BOSTON (CBS) - A promising New England Revolution squad, one considered by many to be the Eastern Conference favorite, is about to embark on the 2015 season, mere weeks after a heartbreaking ending to 2014.
The Revs suffered a devastating 2-1 loss in extra time to the Los Angeles Galaxy last season in MLS Cup. Having appeared in five MLS title games since the league's inception in 1996, the Revolution have come up short in all five games. But hope springs eternal, and there's plenty of reason for optimism with this Revolution club.
New England came out of the gate slow in 2014, starting off with a mark of 8-12-1. However, the team surged in the second half, thanks in part to midfielder Lee Nguyen's MVP-worthy performance and the late-August acquisition of World Cup star Jermaine Jones. After the sluggish start, the Revolution ended the season going 9-1-1 for a final mark of 17-13-4.
Head coach Jay Heaps, a former Revs player himself and Longmeadow native, hopes to finally bring the Phillip F. Anschutz Trophy to Foxboro.
As with every team entering a new year, there are some new faces and unfortunate departures.
Midfielder: Juan Agudelo (Signed via free transfer Jan 30th 2015)
Forward: Sean Okoli (Acquired his rights in trade with Seattle Sounders FC in 2015 MLS SuperDraft)
Midfielder: Marc Fenelus (Drafted Third Round (47th pick) in 2015 MLS SuperDraft)
Forward: Patrick Mullins (Expansion Draft: New York City FC)
Forward: Tony Taylor (Expansion Draft: New York City FC)
Let's start off with Juan Agudelo, a member of the Revolution squad in 2013. After a failed attempt to gain a work permit to join English Premier League side Stoke City in November 2013, Agudelo found a new home in the Netherlands with FC Utrecht. It's been close to 10 months since Agudelo has played in club competition, but his new stint with the Revs ensures he'll be here in New England through 2018, something he seems excited about.
After getting a taste of facing his former team last Wednesday night in preseason action, newly-acquired forward Sean Okoli will have the chance to get back at his old team when the Revolution face off against the Sounders on March 8th in Seattle. While on the Sounders, Okoli had difficult time getting much action with veterans Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins, Kenny Coopers and others in his way. With the Revolution, Okoli has the possibility to see more action, and prove himself as a player.
Rookie Marc Fenelus (47th overall pick in 2015 MLS SuperDraft) is not officially on the Revolution roster, but he could provide adequate fill-in support throughout the season, as he did in two straight preseason games for midfielder Donnie Smith.
On Tuesday night at the House of Blues, the Revs officially unveiled their secondary kit for the 2015 season in celebration of the club's 20th season of play in Major League Soccer.
Check out the new unis!
To check out all the pictures from the jersey unveiling, click here.
The best player without a doubt for the Revolution last season was midfielder Lee Nguyen. He led the team with 18 goals, Nguyen put up MVP numbers, and as a result was named to MLS Best XI for his efforts. However, Nguyen underwent a procedure for an undisclosed injury and has not participated in the winter preseason.
Even though Nguyen provided an MVP caliber season for the Revs, the team may not have had made the playoffs if it weren't for late acquisition of Jermaine Jones. Jones, who had a significant part with Team USA in the 2014 World Cup, helped guide the Revolution to a 9-1-1 in the second half of the season once he joined.
A few weeks ago, Jones underwent a sports hernia surgery and the timetable for his return is 4-6 weeks. However, Jones expects to be ready for the Revolution season opener on Sunday in Seattle.
Head coach Jay Heaps acknowledged the impact of both Lee Nguyen and Jermaine Jones in a recent conference call, but implored his players to step up in their absence while they deal with their respective ailments.
For the rest of the roster, click here.
New England opens its season against one of MLS' toughest annual opponents: the Supporters' Shield-winning Seattle Sounders. The Supporters' Shield is an annual award given to the team with the best regular season record in the league.
Seattle advanced to the Western Conference semifinals in 2014, and are an annual contender for the MLS crown. The Los Angeles Galaxy, even without Landon Donovan, are expected to defend their title.
On the Eastern side, D.C. United, Columbus Crew, and New York Red Bulls all present a challenge to the Revs. While it should be exciting playing soccer matches in Yankee Stadium and sunny Orlando this year, don't expect much from New York City FC or Orlando City SC in their inaugural MLS seasons.
The Revolution square off against the aforementioned Sounders and NYCFC to start the 2015 campaign, before finishing out the month against Montreal in the home opener and San Jose.
For the full schedule, click here.
Revs President Brian Bilello
Earlier this week, Karson & Kennedy from our sister station Mix104.1 caught up with the president of the Revolution Brian Bilello to help preview the upcoming season.
"We're bringing almost the entire team back [from last year], and we've added a couple players to that mix, so we feel really good about this team and what they're capable of this year," Bilello told the morning show.
Listen below for the full interview!
There's a lot of things to watch as the MLS season gets underway, but if it gets underway at all is a real question mark at this point in the collective bargaining agreement negotiations between owners and players.
MLS is currently operating without a CBA after the previous one ended on January 31st. The main bone of contention between the players union and the league is free agency similar to the other four major sports leagues in the United States. The union is threatening to strike without free agency, something the owners are against.
The owners have offered a compromise, but it doesn't appear the players are considering it. So we'll see how this all shakes out. The CBA talks will continue today and "all club travel is moving forward as normal" according to soccer insider and Washington Post reporter Steven Goff.
If the Revolution stay healthy and replicate the play of the second half surge of last season, then they have a strong chance of bringing the MLS Cup trophy home to Foxboro -- they have the talent to do it and are considered the favorites in the Eastern Conference.
Plus, how cool would it be to see Gillette Stadium have two separate trophies brought home in same calendar year?
98.5 The Sports Hub is the flagship radio station of the New England Revolution! Listen to the Revs all season long right here on the Hub!
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