Itís always a cat and mouse game and itís always a situation where we have to be turned on for 90 minutes, because you saw the one chance they got was just a direct ball played over the top."

The goalkeeping: The 37-year-old Reis played a good game, stopping Bieler on a breakaway and earning his second shutout in as many games this season. Young Bobby Shuttleworth should challenge Reis for playing time, but the veteran appears to have the job for now.

Quote of the day... Coach Jay Heaps: "For me, Kansas City is one of the best teams at grinding out a game like that. And I think it showed a lot of our guys, coming out and fighting them and making it a difficult battle."


77th minute, 0-0: Toja bent a free kick from about 22 yards out, but it sailed just over the crossbar. The Revs have officially recorded their first shot. One more needed to tie the franchise-low.

73rd minute, 0-0: Bieler found himself all alone at the top of the box after an over-the-top pass, but Reis made an outstanding play, rushing out and swatting Bieler's shot away.

71st minute, 0-0: It might have been overdue, but Felihaber just took a yellow card for diving. The theatrical midfielder went down in the box and the official whistled immediately. Simms was livid, thinking he had given up a penalty, but a pleading Felihaber was instead given the Ronaldo treatment.

64th minute, 0-0: The Revs made their first sub, sending midfielder Ryan Guy into the game for Barrett, whose playing style just didn't seem to match the flow of this game. Guy pushed Toja to the lone striker role. KC's Peterson Joseph entered the game for Saad.

60th minute, 0-0: Rookie right back Andrew Farrell is caught too high on the field, trying to join the attack, and KC almost makes him pay. Saad again got loose down that wing and swung a pass to Claudio Bieler, but Bieler's one-time shot sailed over the net. You appreciate Farrell's willingness to get forward, but the Revs have to compensate when he does.

57th minute, 0-0: The Revs, who made no changes at halftime, have continued the pressure in the second half, but still have yet to record a shot. They're flirting with the franchise record for least amount of shots in a game, which is two.

Halftime, 0-0. Three lines:
Revs' 18... KC hasn't had too many chances aside from a throw-in that bounced around and landed at Sapong's foot, but his shot deflected off the crossbar. Look for them to start playing shorter balls to feet as opposed to banging over-the-top passes that have resulted in nothing.

Midfield... Aside from Felihaber running around like he's playing against his former team or something, the Revs have dominated possession in the middle third. Scott Caldwell and Clyde Simms have done an excellent job pushing the ball forward, where Lee Nguyen and Juan Toja have been able to string together a few passes.

KC's 18... This is where the Revs have struggled. Barrett has been an energizer, stretching the defense with his constant movement, but his touches haven't been clean when playing with his back to the goal. The Revs, who ended the half with zero shots for just the 10th time in franchise history, may need to make an adjustment that plays to Barrett's strengths, or get someone with more creativity up there who can handle the ball and redistribute.

The Revs are controlling possession. They need a goal to show for it.

30th minute, 0-0: Kevin Alston out-hustled KC's Mechack Jerome to a loose ball and earned himself a free kick. Jerome was two days too late on the tackle and was issued a yellow card. Nothing came from the free kick for the Revs, who have the better of possession thus far.

22nd minute, 0-0: The Revs get two corner kicks, but the wind is making it tricky to find friendly noggins off set pieces.

19th minute, 0-0: A long throw in from KC landed at the feet of Sapong, who banged a shot that deflected off Clyde Simms and bounced off the crossbar and out.

16th minute, 0-0: The game's first scoring chance is started off the foot of former Revolution midfielder Benny Felihaber. Felihaber hit Soony Saad on a through pass down the left side and Saad quickly found C.J. Sapong running through the box, but Sapong's one-time shot sailed wide.

12th minute, 0-0: A scare for the Revs on a back-pass to keeper Matt Reis that bounced around due to the high winds. Reis chased it down and was able to find an outlet to prevent the scoring chance.

6th minute, 0-0:
Chad Barrett (42 goals in 194 MLS games) is already impressing in his first start as the lone forward. Even without the ball, Barrett's high-energy game has kept the KC defense on its toes and forced pressure when the defenders have the ball.

Revs starting lineup for hope opener vs. Sporting KC

Posted by Staff March 23, 2013 03:46 PM

FOXBOROUGH -- It could be a little warmer, but after watching the United States Men's National Team beat Costa Rica, 1-0, in a blizzard Friday night, the weather at Gillette Stadium for this afternoon's season opener is near-perfect.

The sun is shining, the wind isn't too bad (yet), and the parking lots are full of happy tailgaters.

The Revs (1-1-0) are hosting Sporting KC (1-1-1) as they open their home portion of the 2013 schedule against former midfielder, Benny Felihaber.

The Revolution are without Jerry Bengtson, who has their only goal of the season. Bengtson is currently with Honduras playing with the national team during World Cup qualifiers.

The Revs are still going with their 4-3-2-1 starting lineup though, this time with Chad Barrett, who makes his first start of the season. The lineup:

Forward: Chad Barrett

Attacking midfielders: Lee Nguyen, Juan Toja, Kelyn Rowe

Defensive midfielders: Clyde Simms (C), Scott Caldwell

Defenders: Kevin Allston, Jose Goncalves, A.J. Soares, Andrew Farrell

Goalkeeper: Matt Reis

Sporting KC lineup:

Forwards: Claudio Bieler

Midfielders: C.J. Sapong, Paulo Nagamura, Oriol Rosell, Benny Felihaber, Soony Saad

Defenders: Ike Opara, Aurelien Collin, Mechack Jerome, Seth Sinovic

Goalkeeper: Jimmy Nielsen (C)

Breakdown: US roster for Costa Rica, Mexico

Posted by Julian Cardillo March 18, 2013 03:02 PM

Jurgen Klinsmann's national team roster for World Cup qualifying matches against Costa Rica and Mexico is almost split evenly between European and domestic talent. The US (0-1-0, 0 points) plays Costa Rica (0-0-1, 1 point) Friday in Denver and Mexico (0-0-1, 1 point) on March 26 in Mexico City.

MLS has more of a presence in defense, while European-based players mostly dominate the offense.

Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City) and Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy) have been two of MLS's top performers in defense and are increasingly getting calls to the national team. Justin Morrow (San Jose) and Tony Beltran (Salt Lake), who earned surprise calls, showed promise during the Canada friendly in January, but looked as if they needed more development.

The starting lineup in midfield for both qualifiers will likely be dominated by European-based players. Michael Bradley (AS Roma) has had one of the highest passing completion rates of any midfielder in Italy, and Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04) has the hot foot, scoring in his club's latest Champions League game. Graham Zusi may be the only MLS-based player to earn a start in midfield, having performed well in his recent international games.

Clint Dempsey (Tottenham) can play in midfield, though after establishing himself as a legitimate scorer in the English Premier League and having scored in the US's last qualifer against Honduras, Klinsmann may opt to start him at forward. Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar), who is currently fourth in Dutch league scoring with 18 goals, could be a potent partner for Dempsey.

Goalkeeper Tim Howard is out for at least one month with two broken vertebrae. Klinsmann has publicly announced that Brad Guzan (Aston Villa) will start the first qualifying match.

US Roster for qualifers vs Costa Rica and Mexico:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa/England - 5/3 SO), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire - 0/0), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake - 0/0)


DEFENDERS (6): Tony Beltran (Real Salt Lake), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City/England), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Clarence Goodson (Brondby/Denmark), Justin Morrow (San Jose Earthquakes)


MIDFIELDERS (9): DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla/Mexico), Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Michael Bradley (Roma/Italy), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana/Mexico), Maurice Edu (Bursaspor/Turkey), Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04/Germany), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht/Belgium), Brek Shea (Stoke City/England), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)


FORWARDS (5): Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar/Netherlands), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna/Austria), Clint Dempsey (Tottenham Hotspur/England), Herculez Gomez (Santos Laguna/Mexico), Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders FC)

Revolution can't solve Union

Posted by Julian Cardillo March 16, 2013 07:18 PM

The Revolution fell to Philadelphia, 1-0, at PPL Park in Chester, Pa., in their second game of the season to extend their all-time record against the Union to 0-5-3. A mental lapse that led to a Jack McInerny goal in the 76th minute, combined with a lack of finishing and disjointed ball possession, ruined the Revolution's (1-1-0) chances to start off the season with consecutive wins.

Bobby Shuttleworth started in place of Matt Reis (knee) in goal and performed admirably, making three saves. Shuttleworth made the initial save on the play that led to the goal, blocking an open, point-blank header by McInerny off a Sebastien LeToux corner kick. But McInerny remained unmarked on the follow-up attempt and poked his rebound into the goal to end the Revolution's 166-minute shutout streak.

Though the Union pressed for most of the second half and appeared to have the upper hand, the Revolution defense remained resolute and defended effectively. Although leaving McInerny open may have been the only lapse, it was costly.

"We had one play we gave up on one of their really good goal scorers," AJ Soares said on the Revolution website

. "McInerney has proven he can finish a ball with his head really well. We gave him a little too much room and he punished us.

"They had that one set piece. You know, set pieces determine the game a lot of times and you got to get in the black on those. We gave up one and didnít score any so thatís how the game goes."

Offensively, the Revolution faded in and out of the game. They had chances in early in the first half, then struggled to get forward until after Philadelphia scored.

Lee Nguyen had a 25-yard free kick caught by Philadelphia goalkeeper Zac MacMath in the 22nd minute. Moments later, Nguyen sprung Jerry Bengston on a breakaway but his low drive was stopped by MacMath.

The Revolution had triple the chances of the Union in the first half, mostly because they were more accurate and positive with their passes. Shuttleworth also walked into halftime without having made a save. But the tables turned in the second half.

Philadelphia sharpened its passing and put heavy pressure on the Revolution back line. The New England defense dealt with the Union for a majority of the second half, though Shuttleworth was eventually called to action.

He stopped LeToux's sliding effort in the 70th minute, taking a cleat to the stomach in the process. Next, he blocked a drive from Michael Lahoud from just inside the penalty area in the 75th minute.

Then, Philadelphia scored on the ensuing play through McInerny. The goal ended up being McInerny's third career winner against the Revolution.

With less than a quarter of the game to play and defeat looming, the Revolution piled on the pressure. They nearly came up with an instant response. In the 78th minute, Nguyen sprang Juan Toja, who ran into the box unmarked and curled a shot just wide of the far post. The Revolution didn't get anything else from their 11th-hour attacking efforts, except for a volley by Bengston from inside the penalty area that went well wide of the target deep in stoppage time.

"I thought we were a step better in the first half but in the second half we couldnít get into the game until they scored," said Revolution coach Jay Heaps. "After they scored I think we had good chances, I thought we could cut the game to one to one.

"We are disappointed we gave up the goal at the end. I thought we played well enough to get a point and get out of here but itís a tough way to lose a point on the road."

The Revolution will see Philadelphia twice more this year as part of a three-game, regular-season series. Their next chance is April 27 at Gillette Stadium.

The Revolution will try to bounce back for their home opener against Sporting Kansas City next Saturday. For the Revolution, it's a matter of eliminating lapses and finishing chances.

"We had the chance that it could have been our night," said Soares. "Iím happy we created those chances, our attack is looking good. If us as defenders keep defending hard and keep providing the guys up top with good balls, they are going to do some stuff and I think our results will be more positive."

US team still has work to do

Posted by Julian Cardillo March 15, 2013 09:00 AM

On Wednesday, the US Soccer Federation announced that the men's national team will play a friendly against Belgium on May 29 in Cleveland. Friendlies are usually opportunities for coaches to try out new players and tactics. But by the time the Belgium game rolls around, the US will hopefully be done experimenting with lineups and strategies.

That's because between now and May 29, the US has two World Cup qualifying matches. The first is on March 22 against Costa Rica in Denver, and the other four days later versus Mexico in Mexico City. After dropping their first qualifying match of the hexagonal stage 1-0 to Honduras in early February, their isn't much room for error for the US in March, and it will likely need points in both games if it hopes to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

The US has talented players who are succeeding across the world, but the team has stalled well past Jurgen Klinsmann's first year as head coach.

For one, Klinsmann still hasn't found a goal scorer. His defenders have shown flashes of brilliance but have made costly errors in matches because they are still young and inexperienced at the international level. And Klinsmann has preached an attacking, possession-based style of play that still hasn't translated to competitive matches on a consistent basis.

A victory against Costa Rica would be a major boost for the US, which sits last in the six-team final group stage of CONCACAF World Cup qualification. The US is expected to beat Costa Rica, with a much tougher challenge to come against Mexico.

The game in Mexico will be played at Estadio Azteca, where the US has a miserable 1-22-1 record. The US collected its first win there Aug. 15 by a 1-0 score, playing effectively on both ends of the field.

But Mexico is a strong team that is difficult to play either home or away. And it doesn't plan on losing to the US twice in a row.

In its first victory at Estadio Azteca, the US played lapse-free, attacking soccer. Klinsmann wants from his players all the time, but they've been unable to do that consistently.

Klinsmann is expected to announce his roster for the Costa Rica and Mexico qualifiers in the coming days. From there, the players will need to get on the same page in training camp. The few days spent in camp will be Klinsmann's only shot to communicate his message and establish chemistry on all parts of the field before the second and third rounds of qualifiers.

Without positive results in their upcoming qualifiers, the Belgium friendly may turn into a soul-searching match for the US rather than an opportunity to test its abilities against a top team. And with the US dropping to 33d in the latest FIFA World Rankings, they need to send a message to the soccer world that they are a team to be reckoned with -- even as they struggle to find their identity.

Revolution have a scorer in Jerry Bengtson

Posted by Julian Cardillo March 14, 2013 10:46 AM

It's been a few years since the Revolution have had a proven goal scorer. Jerry Bengtson appears to have changed that.

Bengtson scored in last Saturday's 1-0 season-opening victory at Chicago, heading in a looping cross from Kelyn Rowe early in the second half. Though the goal was only the third of Bengtson's Revolution career, the team is expecting many more.

After moving from his native Honduras to New England on a designated player's contract, Bengtson only showed his skills is flashes last year. He scored in his debut, a 2-0 victory over New York July 8, and again six weeks later against Columbus.

There is always an adjustment period for international players when they move to a new league and country. Bengtson also was away from the Revolution during the Summer Olympics, where he starred for the Honduran national team.

Bengtson scored three goals at the Olympics, helping Honduras reach the quarterfinals. He has since continued his scoring form, netting the winner for Honduras against the United States in a World Cup qualifier in February.

Revolution general manager Michael Burns has called Bengtson one of the "hottest" strikers currently in CONCACAF.

It's obvious why the Revolution have such high expectations for Bengtson. He puts himself into positions where he can connect with the ball and score. His goals aren't as glamorous as the volleys or the memorable playoff bicycle kick Taylor Twellman scored in 2007, but they still find their way into the back of the net.

After Twellman retired, the Revolution searched high and low for another goal scorer. Edgaras Jankauskas was signed in 2009, but he was too old and not used to the American style of play to adequately contribute. There were high hopes for rookie forward Zack Schilawski after he scored a hat trick in his second game with the team, but he proved to be an inconsistent scorer. In 2011, the Revolution signed Rajko Lekic, who appeared to have the perfect goal-scorer's resume. But Lekic never clicked and was not re-signed.

Bengtson probably won't score as frequently as Twellman did, but he does have that same poacher's instinct in the penalty area. He also has players around him who can combine effectively. That was evident last weekend when a sequence between Rowe and Juan Toja led to Bengtson being open at the back post for the goal.

Bengtson has capable strike partners, too. Saer Sene, the team's leading scorer last season who is rehabilitating a torn ACL, is expected to return in April. Diego Fagundez signed a multiyear contract extension Wednesday and is hungry to contribute.

Bengtson should get the start this weekend at Philadelphia, a team the Revolution have never beaten (0-4-3).

Former teammates Dorman and Larentowicz set to square off

Posted by Julian Cardillo March 8, 2013 11:13 PM

When Andy Dorman and Jeff Larentowicz step onto the field against each other Saturday night as the Revolution open the season at the Chicago Fire, it will be a sort of crashing together of eras.

Both players were part of the Revolution teams that played in the 2005, 2006, and 2007 MLS Cup title games. In 2008, Dorman left to pursue a career in Europe, eventually playing in the Scottish Premier League and lower English Leagues. Larentowicz was traded to Colorado two years later and won the league title there in his first year. This off-season, he signed with Chicago and is expected to wear the captain's armband against his former team. Meanwhile, Dorman is back, re-joining the Revolution in November via free transfer from Crystal Palace.

ďFor me Iíve played New England in the past since leaving but you recognize this is a new opportunity and obviously Iím back a part of this rivalry and viewing it from the other side," says Larentowicz. "Many players have changed but the games will still conjure up memories of the past.Ē

But one memory from the past that Larentowicz won't want to remember is his time warming the bench for the Revolution. Larentowicz didn't see much playing time until 2007, Dorman's last year. Until that point, the Revolution's 3-5-2 formation only had enough room for Shalrie Joseph, Steve Ralston, Dorman, and sometimes Jose Cancela in midfield. Once Dorman left, Ralston aged, and Cancela moved on, keeping the ball and transitioning from defense to offense came down to Joseph and Larentowicz in the middle of the field.

Dorman and Larentowicz are different in style of play, but similar in regard to their success as players. Dorman is a playmaker who stays right behind the forwards and makes smart, finessed passes. Larentowicz is the bulldozer in central midfield who wins the ball back and has an absolute cannon of a shot.

Career-wise, Dorman and Larentowicz exceeded expectations, getting picked up late in the league's drafting process. Getting picked low on draft days is no indication of success, as both players have accomplished plenty.

Dorman was one of the league's best midfielders by the time he decided to leave for Europe. He played in all of the Revolution's title games and helped the team win the 2007 U.S. Open Cup.

The Revolution's midfield needed to be re-configured after Dorman's departure, though slotting Larentowicz next to Joseph proved to be a viable solution. In fact, the Revolution haven't made the playoffs since they traded Larentowicz to Colorado in 2010. And that's partly because Larentowicz was a big contributor to the team that wasn't suitably replaced in the finals years of Steve Nicol as head coach, playing through injuries and creating key goals as the Revolution limped and squeaked into the playoffs in 2008 and 2009.

Chicago re-worked its offense this off-season and Larentowicz is expected to be one of the keys to sustaining possession and creating chances this year. But he and his new Fire teammates failed to impress last week, dropping the season opener 4-0 against the LA Galaxy.

Meanwhile Dorman wasn't listed as a starter in the possible lineup the Revolution distributed to media via email. But he may get the starting nod with midfielders Kelyn Rowe (groin) and Kalifa Cisse (knee) suffering from mild injuries and Chris Tierney (ankle) out.

Dorman played in a 3-5-2 under Steve Nicol last time he put on a Revolution jersey, though he will now need to establish himself in a 4-4-2 under his former Revolution teammate Jay Heaps, now the gaffer. And though the coach, formation, and team style have changed, the expectations for Dorman will remain the same.

Saturday evening will be a duel. Not just against former teammates and two of the best midfielders MLS has produced, but of two teams that are set to renew one of the league's oldest and most bitter rivalries.

Larentowicz and some of his new teammates reminisced about their best and worst moments of the Revolution-Fire rivalry. Not surprisingly, Larentowicz's memories were all from the lens of a Revolution player. But now a member of the Fire, Larentowicz will be looking for new kinds of memories. The first one could be winning the battle in midfield against Dorman, his well-respected former teammate, and leading his new team to victory as captain.

Revolution have depth across the board

Posted by Julian Cardillo March 7, 2013 05:49 PM
It's been years since the Revolution, who kick off their season on Saturday night at Chicago, have had this kind of roster depth. Coach Jay Heaps has a surplus of options at almost every position, which will help not only in terms of tactical variety and backup plans for injuries, but also in competition for starting roles.

Players' desire for a starting role may yield a roster that is less prone to lapses and silly mistakes, and more focused on 90 solid minutes. And because of that competition, itís difficult to predict what Heapsí starting 11 will be come Saturday night.

ďItís the deepest team we've assembled in a long time,Ē general manager Mike Burns said. "Thereís an awful lot of competition for spots, which is great for coaches. Sometimes players would rather have a little more competition in every area of the field other than their own, but thatís our job, to make it as difficult as possible for them to get on the field.Ē

In goal, Matt Reis and Bobby Shuttleworth split time this preseason. Reis posted a shutout in the final exhibition match, a 2-0 win over New York. Shuttleworth struggled in the preseason, allowing eight goals.

Heaps made it clear last year that Shuttleworth was being groomed for the starting job; he made seven starts last season, mostly toward the end of the year. Reis looks like the first choice for Saturday seeing as he was in better form this preseason.

Heaps has a variety of versatile options in defense, none more intriguing than Andrew Farrell. The first overall pick in the 2013 MLS Superdraft looks ready to start at either central defense or right back. Kevin Alston will be pushed to establish himself at the latter position. Being an offensive right back during his playing days, Heaps has tried to instruct Alston on how to use his speed on both sides of the ball. Farrell will push Alston to get over the learning curve while also threatening the starting roles of defenders AJ Soares, Stephen McCarthy, Darrius Barnes, and Jose Goncalves.

The Revolution might have the most congested midfield in MLS. Lee Nguyen, Andy Dorman, and Kalifa Cisse will all likely start, but Heaps has plenty of options. Coming into his second season, Kelyn Rowe is able to play behind the forwards or on the right flank. Juan Toja should add a spark to the attack once he returns to full fitness. Clyde Simms, a staple last season in transition, will likely backup Cisse.

Though the Revolution signed forwards Chad Barrett and Matt Horth, the scoring onus will fall on the trio of Jerry Bengston, Saer Sene, and Diego Fagundez. Yet each player will be in flux in 2013. Bengston will likely start from Day 1, but he has international services this summer for Honduras in the Gold Cup and World Cup qualification. Sene is injured and will be out until at least April. Fagundez will continue to add flair to the attack but will need to manage the pressure to perform in his third professional year.

Q&A with Revolution coach Jay Heaps

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff March 6, 2013 12:00 PM

The Revolution kick off their season Saturday in Chicago, and coach Jay Heaps joined Boston.com readers to discuss his team's outlook for 2013.

Review the Q&A in the window below.

Watch: Revolution season preview

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff March 6, 2013 08:59 AM

The Revolution kick off their 2013 season Saturday in Chicago. Watch what coach Jay Heaps and players Matt Reis, Lee Nguyen, and Andrew Farrell have to say about the club's outlook in this preview video by Boston.com's Marie Torto.

Watch: MLS Week 1 review

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff March 4, 2013 08:25 PM

Greg Lalas and Simon Borg recap the highlights from Major League Soccer's opening weekend.

MLS healthy at age 18

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff March 4, 2013 03:05 PM
There may have been no off-season moment worse for MLS fans, players, and coaches than when FIFA president Sepp Blatter said the league was weak and struggling to adapt to international soccer. But MLS, which kicked off its 18th season this past weekend, doesnít appear to be in dire straits as Blatter suggests.

Confident in the league he leads as commissioner, Don Garber proceeded to invite Blatter to come see MLSís progress for himself. But Blatter isnít MLSís chief concern. MLS should be concerned by the fact that there are more people like Blatter who criticize the evolving league for its shortcomings than those who sing its praises.

Those who back MLS arenít spewing propaganda or falsely advertising. MLS ranks eighth in the world in professional soccer attendance, averaging 18,807 spectators per game. Talented players from soccer nations in Europe, Africa, South America, and the Far East are all starting to come to MLS at a younger age. Conversely, other leagues take MLS very seriously, as it is seen as a prime scouting and development ground.

The U.S. has made considerable progress on the soccer front despite fighting against something that other soccer nations donít have to worry about: a very basic soccer culture. Itís one of the few sports America doesnít dominate. Itís also a sport that doesnít have its foot in the door like baseball, American football, hockey, and basketball. And compared to European leagues that have been around for decades, MLS is still a teenager at soccerís dinner table. Blatter and his fellow critics should also ask themselves what the Premier League, Serie A, and Bundesliga looked like at age 18 compared to today. They should also ask themselves if soccer would survive in Europe if it had to compete the same way MLS does in the American sports market.

The answer would probably be yes, but to a certain degree. The idea of soccer as an international language would be more of a dream than a reality. Just look at basketball in Italy, which is in a similar position to soccer in America. The Italian league has the second-highest professional basketball attendance in Europe (3,859) and is reasonably competitive, but is still in the shadow of Italian soccer.

MLS has done well with a steep challenge. MLS will probably never become more popular than MLB or NFL, just as basketball will never be on par with the Serie A in Italy, though it might become the fifth closely-followed league.

The best current argument against MLSís success is its dreadful television ratings. MLS soccer has a .3 rating despite the fact that all league games are televised either locally or nationally. But American television ratings of international soccer, U.S. national team, and World Cup are soaring. That means that there are a large number of soccer fans that MLS can convert.

But after MLSí opening weekend, which averaged 19,411 in attendance, itís clear that progress is continuing. More success from the U.S. national team in major tournaments would raise MLSí numbers even more, though the league and its 19 teams appear to be evolving and learning the international game independently.

MLS teams now have an identity. Healthy attendance numbers arenít only figures on a chart or filled seats, but a packed house in the Pacific Northwest, Los Angeles, Kansas City, Philadelphia, Toronto, Vancouver, and DC where the atmosphere is intense and the chanting never stops. Eighteen of the 19 teams have jersey sponsorsóa must for any professional team in the world. And the league is setting a trend by investing in urban, soccer-only stadiums. Fourteen of the 19 teams have stadiums that are designed just for soccer and have had such success with their new homes that team representatives from leagues around the world are taking notes on what MLS does.

The league has considerable growing to do in regards to skill on the field, finances, and international acclaim. But Garber has projected that the league will be as strong as the English Premier League by 2022. That doesnít mean that the U.S. will house the next Barcelona or Manchester United in less than 10 years, but it does mean that America could have a top soccer league in every sense of the word. And with time, the number of critics in the Blatter camp will decrease.

Revs sign supplemental draft pick; Sene practicing with team

Posted by Staff March 1, 2013 10:49 AM

The New England Revolution announced they have signed supplemental draft pick Gabe Latigue, midfielder out of Elon University. He was the 61st overall pick, drafted in the fourth round.

During his four seasons at Elon, Latigue scored 15 goals and had 17 assists in 82 games. The 22-year-old from Apex, N.C., also won the 2012 Southern Conference's Most Outstanding Player award.

In a statement, Revolution general manager Michael Burns said the team is looking forward to working with Latigue.

"He has shown he can fit in on either side of the midfield and has talent on set pieces," Burns said.

--

The Revs leading scorer last season, Saer Sene, is now doing passing drills with the team, getting back on the field after an ACL injury required surgery last September. Sene said his knee is feeling better and he is happy to be back out on the field practicing but he isn't expected to return to full training for some time.

About Corner Kicks: Julian Cardillo offers analysis and insight about the New England Revolution as well as European and international soccer.

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