Since becoming head coach, Jay Heaps has shown that he isn’t afraid to try new things. In 2013, the New England Revolution went 13 games before using the same lineup in consecutive outings. Preseason will be another opportunity for Heaps to tinker with his squad in order to get the most out of his players.
A major part of the Revolution’s success last year was the introduction of the 4-1-4-1 formation. Heaps first trialed the system on April 27th when the Revs played the Philadelphia Union. The Revs earned a favorable 2-0 result that day and the formation stayed.
Heaps isn’t ready to commit to using the same formation in 2014, but he does believe that his team will employ similar tactics.
“How we play will always be the same but the formation we’re in, that will change tactically in what we think will be the best formation against the other team,” Heaps explained. “Based on how we played in that system, that’s how I see us playing. Whether it’s three guys up or drop back wingers, we feel that we can attack teams and we feel that puts us in a good place defensively as well.”
Heaps is also deliberating his ideal first eleven. Over the course of the next few weeks, trialists will be given opportunities to impress, different lineup combinations will be sampled and players will be shifted. The versatility of players on the roster gives Heaps plenty of options.
“I think when we start talking about players and where they are, some players that’s their position and that’s it,” Heaps said. “Guys like [Andrew] Farrell, guys like [Patrick] Mullins, guys like [Steve] Neumann, the versatility will allow us to be a stronger team.”
While Heaps wants to be cautious with his rookies, he could see them contributing in light of Saer Sene’s injury and Juan Agudelo’s departure. Mullins is a particularly intriguing option.
“What I liked about Patrick, and he did it more last year than this year, but he certainly played a little bit more of a winger, as well, on both sides,” Heaps remarked. “He’s left-footed, he has the ability to get good balls in and that’s an important reason why we were aggressive in taking him, not just because he can score goals but he can create.”
Even Farrell, who started 32 games at right back last year, could be evaluated at different positions. Many believe that Farrell could eventually make the move to the center and Heaps might want to explore that possibility during preseason.
“I talked to coach on Friday,” Farrell commented. “He said he might try me at different spots like he did last preseason. Just to throw me into center back and maybe center mid, just to see how it is. He told me not to worry, have fun. Obviously I’ll get my reps at right back as well. I’m excited to see how I feel in the middle, if the time comes.
With a strong, flexible core in place, the Revs know that it’s important to approach preseason seriously in order to earn their second straight playoff berth.
“We know that it’s a long road ahead of us and that we are going to have to put in the work,” Chris Tierney commented. “Other teams get better and we’re going to have to get better too. But we’re optimistic. We know we have a great group and good chemistry.”
Fans will get their first glimpse into the mind of Heaps when the Revolution plays Swedish side Malmo FF on Friday, January 31st at 7 PM.
(image courtesy of Kari Heistad)