Colleges

FRANK DELL’APA | SOCCER NOTEBOOK

Juan Caicedo believes he is well-prepared to transition to MLS

Juan Fernando Caicedo received plenty of offers to leave Colombia after emerging in the country’s Liga Aguila in 2010. Clubs from Argentina (Caicedo played for Independiente Avellaneda in 2014), China, and elsewhere came calling, but Caicedo did not hear from MLS until being courted by the Revolution late last year.

But Caicedo, 29, was prepared for a move to North America, having received plenty of advice about MLS from Leonel Alvarez and Octavio Zambrano, his coaches at Independiente Medellin. Alvarez played for the Dallas Burn and the Revolution from 1996-2002, and Zambrano coached the LA Galaxy and NY/NJ MetroStars and was an assistant at Sporting Kansas City.

“[Alvarez] told me about New England,” Caicedo said before Revolution practice at Gillette Stadium Monday. “We had the chance to go to Miami for a couple amistosos [friendlies] and he talked about the structure of futbol in the US.

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“He’s an excellent coach who knows a lot about the game on and off the field. He’s a great person and he was a great player, as he showed in his career. We were champions in 2016 and quarterfinalists in the Copa Sudamericana.”

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Caicedo’s sendoff game had a bittersweet ending as Independiente took a 3-1 win over Junior Barranquilla but lost on goal difference (5-4) in the two-leg final of the Liga Aguila playoffs in December.

The Revolution’s pursuit of Caicedo was revealed during the playoffs, and Caicedo discussed the situation with Zambrano.

“He said MLS is very competitive, very fast,” Caicedo said. “He talked about the country and the really great organization they have here.

“Profe Zambrano is an excellent strategist, an intelligent coach. We almost won the title in his first season. I believe we had a long winning streak at home and we qualified for the final against a great rival. We fought them to the end.”

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Caicedo, who was acquired by the Revolution on loan for the 2019 season with a permanent transfer option, appears suited to the role of a No. 9, a forward who combines composure and strength to hold possession and set up teammates with finishing instincts.

At Medellin, Caicedo teamed up front with Argentine German Cano and Leonardo Castro last season. In the last three seasons, the Medellin attack has also developed youngsters Alfredo Morelos (Rangers FC) and Juan Fernando Quintero (River Plate).

“I had the chance to go to other countries,” Caicedo said. “I went to Argentina when I was young and there was China.

“They presented this project [the Revolution] to me and I liked the idea, partly because of the lifestyle. This is a talented group.”

Clavijo left his mark

Fernando Clavijo became the fifth coach in Revolution history in December 1999 and was the first to guide the team to a .500 season, a playoff victory, and an appearance in a final.

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Clavijo, 63, who died last week after a five-year battle with multiple myeloma, also brought in most of the players that would form the base of the team that would qualify for four MLS Cup finals and reach two US Open Cup finals from 2001-07.

The Revolution experienced losing seasons in their first four years of existence. The team had been winless in the postseason and lost the only time it played in the US Open Cup. After the 1999 season, Sunil Gulati took over Kraft Soccer and hired Clavijo, who had been an assistant with the MetroStars and played for the US in the 1994 World Cup.

Clavijo’s optimism and ambitious attempts to improve the Revolution paid off with a 13-13-6 record in 2000. The Revolution defeated the Chicago Fire, 2-1, in the second game of a best-of-three playoff. But the Fire routed the Revolution, 6-0, in Game 3, exposing the team’s weaknesses. The Revolution had also lost to the Mid-Michigan Bucks in a US Open Cup match before a crowd of 1,857 at Foxboro Stadium in June.

Though Clavijo revamped the roster in 2001, and switched the formation to a 3-5-2, the team struggled and was eliminated from playoff contention early. Clavijo’s faith in competing in the Open Cup nearly paid off, though, as the Revolution reached the ’01 final, losing, 2-1, in overtime to the Galaxy.

After the Revolution got off to a 2-4-1 start in 2002, Clavijo was replaced by assistant coach Steve Nicol, who guided the team to the MLS Cup final that year, another loss to the Galaxy, by a score of 1-0 in extra time before a crowd of 61,316 at Gillette Stadium.

The Revolution returned to the MLS Cup in 2005, ’06, and ’07, winning it in ’07, with Nicol changing to a 3-5-2 alignment and deploying many of the players Clavijo had signed.

Clavijo also coached the Haiti national team and the Colorado Rapids. In 2012, Clavijo became technical director of FC Dallas, the year marking the start of the team’s eight-game winning streak against the Revolution, including a victory in the 2016 US Open Cup.

Crunch time

Liverpool FC has slumped recently, with draws against Leicester and West Ham United costing it the Premier League lead, but it remains in control of its own destiny. The Reds (20-1-5, 65 points) are tied with Manchester City for first place and have a game in hand.

Actually, Liverpool’s slide started with a 2-1 loss to Manchester City Jan. 3. The Reds have a 3-2-2 record in all competitions since the start of the year.

But coach Jurgen Klopp’s revised defense could carry Liverpool. Klopp replaced young German goalkeeper Loris Karius with Brazilian Alisson this season, and the team has surrendered a Premiership-low 15 goals.

The next two games could go far in determining Liverpool’s fate, as it plays host to Bayern Munich in a Round of 16 Champions League match next Wednesday and visits Manchester United Feb. 24.