FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – For the third straight preseason game, New England Revolution head coach Jay Heaps saw glimpses of the type of play he’d like to see consistently throughout the 2012 season during Wednesday afternoon’s 2-1 win over Boston College. A well-worked passing sequence here and a solid defensive effort there provided the rookie head coach with positive takeaways as he continues to shape his squad.
But after the game, Heaps was just as interested in analyzing the weaknesses he spotted on Wednesday, which conversely helped paint a clear picture of what needs to improve prior to the season opener on March 10.
“I think we struggled a little bit at times today,” admitted Heaps. “We kept possession, but we didn’t really break anyone down today … [Today] was more about getting out on the big field and having another opportunity to get our guys together. It wasn’t the best, but there were certainly some moments where we looked pretty good.
“What’s nice is that some of the bad moments, you don’t always see in [the Dana-Farber Field House],” Heaps added, referencing the restricted dimensions of the Revolution’s indoor training facility. “So when you get on the field and they’re five or 10 yards out of position, you can see it clearly and that’s good. Now is the time we need to get these things sorted.”
Heaps also continues the process of sorting out his roster, using Wednesday’s match to take a closer look at a group of non-rostered training camp invitees. Former D.C. United forward Blake Brettschneider was handed a start and played 74 minutes, while MLS veteran Blake Wagner played the entire second half at left back. Gabe Mercier also made it onto the field, playing the final eight minutes in central defense.
Un-signed Supplemental Draft picks Alec Purdie and Michael Roach also had the chance to impress against Boston College, with Purdie opening the scoring in the 28th minute. Roach scored the Revolution’s third goal in a 3-0 win over BC last Friday afternoon.
“We’ve taken a lot of hard, long looks,” said Heaps. “We still haven’t made all final decisions on some of the guys.”
Those personnel decisions will at least marginally affect the Revolution’s playing style and potentially the club’s formation, which Heaps tinkered with on Wednesday. After starting the match in a traditional 4-4-2 formation, the Revs switched to a 4-5-1 setup to start the second half with Shalrie Joseph, Benny Feilhaber and Clyde Simms forming the three-man central midfield and Brettschneider playing alone up top.
Simms served as the holding midfielder in the central trio, allowing Joseph and Feilhaber a bit more freedom to roam. Joseph used the opportunity to push further into the attack and scored the game-winning goal with a powerful header in the 52nd minute.
“I wanted to get Clyde onto the pitch playing in front of the back four just to see him fit in,” said Heaps. “He took good positions and that helps Shalrie be able to do what Shalrie did, which was get in the box. It’s a 4-5-1, but we want to penetrate, so it gives Benny, Shalrie, Kelyn (Rowe), (Chris) Tierney and Blake a lot of freedom to get forward.”
While more than three weeks remain until the Revs take the field at Buck Shaw Stadium for the regular-season opener against the San Jose Earthquakes, Heaps admits there’s plenty of work still to be done. That work continues in earnest next week when the Revs open the FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup against the defending MLS Cup champion LA Galaxy, to be followed by meetings with the New York Red Bulls and Real Salt Lake.
“Now it’s about taking what we did [in our first three preseason games], some of those mistakes, and learning from them,” said Heaps. “(We have to) start to put together a package – a finished package – so when we start play on March 10, it’s a lot more developed than it has been.”