FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – As the New England Revolution approaches the final five games of the 2012 season knowing that the playoffs are out of reach, the club is drawing inspiration from one of its biggest rivals.
Last year the Chicago Fire struggled mightily through the majority of the season, securing just two victories from the first 24 games. But Chicago found its form in the final two months and made a remarkable push for the playoffs, finishing the season as the hottest team in the league with a record of 7-2-1 through the last 10 matches.
The Fire’s late resurgence didn’t earn them a spot in the 2011 postseason – they finished three points out – but it may well have played a significant role in the club’s return to the playoffs in 2012 as Chicago (15-8-5, 50 pts.) is poised to challenge for both the Eastern Conference crown and the Supporters’ Shield in the coming weeks.
Many within the Fire organization credit last year’s late run with building the foundation for a successful 2012 season, and that’s exactly what the Revs are hoping to do as they close out this year looking towards 2013.
“I saw it last year with Chicago,” said midfielder Clyde Simms. “They had an awful season at the beginning and really turned it on towards the end. Now they’re in second place in the East. That’s something that hopefully we’re looking to do. We want to have some good results going into the offseason, be positive going into the offseason and continue on at the start of preseason.”
“How we do right now is without a doubt going to carry over to next year,” echoed midfielder Ryan Guy. “This is our rebuilding year, we’re going to call it now, and I think next year there’s going to be even more accountability to do far better than we did this year.”
There’s a belief within the squad that despite the disappointing results, the 2012 season can serve as a critical step in the process as the Revolution makes what amounts to a massive transition.
First-year head coach Jay Heaps spent much of the year shaping and molding his team, turning over more than half the roster since taking the helm last November. On the field, Heaps instilled a new possession-oriented playing style, one which has occasionally looked brilliant but has at other times shown elements of growing pains.
“With a new coach – especially a coach like Jay who’s just starting out – I think it’s been a good opportunity for him to really find what kind of players he needs and wants around him,” said Guy. “We’re all adjusting to his style and I think he’s demanding more of us to come to his style. I think it’s melding well. I’m seeing it more and more every week in training. The way he treats us as players is professional and top class and I think it can only get better from here.”
One year into the process, the Revs will most certainly expect the results to get better next season as they aim to build upon the foundation laid in 2012.
“We’ve got to stay positive,” said Simms. “Hopefully we don’t panic and try to rebuild again, because I think we definitely do have something good here.”