Jay Heaps directs plenty of credit to Jermaine Jones for Revs’ achievements

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The New England Revolution will drive several hours south of their home at Gilette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. to face the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena in the first leg of the Eastern Conference finals.

The stakes: a shot at the 2014 MLS Cup.

And there’s no doubt one could make the argument for both teams to contend for the title.

The Red Bulls have an exceedingly dangerous combination of Thierry Henry and high-octane goal scorer Bradley Wright-Phillips, while the Revolution have MLS MVP candidate Lee Nguyen and gritty midfielder Jermaine Jones, both of whom were included in the United States match against Columbia last week.

For the Revs, the spotlight has been trained on Nguyen, who has suddenly burst onto the scene with his 18-goal total this season, while Jones’ arrival to the Revolution in August corresponded with an even greater improvement in the Texan’s form.

According to coach Jay Heaps, the ex-Schalke man has made the team better as a whole, combining his footballing skill and strong leadership to give the Revs that vital spark.

“I think with Jermaine from Day 1 he was a part of the locker room,” Heaps said during a conference call on Thursday. “He’s a guys’ guy. He’s one of the first guys there, one of the last guys to leave. So right away, guys were gravitating toward him in the locker room.”

“For me, one of the most exciting things about his football ability is his technical ability. He’s got excellent feet, he can spray the ball and he’s can unlock defenses with a number of different penetrating balls. For us, his everyday locker room mentality and his competitiveness on the field has really come together.”