Going into this week’s bye, there’s no doubt that a number of improvements are needed before the Revolution can legitimately call themselves a contender.
The defense? Snakebitten by late goals in their last two games. The attack? Shut out in three of their first six. Yes, you could say the Revolution are far from becoming a conference powerhouse.
But even though the defense hasn’t warranted the “shutdown” label and the attack may not be setting the nets on fire, captain Shalrie Joseph believes that his team is headed in the right direction.
“I think we can take a lot of positives from the first six games,” Joseph said. “We definitely moved the ball well and created chances, and we played together as a team and it’s still early into the season.”
Still early, indeed. Although the Revs may have dropped four of their first six, there’s reason for optimism in Foxborough.
For one, there’s the emergence of two potential goal-scoring threats in Saer Sene and Jose Moreno. So far, the duo has accounted for 60 percent of the team’s goals.
Then, there’s the undeniable talent of first-round pick Kelyn Rowe. At 20, he may not be a fully polished product. But his clever passes, as well as an obvious propensity to push toward the penalty area, have made him an early Rookie of the Year contender.
And, of course, there’s Matt Reis. Through the team’s first six games, the 15-year veteran hasn’t missed a beat, and continues to help fortify a defense that’s starting to come into its own.
While head coach Jay Heaps hinted that he’s pleased with the roster as it’s constructed, he admitted that he wants to see more from his players.
“I’m really happy where we are from a talent standpoint,” Heaps said. “Now we’re getting to the area where I want to see more toughness ... more game management ... [and] more of the intangibles.”
Getting more of the above is perhaps Heaps’ greatest challenge. Although few would question his credentials as a motivator, he knows he can’t do it alone.
Enter Joseph, along with a few of his fellow veterans. While the captain has never been shy to address a shortcoming with his teammates, he hinted that his job has been made easier by the increased leadership roles others have taken this season.
“We’ve had guys step up and step in,” Joseph said. “Guys like A.J. [Soares] -- even Benny [Feilhaber] a little bit -- and Clyde [Simms] in his first year. [We] have guys in the locker room now that we can lean on.”
Another player who should help the team acquire a higher level of mental toughness and game savvy is the man between the sticks.
“[Matt] comes in every day and talks to everybody,” Joseph said. “[He] makes sure that everybody’s even ready for practice and that’s what’s going to make us stronger.”
It may be early, but Heaps is intrigued by what his team is capable of. And while there’s still work to be done, he’s encouraged by what he’s seen so far.
“I like where we’re at,” Heaps said. “We just need to get tougher and just turn the screws on a couple of areas. But in terms of talent, it’s there.”
Brian O'Connell is covering the Revolution for ESPNBoston.com. He is the co-founder of New England Soccer Today (www.nesoccertoday.com), which covers professional soccer within New England. He can be reached at BOConnell21@aol.com.