(SportsNetwork.com) - The New England Revolution enter the 2015 season on the brink of a potential run of success that could mirror the great Revolution teams from the mid-2000's.
A year ago at this time, the Revs were looked at as a young team that had a solid nucleus with the potential to become wildly successful. Fast-forward to today and the club will be hoping to make the lead from MLS Cup finalist to MLS Cup winner.
Beginning in August of last season, the Revs won nine of their final 11 regular season matches and went into the playoffs in exceptional form. They dispatched Columbus and the New York Red Bulls before falling to the Los Angeles Galaxy, 2-1, in extra time.
With the core of last year's team still intact, manager Jay Heaps will be hoping that continuity wins the day in Foxborough. The club lost just two of the 18 players that suited up for MLS Cup final last December.
Defensively, the center-back pairing of Andrew Farrell and Jose Goncalves returns in full. Farrell, a former No. 1 overall SuperDraft selection, slid over from right back to the center spot and excelled, while Goncalves, who struggled early in the season as he worked through a bit of a contract dispute, rounded into form late on to lead the club deep into the playoffs.
The club lost veteran defender A.J. Soares, who left for Viking in the Norwegian top flight, but the Revs have plenty of quality to make up for his loss.
Chris Tierney will slot in at left back, while Kevin Alston will play on the other side. Tierney is a versatile player who can play in midfield as well and gets down the flank to join the attack. It was Tierney's second-half goal that pulled the Revs level in MLS Cup last December, while Alston will provide solid defensive cover and can pick his spots to get forward.
The midfield is where the Revs' bread is buttered. Scott Caldwell and Jermaine Jones will sit in defensive midfield roles, while the attacking midfield trio is where the club truly shines.
Jones, the U.S. national team star, arrived in New England in August last season and was a key contributor to the team's success down the stretch, distributing from his defensive midfield role. With Jones on board for a full season, the Revs' midfield should be firing on all cylinders from the outset.
Kelyn Rowe, a former third-overall draft selection in 2012, will slot into a left wing role. Rowe had his breakout season in 2013 when he netted seven goals in 33 games played. He followed it up with five goals and five assists last season.
The 23-year-old Washington native missed some time in 2014 due to various injuries, but when healthy he is a key piece of the core of the team -- a young, hungry player who can get forward and unleashed some wicked strikes from distance.
The crux of the New England midfield is Lee Nguyen. Nguyen had a breakout season last year with 18 goals and five assists, which almost netted him the league MVP award, but the Texas native was trumped for the honor by Robbie Keane.
Nguyen made his living last year in the creative No. 10 role, and simply killed opposing teams by making late runs into the penalty area, usually resulting in tap-in goals.
Up top Charlie Davies returns to the fray, while Juan Agudelo returns from a year-plus sojourn in Europe.
Agudelo, 22, returned to Gillette Stadium on a four-year contract after leaving the Revolution to sign with Premier League side with Stoke City following the conclusion of the 2013 season.
"Juan is a player that we always knew that we would be interested in welcoming back to the club if the opportunity presented itself, and now it has," general manager Michael Burns said in a statement. "He is familiar with our club, our coaches, many of his teammates and the system that we play so we are confident that he will be able to fit right in and help us straight away."
After making a spectacular late-season run into the postseason and a run to MLS Cup final, expectations will be high, and with almost all of the key players returning, it should be a good season in Foxborough.
ACQUISOITIONS: Juan Agudelo (F), Jeremy Hall (M), Sean Okoli (M).
LOSSES: Patrick Mullins (F), Tony Taylor (F), A.J. Soares (D)
OUTLOOK: Almost all of the pieces from last season's MLS Cup finalists are back in the fold. Losing Soares hurts a bit, but Farrell and Goncalves are an excellent defensive pair. Having a full season of Jones in the midfield along with Nguyen, Rowe and Teal Bunbury should allow the Revs to maintain their potent attack. Agudelo should settle in quickly having been with New England before, while Davies should continue his positive form from last season. Head coach Jay Heaps has an excellent club this season. They should make the playoffs with ease and could be in the mix for a top seed in the East.