I don’t blog on Soccer Soap Box anymore. Not really, anyway. I mean, it’s been a
SIX YEARS SEVEN YEARS (oops) since I’ve posted anything. (Wow, is that right?) Like many things in life, my attention to the beautiful game ebbs and flows depending on what is going on in my life.
But I’ve kept the blog site. I keep it for posterity… ‘cause I like the domain… and, just in case. And, I suppose this is a just in case moment.
I’ve followed the New England Revolution for 20+ years. I’ve sat in the stands to watch them lose MLS Cups in Foxboro, MA, Washington D.C. and Los Angeles. I’ve watched them play in Canada. I’ve met players, execs and coaches. Befriended supporters. I’ve lurked and/or posted in the #NERevs world from time to time, for a long time. My kids have gotten *more* into the team now that we left New England for a return to NJ, and we even made it to three away matches this season.
All that being true, I’ve always been reasonable level-headed for a “supporter”… and was quick to drop critiques on the team, when needed.
But after last night, sitting here in the paradise that is BVI (very luckily on a work-sponsored event), on a sketchy VPN and wifi, I watched the team. And I sit here now, post beach morning, maybe just looking for a form of therapy. I decided that I had to work through what happened last night as the Revolution lost to NYCFC after a Supporter’s Shield winning season by typing.
Bottom line: It sucks. But, let’s not pretend that it’s a shock.
I, like pretty much all Revs fans, was occasionally annoyed that the team didn’t get more respect during this record-setting season. Despite running away with the East and winning the overall points total with relative ease, it seemed hard for pundits to give the Revs “their due.”
But, there was always something else going on.
I missed very, very few games this year on the TV. And yet, the amount of games I can recall that the Revolution dominated, really dominated, on the field were few and far between.
We’d pull wins from our stars doing something brilliant. Or a great move of passing/crossing from our athletic (and much improved) backs. Buksa came of age. Gil was a master most of the time. Bou was brilliant, if only occasionally. Tajon was good enough to get a ticket to Europe. Turner played himself into the National Team picture, even if riding a bit of early-season form more than today’s form.
And despite all of that, and playing “good soccer”… we rarely bossed games. We rarely felt “in control” of the proceedings, with a few notable exceptions.
Many of our wins, felt like they could have gone the other way if the ball bounced a bit differently.
Listen to interviews with Bruce Arena this year when he’s asked how good this team is. Paraphrasing his answers, it’s akin to “we’re OK.” Sure, some of that is is Bruce being Bruce. But, when he’s asked about the best teams he has coached. Without a pause, he talks early-MLS D.C. United. Every. Time.
We were good, but we were not quite as good as we looked on paper.
So, what happened yesterday? A very good NYCFC team met a very good Revolution team, and beat us in penalties.
Was it the 23 day break? It probably didn’t help, but I think that’s a bit of a cop-out.
Gil was “good” last night, but not at the level of greatness we’ve seen him at. Bou was pretty anonymous. Turner couldn’t pull magic PK stops out of his hat like he has in the past. Heck, our Icelandic international was subbed on and then off again.
It wasn’t lack of heart, they played hard. They came back twice. They lost in the crapshoot of a shootout.
Basically, the ball didn’t bounce our way this time.
If I look at where this team is versus the worst-parts of the final games of Jay Heaps’ or Brad Friedel’s tenure (despite him getting us some great players), we’ve come a LONG way.
That doesn’t make this a ton better to deal with. It doesn’t solve the “what ifs” and it doesn’t stop me from wishing things went differently. Could the Revs have won it all? Sure.
But this is MLS, and this is the MLS playoffs, literally any of the teams COULD have won it all.
2021 was a great year for the Revolution, but our results flattered us a bit this season. And that’s OK. Luck often comes most to those who work the hardest.
But, Bruce knew. We all sort of knew. And now we look forward.
Maybe the “crayon flag” is indeed cursed… if so, that’s done.
Now, let’s get the coaching situation sorted out (Really? How is this a thing?) and some replacements brought in for Tajon and where we need some upgrades.
C’mon 2022. C’mon you Revs.