Revolution-Earthquakes Preview

Hiring an unproven coach and installing a new system has the New

England Revolution living up to their nickname.

A slew of changes and a milestone ruling have the San Jose

Earthquakes feeling confident.

Jay Heaps looks to win his coaching debut and prove the

Revolution’s solid preseason is a sign of things to come Saturday

night when they visit the Earthquakes to open the MLS season.

New England finished at the bottom of the Eastern Conference

last season with a 5-16-13 record, failing to reach the playoffs

for a second consecutive year. That was enough to cost coach Steve

Nicol his job after 10 seasons.

With the Revs in the midst of a rebuilding project, they opted

to hire Heaps, the club’s television analyst for two years after

spending 11 as a rugged, stalwart defender – nine with New

England.

The stunning hire was followed by an equally surprising change;

the Revolution would be altering their system to a more

possession-based one to encourage offensive play.

The style showed promise during preseason, as New England won

three of four games (3-0-1), outscoring 2011 MLS Cup champion Los

Angeles, New York and Salt Lake by a combined 7-3 in those

victories.

“At times, it’s been very positive,” Heaps told the team’s

official website. “We’ve shown that we have players on the field

who, when they have the ball at their feet, can change the game and

that’s what we really want to create.

“We also have good, strong, athletic players who can also get in

behind. So we want to have kind of a one-two punch where we keep

possession and we wear teams down, but then have the ability to get

behind them.”

One of those players is Saer Sene, a French forward who was has

size (6-foot-3) and speed. He spent nearly three years with

Germany’s Bayern Munich, but was limited to playing for the reserve

team. However, he had 19 goals in 55 matches.

“He’s a great striker of the ball,” Heaps said. “Now, (the

question) is going to be can we spring him? Can we get him in

dangerous areas?”

That task will be up to a midfield that stars captain Shalrie

Joseph, U.S. international Benny Feilhaber and 20-year-old Kelyn

Rowe, the third overall selection in January’s SuperDraft.

Rowe, who left UCLA two years early, has been used in

offensive-minded roles with various U.S. youth national teams.

“We’re so excited and so looking forward to Saturday night,”

Joseph said. “Even though it’s on the road, it feels good just

getting our season started. Everybody’s just ready to get that

first kick in and get a win on the road.”

The changes could help New England, which went 1-9-7 on the road

last season. The team is 1-6-2 in its last nine visits to San

Jose.

The Earthquakes are also looking to capitalize on changes, as

they enter 2012 looking to return to the playoffs after going

8-12-14 last season.

They added midfielders Marvin Chavez, Tressor Moreno and rookie

Sam Garza along with defender Victor Bernardez to a roster that

already boasts Chris Wondolowski, who has totaled 34 goals over the

last two seasons.

“We brought in some great guys, especially offensively, and I

think that’s really going to help produce (goals) and be very

dangerous in the attack,” Wondolowski told the team’s official

website. “I know other guys are going to be scoring a lot, but I

think goal totals in general – and general play for us – will

improve.”

Wondolowski has three goals in the last four meetings with New

England, including both in a 2-1 road victory Oct. 8.

The Quakes’ optimism may also stem from last month’s unanimous

vote by the San Jose Planning Commission that approved the building

of a new stadium.