'13 Season Preview: Rebuilding process continues in New England

5:34 PM, Feb 20, 2013   |    comments
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Foxborough, MA (Sports Network) - Jay Heaps' first season in charge in New England didn't exactly go as planned.

The club entered 2012 with elevated expectations after Heaps was hired to replace longtime manager Steve Nichol, but they hovered around the .500 mark for most of the season before things went south in the final two months of the campaign.

Heaps' squad went winless in five of its last six league matches and finished with 17 losses. But with last season behind them, 2013 is all about continuing to rebuild what has been a historically successful franchise.

The Revolution pulled off a big splash at the SuperDraft by working a deal with Toronto FC to acquire the first overall selection, which they used on Louisville defender Andrew Farrell.

Farrell, 20, was a star during his three-year career at Louisville. He started 44 games over the three seasons and earned the Big East Defensive Player of the Year honor in 2012.

He likely won't garner a spot in the starting 11 early in the season, but Farrell definitely has a chance to be a first-team regular once he adjusts to life in MLS.

Farrell offers the Revs some much-needed versatility along the backline.

"I think that for this organization to be successful, I can bring some speed on the outside if I play outside back," Farrell said. "I can bring depth within the center back and outside back spots. Sometimes things don't work out but this is a new season and I think everybody starts new."

Along with Farrell, New England certainly has some serviceable bodies in defense with the likes of veteran Kevin Alston, A. J. Soares and Stephen McCarthy.

Soares is probably the most reliable piece in defense. The 24-year-old played 30 of 34 games last season and was a rock in central defense. He also added a pair of goals on the offensive end.

Kelyn Rowe returns to anchor a midfield that was largely ineffective last season. Rowe was drafted third overall by New England in 2012 and showed flashes of elite playmaking ability as an attacking midfielder.

Rowe started 21 matches in his rookie campaign and scored three goals to go with five assists. The UCLA product will be leaned on by Heaps this season to direct traffic and be the creative force in the middle of the park.

In addition to Rowe, another key midfield piece is Andy Dorman. Dorman began his MLS career with the Revs in 2004 and was a teammate of Heaps before moving to Europe to play with St. Mirren of the Scottish Premier League and Crystal Palace of the English Championship. Dorman returned to the Revs when his Crystal Palace contract expired this past summer.

Dorman should combine nicely with Rowe in the middle of the field.

Honduras international Jerry Bengston and Frenchman Saer Sene will be counted on to drive the offense in 2013 for New England, while veteran attacker Chad Barrett, who was signed this month, will provide some leadership.

Bengston signed with the club on a free transfer in July 2012 and made 13 appearances. He scored just twice last campaign while adjusting to life in MLS, but Heaps will be counting on the man who single-handedly broke U.S. hearts on Feb. 6 in a 2-1 World Cup qualifier win to consistently put the ball in the back of the net.

Sene played 25 games last season and had a productive campaign, scoring 11 times. The Paris native has a nose for goal, and can score from outside the box should the opportunity present itself.

All in all, New England has some talented pieces, but may need a season or two to develop before consistency becomes commonplace.

2012 IN REVIEW: Optimism was high with the appointment of Heaps, but the club struggled, finishing in ninth place in the Eastern Conference with 35 points and missing the playoffs for the third consecutive season.

ACQUISITIONS: Chad Barrett (F), Andrew Farrell (D), Andy Dorman (M), Kalifa Cisse (M).

LOSSES: Benny Feilhaber (M), Blake Brettschneider (F), Blair Gavin (M).

OUTLOOK: The rebuilding process is in full effect at Gillette Stadium. With Soares and Farrell in the back, Rowe and Dorman in the midfield and Bengston and Sene up front, New England certainly has some solid players in the team, but Heaps will need to figure out a way for them to play as a cohesive unit before making the playoffs is a real possibility. Expect the Revs to have moments of brilliance throughout the year, but a fourth consecutive season without the postseason is likely.

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