Onwards and Upwards: Productive 2013 season “a stepping stone” for Revolution

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Whether the New England Revolution’s 2013 season can be deemed “successful” boils down to semantics. Some view success as establishing a goal and achieving it. Some say success is surpassing expectations. Others would argue only one team – the MLS Cup champion – is a true success.

But what cannot be denied is that for the second straight year under head coach Jay Heaps the Revs took massive steps forward, culminating in a return to the postseason for the first time since 2009.

“When you look at the whole season, I think we showed some growth,” Heaps said. “I think we showed some really good character and something to be proud of in a lot of areas. For me, and I know for the guys in [the locker room], it’s a stepping stone. I really feel that we have a good base and we’re looking forward to next year.”

Heaps has the Revolution on a remarkable upward trajectory through two seasons, improving substantially in wins (five to 14), total points (28 to 51), goals scored (38 to 49) and goals against (58 to 38) when compared to the 2011 campaign, before he took the reins. From 2012 to 2013, New England was the second-most improved team in MLS with a +16 point increase, behind only the Portland Timbers’ +23 point increase.

Most promising for the future is that the Revolution’s upward trend has coincided with a focus on youth, as youngsters like Diego Fagundez (18), Kelyn Rowe (21), Andrew Farrell (21), Scott Caldwell (22), Dimitry Imbongo (23) and A.J. Soares (24) form a healthy part of New England’s core moving forward.

Those players were exposed to a variety of situations in 2013, not the least of which was a stretch of late-season, must-win games and a tooth-and-nail playoff series with Sporting Kansas City. Experiences like those – particularly the successful playoff surge in which the Revs went 4-0-2 – will only serve to benefit the club’s youth as it encounters similar situations in the future.

“You talk a lot about getting young players experience, but I’m not sure how beneficial it is when young players are out there getting battered every week,” said Chris Tierney. “It’s very important for those guys to be in situations where they’re in big games and they’re winning big games.

“A lot of our guys have that experience now. We had so many guys play well down the stretch, young guys play well down the stretch. Our veterans obviously played really well down the stretch, so all of that is experience that’s valuable moving forward.”

That’s exactly where the Revs are headed: forward. The ultimate goal of an MLS Cup championship may not have been achieved this season, but the club certainly took a giant step in that direction. Does that make 2013 a success? It all depends on your definition of the word.

As for the Revs themselves, they’re pleased with the progress made, but there’s a sense that there’s a brighter future just over the horizon; a horizon the Revs are peeking over as we push toward 2014.

“It’s a promising step forward, but we’re not satisfied,” said Tierney. “We know with the group we have here that there’s potential for much more, so we’ll look to build on it next year.”