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New England Revolution mid-season report card

Posted by Julian Cardillo  July 15, 2013 09:20 PM

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(Italo Alexander Photography)

With a baby toe into the second half of the season, the Revolution are just four points out of a playoff place. In Jay Heaps' second year as Head Coach, he's seen his team boast one of the youngest and most creative attacks as well as the league's best defense.

The season, however, got off to a rocky start. The Revolution scored just one goal through the first six games of the season, which was good enough for one win.

After a few roster moves and some tactical tinkering, the Revolution are now one of the Eastern Conference's most competitive teams.

Here's a breakdown by position of the Revolution's mid-season report card:

The Goalkeepers- Bobby Shuttleworth may own the starting job between the pipes, but a large part of his success is due to the guidance he has received from the veteran Matt Reis. There appears to be zero animosity between the two keepers during this transition period, and Coach Jay Heaps has spoken very highly of the professionalism that Reis has exhibited.

But be sure to credit Shuttleworth, who has done well to command his back line and has asserted himself as a decent shot stopper. Reis may be a fan favorite, but Shuttleworth is being developed into a very capable heir.

Mid-season grade: A-

The Defense- It's the closest thing to a brick wall since the days of Michael Parkhurst. The statistics speak for themselves: least goals allowed, most shutouts, only one defensive red card, only one penalty kick conceded, and just six goals allowed at home.

Jose Goncalves has that back line humming. Goncalves may not have been named to the MLS All-Star team, but the Revolution need to do everything in their power to keep him for the foreseeable future. Why not sign him to a Designated Player's contract?

Andrew Farrell has been excellent at right back, though he gets into trouble when he keeps the ball for too long. Chris Tierney isn't the fastest left back, but he's consistent, is one of the few players on this team that can cross, and can play as either a defender or winger.

Stephen McCarthy has been solid as a starter and shouldn't see the bench anytime soon. Having AJ Soares, Darrius Barnes, and Bilal Duckett as reserve defenders is simply huge for this team. It will be interesting to see where Kevin Alston fits in now that he's off the disabled list.

Mid-season grade: A

The Midfield- Scott Caldwell has done yeoman's work in midfield and has proven that he can take care of the middle of the pitch better than a Premier League veteran. Lee Nguyen, Kelyn Rowe, and Juan Toja have all struggled to be consistent, but when they're on their games, the Revolution look fierce.

Tactically, the midfield is still a bit unconvincing. Passes are at times, predictable. Midfielders are also still learning how to balance when to play direct versus retaining possession.

On paper, the Revolution midfield has plenty of talent. And if that talent can learn how to be consistent, there's no reason why the entire team won't jump to the next level.

Midfield depth is another positive as well. However, many players just aren't getting the playing time they likely want. Where do Andy Dorman, Kalifa Cisse, and Donnie Smith fit in Heaps' system?

Mid-season grade: B

The forwards: Saer Sene and Diego Fagundez have played in midfield, but their prowess in the penalty area as goal scorers means they should definitely be counted as strikers. Without these two players, the Revolution attack would be lost.

It's a shame that Juan Agudelo has suffered a knee injury which will see him miss some time, as he woke up the attack with his dynamic play after joining the Revolution in May.

Jerry Bengston has been a colossal disappointment. One of my colleagues recently pointed out that his scoring record with the Revolution is worse than Rajko Lekic's. (Yikes). That Designated Player tag could be put on another player (see Agudelo, Sene, Goncalves).

Chad Barrett has been a pleasant surprise, though he appears to be more useful off the bench than as a starter. Dimitry Imbongo continues to be a depth player or super-sub, though his behavior on the field is sophomoric at times.

Mid-season grade: B

Head Coach Jay Heaps- Heaps is a much different coach this year than last year. One year worth of experience does that.

His long term focus is reaching the playoffs. In the short term, Heaps just wants to win the next match. One of his main focus is always on addressing his team's weaknesses and figuring out how to beat the next opponent. Do not expect to derail Heaps' focus.

In the last year, Heaps has lived up to his promise that the Revolution would play offensive soccer. Gone are the days of dropping back and defending a one-goal lead.

Heaps does his homework every time, too. He constantly refers to how he studies tape of his opponents, his own players, and potential transfer targets.

On a side note, I have to tip my hat to Heaps for going with the flow when my mother called my iphone, which I was using as a voice recorder, and interrupted a televised post-game press conference.

Heaps' biggest challenge will be maintaining the momentum from June and July in the the second half of the season. If he's not careful, the Revolution of the early summer will turn into a distant memory rather than a playoff team.

Mid-season grade: B+

General Manager Mike Burns- Among supporters, Burns is probably the most controversial figure in the Revolution organization. That's mostly due to the roster turnover that has occurred in his time with the club.

Let me be clear: unless there was something negative that occured off the field, waiving Seth Sinovic was a terrible idea. The Jose Moreno saga was a circus. Milton Caraglio is a good player, but was perhaps too out of form to be signed as a DP. These are all transactions overseen by Burns.

But the signings of Andrew Farrell and Juan Agudelo were top class. Not only did he open the door to the Revolution adding two capable players, but he proved that he is not afraid to pull the trigger on any deal that will make the Revolution a better team. Make no mistake: risking allocation money on a draft pick, no matter what the prospect, is a gutsy move.

In the short-term, Burns will need to examine whether the contributions of Kalifa Cisse justify that sizable amount of salary cap space that he's eating up.

In addition, retaining the services of Jose Goncalves after the 2013 season should be close to the top of his to-do list.

Mid-season grade: B+

You can reach Julian at julianccardillo@gmail.com and follow him on twitter @juliancardillo

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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

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