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Revolution begin preseason training

Jose Goncalves is coming off an impressive season in which he earned Defender of the Year honors in MLS.

orlin wagner/associated press

Jose Goncalves is coming off an impressive season in which he earned Defender of the Year honors in MLS.

The Revolution took a big step forward in the 2013 season, managing to clinch a playoff spot for the first time since 2009.

But ending the playoff drought wasn’t the only bright moment.

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Eighteen-year-old midfielder Diego Fagundez proved why he is one of the best young talents in MLS, leading the Revolution with goals (13) and finishing second in assists (7). First-year center back Jose Goncalves quickly became the backbone of the team, earning MLS’s Defender of the Year award.

Perhaps the most impressive attribute that coach Jay Heaps’s team showed in his second season was the ability to finish strong down the stretch. The Revolution fought tooth and nail to earn a playoff berth, winning four times and tying twice in their final six games. Ultimately, though, they lost in the Eastern Conference semifinals against the eventual MLS champion, Sporting Kansas City.

The Revolution will start preseason training at Gillette Stadium Saturday, and continuing through Monday before they depart to train and play exhibition games in Bradenton, Fla., at IMG Academy.

Following the trip to Florida, the Revolution will travel to Tucson, Ariz., at the end of February before their MLS campaign begins in Houston March 8.

Heaps and his staff certainly have reasons to be positive about the 2014 season, but the offseason hasn’t been quiet in New England.

Matt Reis, a 16-year MLS veteran who holds numerous Revolution goalkeeping records, retired Dec. 11, after tearing tendons in his left quadriceps in the playoff game in Kansas City Nov. 6.

New England traded for Vancouver Whitecaps goalkeeper Brad Knighton, who started 11 games in 2013, and he will compete with 25-year-old Bobby Shuttleworth for the starting job.

The Revolution also managed to sign Goncalves from Swiss team FC Sion to a permanent deal, after the 28-year-old spent last season on loan here.

But question marks remain, most notably up front. Juan Agudelo, who scored seven goals in the latter half of the 2013 season for New England, will be playing in Holland for the next six months with FC Utrecht.

Agudelo signed a pre-contract last July with Stoke City in England but because his work permit was denied, the English Premier League team was forced to loan him to FC Utrecht until June.

Without Agudelo, the Revolution now have five forwards on the roster. Frenchman Saer Sene has scored 16 goals in his two seasons in MLS but might not be available to play in the opener after undergoing ankle surgery in October.

After Sene, forwards Jerry Bengtson and Dimitry Imbongo have combined for seven goals in the last two seasons. Charlie Davies didn’t score in limited playing time after he was signed last summer, and recent draftee Patrick Mullins is the other forward on the roster.

The main guard in defense and midfield returns, and will provide stability in front of the new goalkeeper. But finding a consistent goal scorer remains the biggest question mark as the Revolution enter preseason training.

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