Is Steve Ralston’s Return to the Revolution Good News?

Steve Ralston is back with the New England Revolution.  Revs fans are rejoicing the return of one of their favorite, most dependable and talented players. 

As one of those fans, I should be screaming, “Thank god, the Ralston-forcements are here!”   And to a degree I am, but only to a degree.

In fact, it pains me so to say that this is the worst good news I have heard for a long time.

Let’s start with why this IS clearly good news for the Revolution.

Steve Ralston is a great player.  Be it his status as the first-ever MLS rookie of the year, his league leading number of starts or assists, or the simple intelligent play he brought to the hectic Revolution midfield for as long as fans can remember.  It is clear that Steve is easily in a rare class of MLS elite.

Steve Ralston appears to be a great guy.  I’ve briefly met him a number of times at games and season ticket holder events, and while certainly I don’t know him, he always lived up to his reputation as an excellent person.

Steve Ralston seems to be a great teammate and captain.   As captain of the Revolution, Steve clearly had the respect of his teammates.  Many have talked publicly about how hard a loss he was to the team and the locker-room when he left for A.C. Saint Louis.  It was no surprise that Sainey Nyassi gave up his number 14 immediately upon Ralston’s return.

(And especially important THIS week…) Steve Ralston is a United States National Teamer.   He wasn’t on any recent roster, but no player that scores against Mexico is ever forgotten.

Clearly, I’m “pro-Ralston” and happy to see him back with my local team.

So, why is this the “worst good news” I have heard for a long time?

As I look around the league, I see things to get excited about.  New stadiums, exciting new players (designated or otherwise) and even (occasionally) attempts at fluid, attacking soccer.

When I see the Revolution, I mostly see a team that is trying to be as good as it once was, and trying to regain that consistent strength through minimal, incremental steps.   The mentality that seems to suggest, “Who knows, maybe Steve Nicol can draft another Clint Dempsey every year…”

For a moment, compare the Revolution to the (still very much imperfect) New York Red Bulls, who – for years – were a league laughingstock. 

All of a sudden the Red Bulls have arguably the best soccer stadium in the country, dedicated and respected Designated Player who brings quality to their team, and it looks like they will be adding a top international player after the World Cup in the form of Thierry Henry.  Sure, they have their issues, but that is a list worth getting at least a little excited about.

What newsworthy steps have the Revolution taken to improve?  Gibbs and Burpo were good additions.  The new rookies are fine.  (Yawn.)  Khano Smith is back.  (Wait, is that a positive addition?)   Perovic seems skilled.

But the biggest news? We welcomed back a mid-thirties, ex-Revolution captain with a knee brace

Despite knowing that he will help our team, this is the “worst” good news because the Revolution’s fans expectations are now so low, this probably will keep them happy for a while. 

But it won’t add to their number.  And it won’t fundamentally change much.

Welcome back Steve, you were missed.  The team should have made it so you never had to leave, and we’d instead be announcing some great big additions to “your” team this week.

Well, hey, maybe next year…

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