After staying up unreasonably late to watch the replay of the New England Revolution vs. Houston Dynamo game, grumbling over the result all morning and then falling asleep at the keyboard the next night, I feel I can (groggily) offer this assessment of how far the Revolution have progressed from a poor 2010.
In my last post, I tried taking the “Glass Half Full” approach to the season. While the signs of hope I called out in that post are all still true, I’m not feeling as generous today. Maybe I’m tired. Maybe I’m bored. Maybe I’m frustrated. Heck, maybe all the Revolution fans are frustrated.
I still want… no, I still need more than I’m getting right now from this team.
For perspective, back in pre-season, I made a “wish list” that fans would be hoping to see on the field. Since pre-season, some things have changed, some have not and some glimmers of hope seen in those early games never really materialized. For instance, we thought Sainey Nyassi had a good preseason and that Ryan Kinne looked like a potential upside surprise. Neither have had an impact in the regular season.
Where do we stand with some of the other wish list items? Here’s an update.
Veteran leadership: On this, the jury is still very much out. Shalrie Joseph may still be the Revolution’s best player and an MLS top eleven player, but it’s still not clear to me he is an MLS top eleven captain. Yes, the recent red card he was given was harsh, but raising your hands up to a player’s face (or close) when a referee has already proven he’s off his game, is not great decision making. Bad decision making, lacking information to the contrary, seems like “more of the same” in terms of team leadership.
A solidified backline: During pre-season, this was the area that maintained the most promise. It remains so. AJ Soares, in particular, has proven a solid addition to the team, with a demeanor that belies his rookie status. Domi, Coria, Alston, Barnes and even Cochrane have all done a decent job of making it hard for teams to score on the Revolution.
Stopping goals, however, is one job of the defense. It should also serve as the foundation of the entire team and a platform for launching attacks. The ability to effectively pass out of the back and help the team keep possession will be a tougher hurdle to jump for this group.
A trustworthy scorer: Sadly, there’s nothing of import to mention here. Of the players that have been on the roster historically nobody has made an impact. Yes, there are Zack Schilawski fans, and he sure does work hard. Marko Perovic clearly hasn’t regained sharpness since recovering from recently injuries. And Ilija Stolica… well, nobody is quite sure why Stolica hasn’t seen the field more.
Now Rajko Lekic has joined, and the weight of goal scoring now falls upon his shoulders. This is a heavy weight to bear, especially since the midfield isn’t given our forward(s) much help. The good news is that Lekic seems fit and has a good touch… and hopefully is very, very patient.
Possession oriented soccer: “We need to possess the ball better” was the coach’s refrain of choice during pre-season. “We couldn’t hold the ball” is the refrain most frequently used now to explain subpar performances. It makes me wonder if Mr. Nicol (and friends) actually believed he had the team to pull off possession soccer at this level, because at this point in the season, it’s hard to see why he would have.
When I wrote the original wish list in pre-season, there was one other factor that offered hope for possession soccer… and so I quote myself. “One hope is that if Ousmane Dabo can live up to his impressive resume and add some calmness to a frantic midfield.” And so we wait…
Creativity: Last in my pre-season wish list was the hope (beyond hope?) for some creativity in the midfield. For something unexpected. For orchestration. We have none of that.
If there is any question why there is energy – perhaps the only energy to be found in the Revolution fan base right now – is around the hope that the Revolution can bring recent MLS signee Benny Feilhaber to Foxboro. Fans, at least those that are paying attention, are looking for something to excite them. Not just a familiar face, but an unexpected play and clever pass and a bit of skill that might see the Revolution keep the ball when the going gets tough.
It’s not clear that Feilhaber will be available to the Revolution, or that the front office would pursue him. But fans everywhere know the value of investing in the dream.
Because right now, the stretches of possession the Revolution manage to deliver seem to be more about their opponents being convinced there’s not much damage that could possible come from Revolution possession of the ball, rather than the opposition’s inability to get the ball back.
And so we all dream on.