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.