Youthful Revolution: New England’s youngsters developing into key contributors
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – I came to a personally terrifying realization on Monday morning, which is the worst time to come to a personally terrifying realization.
After doing a bit of crack detective work – namely looking at the New England Revolution’s roster – I realized that had I played for the Revs in Sunday afternoon’s 5-0 win over the LA Galaxy, I would have been the oldest player on the field. I wouldn’t have just been amongst the oldest. I would have been the oldest.
And here’s the thing; I’m not that old. Honestly.
In reality, youth dominated the Revolution’s roster on Sunday. The average age of the 14 players used by the Revs was just 24.3 years old. Four of those players (Juan Agudelo, Diego Fagundez, Andrew Farrell and Kelyn Rowe) are 21 years old or younger, while the two oldest players (Chad Barrett and Juan Toja) just turned 28 years old within the past month.
The presence of such a talented young core in New England is no accident. In fact, it’s exactly what Jay Heaps has envisioned since he was named the Revolution’s head coach late in 2011.
“That’s been my vision since taking over,” said Heaps. “When I was interviewing for this job a year-and-a-half ago in November 2011, some of the excitement that I saw was (youth). I was following the college game so I knew players out there like Kelyn Rowe; the Revs had just signed Diego Fagundez; I knew who Juan Agudelo was.”
Heaps has stockpiled young talent since taking the reins, trading up to grab Farrell with the top overall pick in January’s SuperDraft after locking up Homegrown player Scott Caldwell a few weeks earlier. Rowe (third overall in 2012) was the first player the Revs drafted after Heaps was appointed, while Agudelo arrived via trade in May.
While those players continue to develop and mature on a daily basis, it doesn’t mean results have to be sacrificed in the meantime. On Sunday the trio of Agudelo, Fagundez and Rowe combined beautifully to deliver the killer third goal. Farrell earned an assist and was again strong defensively, while Caldwell was his usual steady self.
Agudelo is thoroughly enjoying playing his part in New England’s youthful resurgence and believes a fresh outlook helps the younger players express themselves on the field.
“I feel like maybe we haven’t gone through many hardships and we’re just happy to be on the field and playing games as if we’re playing with our friends,” Agudelo said. “We’re not thinking of it as a job; we’re just playing out there with our friends. We get along very well and we have a lot of energy because we’re young.”
That energy is shared by Heaps, who is starting to see the tangible results of all the work the Revolution’s staff has put into developing its younger players.
“I like working with guys that are still developing, but at the same time have loads and loads of talent,” said Heaps. “You see that these players now are starting to flourish with the pressure. I think that’s when a true player grows into himself; they have all the talent, but when the pressure starts adding up, when you have to get a result on the road or you have to get a result at home, can they deal with that pressure and continue to play at their highest level? That’s what I like developing and that’s what I love being a part of.”