To get everyone ready for tonight's match against the New England Revolution, we spoke with The Bent Musket's Jake Catanese to get his take on potential offseason moves, Jay Heaps, and how the Revs could potentially get some revenge.
DSS: What offseason moves do New England need to make to get back into the playoffs next year?
TBM: Okay...we're going to have to do a lot of assuming here because there's a lot of ways this next offseason can go. Let's assume the Revolution don't do any major overhaul of the roster, maybe one of the strikers gets traded or something, but the Revs keep the majority of the roster and don't blow it up for a full rebuild.
The biggest thing next year will be a full season of centerback pairing Antonio Delamea and Claude Dielna. These guys have actually been solid except for the whole getting the red cards and losing by 100 goals stuff recently. Defense has been a major problem for the Revs over the past few years and with centerback now seemingly stable, it might be time to upgrade the fullback spots and left back in particular. Chris Tierney isn't getting any younger, and while his left foot can still play, whether or not he can consistently be an everyday starter is a legitimate question. Andrew Farrell has quietly put together a decent offensive season chipping in a few assists which is a bonus. If Benjamin Angoua doesn't get signed permanently from his loan deal, the Revs will need more depth on the backline for sure.
Holding midfield might be an area where the Revs need a major upgrade as well. DP Xavier Kouassi was coming of an ACL tear from last season and doesn't seem to be a game changing player at that spot and Gershon Koffie and Scottie Caldwell are solid options but are perhaps more complimentary pieces. The Revs in theory have all the attacking options they will ever need surrounding Lee Nguyen but it's the defensive half of the ball that is holding New England back currently.
Also, making the playoffs isn't all that hard, or at least in shouldn't be when six out of eleven teams make the postseason. The question really should be what kind of moves do the Revs need to make to compete with Toronto FC or even Atlanta United...or how far away does New England think they are from being a serious contender at the top of the East. Right now it's hard to say, the roster isn't completely bad, but the Revs have larger issues in the organization beyond the first team that need to be addressed to answer that question.
DSS: Do you think it was the right move for the club to fire Jay Heaps? Who could the club potentially hire as the new coach?
TBM: I do not think Jay Heaps was going to be the head coach of the New England Revolution in 2018, however, I still did not expect him to be sacked during the season. It's simply not something the Revs organization is known for doing, even Steve Nicol finished his final year and many were surprised that a club legend like Heaps was shown the door when, if we're being honest, the season was already lost.
As far as new head coaches, I'm not as dialed into that part of MLS or the international game to really know who the Revs are looking at. Obviously Tom Soehn will get a look as the interim for the rest of the year and longtime MLS assistant and former Revs midfielder Steve Ralston should be on the shortlist. The Revs probably aren't going to go out and get someone like say...Carlo Ancelotti, but after hiring Heaps who had zero previous coaching experience, my guess is they'll go for someone very familiar with MLS even if it seems like a very "safe" hire.
DSS: Atlanta historically dominated the Revs in the first meeting, but New England have won their last six matches at home. Give this pessimist more fuel and tell me why New England could put a stop to Atlanta’s recent roll.
TBM: Well for starters, the Revs should have eleven players for a lot longer than 15 minutes but we thought this in Orlando as well and that turned out poorly. I can't explain the historically staggering difference between the 2017 at home versus on the road but it exists and it is fascinating. Yes, the Revs beat a shorthanded TFC team in Gillette twice but their inability to close out games on the road has been a problem for the last two years, it's just far more noticeable this year when you give up three late goals in Seattle to draw 3-3 and have a 7-0 and 6-1 loss on the road on your resume as well.
The biggest thing for the Revs at home is they have confidence, so that whole, let's sit back and let Atlanta destroy us strategy hopefully won't be deployed on Saturday. That being said, Atlanta is on a legitimate roll and I'm looking forward to a TFC-ATL Eastern Conference Final so I hope you and the Waking The Red guys don't screw it up. That said, this game for the Revs is important because it will give New England fans a pretty good idea if that 7-0 game was just a bad day or if the Revs really are that far behind an expansion side.