Jay Heaps knew he couldn’t stand pat following his first season as Revolution head coach.
Sure, there was improvement seen in nearly every statistical category after a disastrous 2011. New England won nearly twice as many games in 2012, and cut its goals allowed mark by nearly a quarter.
Despite the progress, the fact is the club still fell well short of the playoffs thanks to a ninth-place finish inside the Eastern Conference. Therefore, in order to return to the postseason, Heaps clearly had some work to do.
“We as a staff thought that it was really important to make moves in the offseason and to be diligent in those moves,” Heaps said.
Diligence was indeed the key in adding the pieces Heaps and General Manager Michael Burns felt the club needed to march toward its first postseason berth since 2009.
With an eye toward to adding experience to a roster brimming with youth, the first move Heaps and Burns made was the recruitment of seasoned European veteran Kalifa Cisse.
Not only did the Malian International bring eight seasons worth of experience in the English Premier League, The Championship and Portuguese Liga to the table, but he also played a premium position: defensive midfielder.
It was an impressive resume. A resume that most MLS coaching staffs would be delighted to find in their inbox. Yet, Heaps wanted more than just experienced midfielder when Cisse came to Foxboro on trial last fall.
“We really saw someone who wanted to help lead this team,” Heaps said. “We want to have him (exert) his influence and let the locker room develop a (positive) mentality.”
Days after Cisse put pen to paper on a deal with the Revolution last November, the club brought in another experienced player who, incidentally, was no stranger to New England.
Andy Dorman spent the last five seasons between England and Scotland, but not before he launched his professional career with the Revolution in 2004.
Dorman was a key figure in the Revolution’s three straight MLS Cup appearances from 2005-2007, scoring 17 goals in 112 games. It’s also worth mentioning that he and Heaps were teammates during that run of success.
So naturally, Heaps knew exactly what he was getting when he first chatted with Dorman about a return last September.
“Andy commands a certain level of respect from the players around him because he's a great locker room player that players want to be around,” Heaps said. “Not only that, but he has the international experience so now he returns with even more experience.”
Earlier this month, the club added another key veteran in Portuguese International Jose Goncalves. Like Cisse, Goncalves plays a position -- central defender -- that the front office was intent on improving prior to the 2013 season.
At 6-2, 180lbs., there’s no doubt Goncalves has the frame to become a key cog in the middle of the defense. However, Heaps and Burns are hoping that he can stay fit through a demanding 34-game MLS season after a three-season spell that only saw him play 21 games.
Time will tell whether the veteran nucleus that Heaps and Burns assembled this winter produces a postseason berth by October. After all, it’ll take more than experience and leadership for the club to climb up an increasingly competitive Eastern Conference table.
Yet, if there is one positive Heaps can draw from the additions of Cisse, Dorman and Goncalves, it’s this: all three are already in camp and have been training with the rest of the club since the start of the preseason on Saturday.
“That's great for us because the younger players can lean on them,” Heaps said. “Then (the new veterans) can learn the league a little bit in the preseason as opposed to the first or second game of the year."