Am I a New England Revolution fan? A critic? Is is possible to be both?
Whether here on Soccer Soap Box, or via snarky Twitter commentary I think I have the critic thing pretty well down. Heck, the Revolution even know me for that too, and invited me and other bloggers in to offer support of our efforts – and commendably – not to offer recommendations on our opinions.
But as I sit here knowing I best dust off the blog I’m looking for something different. You see a writing a summary of those current critiques would be an easy, too easy, blog post to write.
But like most “citizen journalists” those critiques are not always what fuels me. It’s not usually what drags me to games. Or what gets me to chase my little ones around the stadium. Or has me in the rain on mid week games from teams with fewer diehards than we’d like to admit watching teams from the Carolinas whose names I’d prefer to forget.
At the end of the day, I’m a fan too. And was a fan first.
At times I envy the unending optimism of The Rebellion and undying affection shown by the Midnight Riders, at least when I haven’t convinced myself that they just miss the poor play from that pretty tough viewing angle.
So as I fumbled through a grumpy back and forth with a coworker, co-fan, and sometimes co-critic of the New England Revolution the other day, it was clear that his outlook on the team, and its midweek performance, was quite a bit rosier than my own.
I wondered if I have I become a one dimensional, Twitter-fueled curmudgeon. Can I post a glass half full view of the Revolution’s 2011 start?
Now there’s a more interesting excercise…. could I create my very own Brad Feldman moment? When all things Revolution make sense, the field is tilted toward our goal, the other team has pictures of the ref in awkward situations with various farm animals and anything that goes against the Revs is a clear crime against soccer (or humanity.)
Here’s the irony. It’s actually quite easy to take a “glass half full” view of where the Revolution are right now. You just have to look at the things from a new perspective.
What could that perspective possibly be you ask?
Well, let’s start with the fact that the Revolution haven’t been playing particularly well. Given my past commentary, there’s no denying my view on that. But nearly every team in the league will have a patch of games where that will be said about them.
And, there are some countervailing forces at play here. (And now, I’m officially switching to fan mode… and will allow myself the inappropriate use of “we”…)
First, there’s hope to be found in the players. We’ve barely seen Marko Perovic, last year’s glimmer of hope. We’ve never yet seen Ousmane Dabo. We JUST signed a Danish striker Rajko Lekic. Rookie defender A.J. Soares, newcomer Franco Coria and Ryan Cochrane have mostly gotten the job done, and should be expected to improve with more time in MLS together. Didier Domi looks like the real deal. Kevin Alston has played a few games without grabbing his hamstring. These are good signs.
Second, there’s a significant level of parity between teams in MLS and that all teams go through bad patches. I sat through the wonderful/horrible 2002 season as a season ticket holder, not missing many (if any) games and realized that playing “pretty” and getting to the MLS Cup final are not necessarily linked.
But for that magic trick to work, teams need to get points when maybe they haven’t completely earned them. I’d suggest the Revolution have been doing just that.
Now, if we combine those two ideas… that 1) we have added some quality (even if they haven’t been able to all be on the field on the same time, or played the way we’d hope) and 2) we have picked up some points that we arguably didn’t deserve, there’s reason for optimism that we’ll see a decent year and improving quality.
You see, success for me is being able to see the Revolution play an entertaining brand of soccer and having them win games, and theoretically MLS Cups. And yes, often in that order.
So my glass-half-full view? We’ve lucked into points as our team plays its extended pre-season, welcoming in new players, and figuring out how to play together. Many other teams would have dropped those same points during their own bad-patch of soccer. We will actually earn the points when our players are healthy and things are clicking on the field.
So can we expect a free flowing brand of soccer in a few weeks that wins games and humiliates opponents? Well, I know what the fan in me is hoping for.
The critic in me, however, wants you to ask again after tonight’s game against Real Salt Lake.
Well, the RSL game has come and gone, and the question remains: how can the Revs score some more goals? Their passing has shown some periods of improvement, but the midfield seems to give the ball away all too easily. The forwards can’t do much if the ball doesn’t move down the field for them. The defense has generally been good, but it’s hard to win with so few goals!
Also, can someone explain to me the Joseph red card? So he got in the face of the RSL player, and yes, that was ill-advised. But a red card? It seems unlikely that Shalrie’s gesture was unprovoked. WAnd when was the last time that sort of minimal contact merited an ejection? So the Revs not lonly lose, but go into the next game without Shalrie.
I’ve come to see many red cards over the last few years, a situation that is one of the most damaging to the MLS as a league. Despite weekly reviews of the refs’ performance, I don’t see any accountability. No red cards are ever reversed, and we speculate later that the ref was “trying to get control of the game.” Too bad for the victimized team, whose chances for a good performance the next game are systematically diminished because the ref didn’t manage the game well.
But let’s face it, the Revs played lousy. If they had played better, they still would probably have lost, but it wouldn’t have hurt so much.
Many Revs fans have been waiting patiently for a turnaround on the scoring drought. Coach Nichol promised a better passing game this season. Does the whole midfield need group therapy?
And someday, someday… Soccer fans will look back on our era as the stone age, when available technology was shunned that could have corrected outright refereeing errors that cheat the fans out of watching a fair contest. Why can’t the MLS pioneer its use in the course of the game?
Thanks for reading and the detailed comment.
As for the Refs… well, across the league the red cards seem excessive. I will say this, I’m OK with the idea that they crack down on bad behavior if it rids the league of annoyingly childish and silly looking (pretend) fights and protect skill players. That said, keeping the same line of crackdown across the league to achieve this will be hard.
But you are right… we can scream about the Refs (and I agree, the Red for Shalrie was odd and seemingly overkill – but he needs to be smarter than to give the Ref the opportunity to make that call), the Revs didn’t lose because of the refs.
As for the Revs midfield and keeping possession… I’m worried it is less about group therapy and more about player type and skill. Hopefully a fully healthy midfield and the addition of Ousmane Dabo (if/when healthy) will be a nice change. I almost feel bad if we start the new forward against Houston… hard to imagine he’ll get a ton of service. But let’s hope some new players come in and make a statement.
“Ryan Cochrane” (I agree with the others) has been totally awful. he contantly clears balls out for throw ins which should easily be played out with pocession. his marking, i can visually remember at least 10 times thinking “why is he covering that player and he realizes his mistake then mark corrects,, well kind of four of the goals were his fault and no one else. last he adds nothing else, he is absolutely leads nothing to game changing
i said he is awful. that was far too kind, i am sure that it wouldnt be too difficult to find a much better center back at any local college. he is not mls quality, he isnt even USL quality, he isnt even MISL quality