Today, in conference call with the media, New England Revolution head coach Jay Heaps expressed his intent to improve goal production in 2013, although the club has yet to sign a new proven goalscorer.
In 2012, New England scored only 39 goals all season, the fifth fewest in MLS, which contributed to their lowly 16th place finish.
Although the Revolution pulled out of their three-year nosedive last season, the club is now flying at an altitude just over the tree line and can't afford not to put a lot more balls in the net in 2013.
The burdon on Saer Sene's shoulders
Saer Sene, from a Bayern Munich reserve team, scored 11 of those 39 goals in 25 appearances before he was sidelined with a season-ending ACL injury in late August. Sene settled into MLS quickly, which is unusual, and scored the majority of his goals by the end of July, which is impressive. But coincidentally, Sene was arrested in a bizarre motor vehicle incident on July 24 and his goal production dropped off shortly after.
No other Revolution player was able to step up and fill Sene's shoes and the games soon became a grim affair. Although forward Jerry Bengtson was burning it up for the Honduran national team, he was ineffective and sometimes invisible in MLS. Highly touted striker Jose "Pepe" Moreno only played 376 minutes before he was waived. To date, no other proven goal scorer has been added to the Revolution's roster, which raises concerns about the possibility of another low-scoring season.
I asked Heaps if Sene's slump was related to the vehicular incident or to something else? Would Sene be able to repeat his early 2012 success in 2013?
"The traffic incident really had nothing to do with his play, to be honest with you," said Heaps. "It was pretty much a routine traffic stop.
Because [Sene] was the player that was scoring goals, he became more marked and our reaction to getting him the ball in different areas – he still had chances to score and maybe he missed a few of those when he was open - but he wasn’t getting as many chances like he was earlier in the year. That’s the fault of us to get him the ball more, to find ways to get him free.
Earlier in the year, we really tried to play and teams started to knock us down and really disrupt what we were doing and we have to be mindful of that this year. We tried to react to it, we tried to prepare for it, but now we know it. We felt what it felt like to get kicked every time. Lee Nguyen touched the ball and he gets whacked or Saer Sene gets kicked from behind and players were targeting our guys. How do we play better? How do we player quicker? How do we get through that? So it’s important for us to get better in that regard to create more chances for [Sene]."
So then I asked who would score goals if Sene could not.
"[Sene] is coming back from injury, so we definitely want depth at the forward position," said Heaps. "Whether you have one, two, three, four guys scoring, you always want to have as many guys out there that can score. The most important thing for Saer is getting back to his form pre-injury and the other thing is getting Jerry Bengtson in. He’s going to be gone a lot, but we’re going to get some extended time with him during preseason and after the first round of World Cup qualifiers.
When you talk about last year and Saer getting off to a good start, it was partly because he participated in our entire preseason. And to me, that’s really important for our international players, this being Jerry’s first preseason and it being Cisse’s and Jose’s and Andy Dorman’s. Those players need that type of time around the group."
Revolution GM Mike Burns confirmed the Revolution's intention to sign another forward for 2013.
"We’d still like to add an attacking player and we’d still like another player or two to the defense," said Revolution GM Mike Burns. "We’re looking at this year as Jerry [Bengtson] possibly missing a lot of games due to World Cup Qualifying and Saer [Sene] coming off of injury."
Clearly, the Revolution need another proven goalscorer and to not depend on high hopes as they begin 2013.
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