Sunday, November 25, 2012
Top five offseason questions
By Brian O'Connell
If there's one word that sums up the 2012 season for the Revolution, it's this one: transition.
From Jay Heaps' taking the coaching reins to the trade that sent longtime captain Shalrie Joseph to the West Coast, it was a campaign that contained no shortage of surprises, both welcome and unwelcome.
Although the end result didn't send them back to the playoffs, there's no doubt that the Revolution fully expect to return to the postseason in 2013 after a three-season drought.
Before they do, a number of questions need to be answered. Here are the top five going into winter:
1. Can Saer Sene repeat his 2012 success? It's hard to a find a player on the roster that exceeded expectations more than Sene. Brought in following a preseason trial, the French forward cashed in with an 11-goal season, the most scored by a Revolution player since 2007. The key to maintaining -- or even elevating -- that level of production is to keeping him comfortable. Heaps tinkered with sliding him outside, but it's clear Sene was at his best in a central position. Should he and Jerry Bengtson find a good rapport up top, another double-digit goal total should be easily attainable.
2. Are the additions of Andy Dorman and Kalifa Cisse enough to stabilize the midfield? The front office wasted little time addressing its most pressing need: the central midfield. With the re-acquisition of Dorman, the Revolution get a proven presence who can play anywhere in the midfield. By adding Cisse, a proven ball-winner, the club may have found the linchpin they've lacked since Joseph was shipped to Chivas USA. Perhaps the most important aspects of the signings: Both players bring a wealth of experience, something the 2012 team desperately needed in the middle of the park.
3. Has Benny Feilhaber played his last game in a Revolution uniform? The signs certainly seem to suggest so. Following a disappointing 2012 season (1 goal, 2 assists), the front office will certainly take a hard look at bringing back the club's highest-paid player for a third season. While there's no denying Feilhaber's talent, the fact is he may be better served on a veteran club where the attacking duties don't fall so heavily on his shoulders as they did in New England.
4. Is Bobby Shuttleworth ready to assume the starting goalkeeper duties? It might have been a small sample size, but the fourth-year keeper did little to hurt his near-term future during the 2012 season. In seven games, he posted three shutouts and kept his GAA to a miniscule 0.71. More than that, Shuttleworth's confidence increased noticeably with each start. While Matt Reis remains one of the league's better goalkeepers, Shuttleworth has shown that he's ready to inherit the starting job for good in 2013.
5. Which position does the front office need to target during the offseason? Now that the central midfield has been addressed, the front office should turn its attention to the center of the defense. While AJ Soares and converted center back Stephen McCarthy performed admirably during their sophomore seasons, the fact is that many of the mistakes made inside the Revolution box were often the byproduct of inexperience. With that in mind, it wouldn't be surprising to see the club shop around for a veteran center back to help stabilize the defense next season.