Storylines abound as the New England Revolution prepare to take on Toronto FC at BMO Field in Toronto on Saturday. In truth, most of those storylines center around Toronto, whether it's the three players who were recently arrested after an altercation at a Houston nightclub, or the team's positively abysmal 1-10-1 start. However, one relates directly to the Revs as well: their new head coach is Paul Mariner, former Revolution assistant.
Mariner was Steve Nicol's right-hand man from 2004-2009, presiding over the most successful period in the club's history. He was on the touchline for three MLS Cup Finals appearances, the 2007 U.S. Open Cup title, and the 2008 SuperLiga title. He will be a familiar face to the Revolution players and staff; in addition to having coached several current players, he also coached Jay Heaps.
"First of all, it's going to be great to see him," said Heaps. "He's a close personal friend and confidant, someone I've leaned on for advice, not only as a player but as a coach."
It's not surprising to hear that Heaps has solicited coaching advice from his own former coach; Mariner was often seen as the attacking yin to Steve Nicol's defensive yang, and in his first season in Foxboro, Heaps has worked hard to shift the Revolution's mentality toward an aggressive desire to attack and generate offense. This familiarity - and perhaps similarity - means that Heaps himself will have some idea of what to expect from his old friend on Saturday.
"It's certainly going to be a difficult challenge," he admitted. "Paul Mariner is a very good coach, and he's taking over a team that has a lot of talent that, I think, put in the right formation and the right system, especially with the energy Paul has, can be pretty good team. You have to be ready for that."
The other big news going into the weekend was Tuesday's injury report, which listed captain Shalrie Joseph "out" with an adductor strain. Apparently he played through the pain last Saturday against Columbus after injuring himself during the game. The Revs may have some cover in the form of Clyde Simms, who looks like he may be ready to return from an injury layoff this weekend, but coach Heaps was quick to point out that counting Joseph out of the match this early would be premature.
"The report came out Tuesday. To make a decision today would be underestimating Shalrie by a long shot."