Who Will Lead The Revolution?

New England Soccer Today author Brian O’Connell posted an interesting article entitled “Captain Distraction” that is worth a read.   The summary though, is that despite being a great player, New England Revolution’s captain Shalrie Joseph has demonstrated that he might not be a great leader.

The article makes some interesting points about some inexplicable absences, poor judgment and disciplinary concerns that seem unbefitting of a captain.   It also focuses on the fact that amidst all the inexperienced players, there are few players that would be willing and able to hold Shalrie more accountable for living up to the expected role and responsibilities of a Captain.

After reading the article, I was left with a few unanswered questions myself…

If Steve Nicol alone cannot instill this integrity and focus into his players, I worry that either a) the player is a lost cause to learn it, or b) Steve has lost his grip on the team.   I’m hoping there’s a “c” option that I’m not thinking of here, since those choices are not great ones for the team pulling together to rectify a pretty sad 2010 campaign.  (The “c” option is probably that we are all over-reacting, but I’m not about to let that stop my, umm, well practiced over-reacting.)

I agree with Mr. O’Connell’s position that a lack of vocal player/leaders in which to challenge Shalrie’s dominance has probably not helped keep Shalrie on top of his game leadership-wise.   I wonder if that changes at all in 2011 with a more comfortable (and comfortable with English) Perovic/Stolica combination, or the addition of a potential Domi/Dabo French connection, since both of those tandems that have seen a variety of European teams and experiences.

I also find it interesting that there did not seem to be such significant transgressions when Shalrie was hunting for the big contract.  These “issues” did become more obvious after he became a top-paid player for the Revolution though.  Coincidence?

Now, all is not lost and I don’t think most people are ready to throw in the towel on someone who is/was the Revolution’s best player.  But it also does nothing to help them marketability of the team’s star or quell angst in the team’s fan base.

In reality, there are not many other players who could step into this leadership role on today’s Revolution roster.  More than that, is there anyone who can step into the role of team superstar – either from a fan psyche or on-field production standpoint?  Most players wouldn’t be recognized outside of Foxboro today.

Matt Reis is one possibility, though I sometimes worry about a Goalkeeper as a Captain being so far from the play of the game for large stretches – but it has certainly worked elsewhere.   And while Matt has the personality to win fans over, he’s been our star keeper for a number of years and has won the hearts and minds of core fans, but I’m not sure he’s the next big mainstream star in Boston.

All this is likely a huge over-reaction to some early season missteps, but it does offer a fragile fan base one more reason to fret.   It also might drive further concerns about the criticality of landing a big name (Designated) player… which could add an experienced voice to the locker room that demands respect and could offer the marketability that the team has lost when Taylor Twellman’s career ended early due to injury.

Given all these pre-season questions, 2011 looks like it will be many things for Revolution fans, but boring is probably not one of them.

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