Season opener brings an end to momentous offseason
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The past four months haven’t felt very much like an offseason for the New England Revolution’s technical staff.
Since their frustrating 2011 campaign came to an end on Oct. 22 at BMO Field, the Revs have gone through a complete overhaul both on and off the field. Brian Bilello and Michael Burns took on new roles as President and General Manager, respectively. Club legend Jay Heaps replaced longtime head coach Steve Nicol at the helm, bringing assistant coach Jay Miller and strength and conditioning coach Nick Downing on board to join his staff. The roster turned over dramatically, as well, with 11 players in and 12 players out.
“In the past few months, we’ve experienced as much change within the organization as any time in probably the last decade or even beyond,” Bilello said during Tuesday afternoon’s annual media day festivities. “We’re continuing to evolve every day. I think that’s a key thing for all of us here; we want to continue to evolve, continue to be aggressive and continue to look at ways to improve our team on and off the field, really every single day.”
“It was by far the busiest offseason that we’ve had, certainly since I’ve been here, and I think probably with the exception of the start of the team in 1996, that we’ve probably ever had,” said Burns. “There’s only one reason why we felt we had to [make so many changes], and that’s simply the fact that we weren’t good enough last year on the field. We felt we owed it to the staff, the players and the fans to put a better product on the field.”
The Revolution’s new and improved product takes the field for the first time in a regular-season match on Saturday night at Buck Shaw Stadium, where the Revs will battle the San Jose Earthquakes in the 2012 season opener. New England enters the game with a renewed sense of optimism following a successful preseason in which the club compiled an unbeaten 6-0-1 record.
In a way, this weekend’s season opener brings an end to perhaps the most arduous offseason project in Revolution history. But in reality, game number one is simply the beginning of the club’s ultimate journey back to the top of the heap in MLS.
“The first step – and it’s a big step – is to get back to respectability,” said Burns. “There’s only one way you get there and that’s to go out and earn it; you have to win. There’s not a player in the locker room, there’s not a staff member that’s not going to approach every game to win.”
“It’s been a good four months, but we’re looking at the rest of the season,” said Heaps. “You can put a check as almost like the prologue of a book. You say alright, we’re happy where we are. Now, let’s go out and see what we have in front of us.”