There is a strange feeling hovering around the New England Revolution’s most ardent fan base right now. And it is hard to describe.
The Steve Ralston retirement debacle was the last in a series of “can you do anything right?” moments. (Yes, I know “it was the league office’s fault”… but please, he’s a Revolution player, the Revolution promoted the game as his retirement send-off, and fans expect the Revolution front office talks to the league more than they do. It was sad.)
However, over the last few weeks odd things have been happening on and off the field. Good things. And it’s not clear the fans are at all sure how to deal with good news. And maybe rightly.
What’s been going on?
Well, for one, the Revolution have been winning some games. They might not be beautiful, they might mostly be SuperLiga and not MLS games, but they are not losing – and that’s a start.
In fact, they are even heading to the final of the odd, but nonetheless interesting, SuperLiga competition. It’s a great showing by the team, and something every supporter is happy to see.
Second, the Revolution front-office decided that in 2011 there would be seating on both sides of the field for MLS matches. (Why it was called “Full Bowl” seating when not all sections are open is, however, a mystery.)
Now let’s be clear. This is not the stop-the-presses type good news. But it is a sign of intent to create a better atmosphere from a front office often criticized for a lack of such intent.
While that interim solution was announced, news continues to be slowly leaked out about potential soccer specific stadium locations, a clear admission that Gillette Stadium is not a perfect solution. If you do not understand why, please come to a rainy midweek game. Then it will be clear.
Lastly, and maybe most importantly, the Revolution added some much-needed reinforcements to its attack. Newcomers Roberto Linck and Ilija Stolica are welcome additions to an injured, over-matched front line.
But this is where we return to why the New England fans are having such trouble feeling good. There’s a sneaking suspicion that in MLS, “good” isn’t good enough anymore.
These new players? Probably good.
The new seating? A good step.
The recent string of results? Good indeed.
But then the fans look around. And they get antsy all over again.
The Revolution’s closest (geographic) rivals add Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez on top of Juan Pablo Angel and a brand new soccer specific stadium. That just hurts.
The Red Bulls might be the Revs theoretical closest rivals. But for watchers of this team, playoff battles against the Chicago Fire probably stand out as much more of what a rivalry is made up of.
The real issue struck me about a week ago, as the Chicago Fire was up three to nothing against the Los Angeles Galaxy. It wasn’t the fact that Chicago (already an MLS Cup winner who plays in a soccer-specific stadium) was beating up the “best” team in MLS.
It was that at three to nothing, Brian McBride and Freddie Ljundberg had not even entered the match and Nery Castillo was still waiting to join the team.
That’s when it struck me that “good” may not be good enough in MLS anymore. So while the team needs to continue the “good” – and a win would certainly help – the fans will still be looking for more.
There is a need for some “great” to be sprinkled in as well. And that’s going to be a bit harder to do.