Scapegoats And Attitude Adjustments

It’s been so long since I’ve written something for the blog I’m not even going to try to justify it. As a much overused phrase in my vocabulary plainly states: it is what it is.

But what then motivated me tonight to clack away at the keyboard when there are plenty of other worthwhile things to be doing (not the least of which would be catching up on sleep)…

In reality, it was the realization that I just tweeted about: That Revolution fans, of which I am one – if not the most robust “NETID” type – sometimes can often be our own worst enemy. OK, maybe it’s the most active and social-media engaged fans that have the issue, but heck, that’s the circle I spin in.

The specific issue was a fairly innocuous tweet from now ex-Rev Benny Feilhaber. In responding to positive, welcoming tweets from his new, hometown fans in Kansas City, where it was suggested to him that they were the “best fans in the country”, Benny responded.

Without other color added to this, Revolution fans decided Benny was suggesting that the home fans here in New England were yelling at him. I saw the localized uproar before reading the tweet and allowed myself to take the same reading of it.

But why? I mean, it’s a possible interpretation I suppose. But clearly not the only one. Later, after being called to the mat for it, Benny clarified.

Oh, that does make sense actually. Never mind.

But who cares, right? This was just a momentary Twitter misunderstanding/flare-up. It happens. Benny, frankly, dealt with it well and even said “no worries. I like passionate fans!!” in reply to fans realizing they jumped on him for a misinterpretation.

But why bother writing about any of this, done and dusted, right?

Well, sort of.

You see, as much as I just painted Benny in quite a mature light for his handling of the tweet-down he was getting from over anxious New England fans, he did have a history of somewhat pedantic behavior on the field for New England. There were times were it was clear his frustration was growing and he’d seemingly let himself get taken off his game as he spent too much time worried about calls and what didn’t go right.  And that hurt.

But this post isn’t an indictment of Benny. I was one of the many who was quite excited about his arrival. For a number of years, skillful and creative were not words quickly associated with what the Revolution showed on the field. But they were craved.

Benny became a potential emergency life raft in our sinking ship of soccer. He was known as a technical player with an eye toward the creative pass. And who can ever forget that Gold Cup golazo against Mexico?

But let’s face it, during his tenure here, the Revolution weren’t very good. Wait, let me be clear, the Revolution were bad.

Was that Benny’s fault? No.

Was he faultless?  No.

Did his occasional look of discontent and appearance of an attitude issue help turn fans against him? You bet.

But here’s the irony: Benny’s apparent attitude issues that so angered the New England fans so much are more or less the mirror image of the attitude issues they (we) are guilty of from the (especially digital) sidelines.

Frustration.

Being overly vocal about complaints.

Sometimes not getting along with the team.

So Revolution fans, it’s time to come to grips with something. Benny may not be the best teammate in town. Moving him might well have been the right move for a number of reasons.

But as the optimism of pre-season kicks in, let’s not scapegoat a talented player as WHY the team was bad for these few years, and let’s not be shocked if he fits in better with Sporting KC.

The Revolution’s problems were quite a bit deeper than that and shipping away one malcontent doesn’t fix all the performance ills. The team’s likelihood of living up to the attacking, passing, skillful brand of soccer our young coach has promised fans last year are far from guaranteed in 2013. In fact, the three most prominent additions to the team this offseason were a rookie defensive back, a big European center-back that appears to be fighting two young defenders for a starting role in pre-season, and a midfield enforcer who last played in rough-and-tumble English leagues. Not exactly Brazilian midfield maestros.

Might they provide the cover needed to let our more creative players like Lee Nguyen make their mark? Maybe.

But dumping our failures on one skillful player’s questionable attitude is a bit short-sighted, a bit of an over-reaction and probably not very mature.

Which, if we’re honest, sounds a lot like how would describe the player who we chose to blame and ship away.

The question remains, if we aren’t better in 2013, who gets the blame then?

And as we go into the new season, which attitude issues should worry us more; those of an ex-Revolution player or our own?

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Moreno Said What?

Please note dear readers, this is not a blog.  I’m going to try hard not to even have an opinion on the following translation… but, that’s probably not possible.  But it’s not a blog, because, if I blog about something right now, it should really be about my first ever Revolution away match this weekend.  That’s blog-worthy.  But that would take more time and mental energy than I have right now.

But, I was asked for some help with translating a “FutbolRed” article about Jose Pepe Moreno (remember him?) that Bent Musketeer, Rebellion super-fan and newly engaged all-around decent dude Brendan Schimmel sent my way.  Who could say no to that guy?

Feel free to play around with your favorite online translator with the article at your own pace (“Jugaba en un equipo sin sangre”, afirmó ‘Pepe’ Moreno), but here’s my take.  I’ll gloss over some parts and highlight some others.  Hey, given my soccer-blogging-translation-services salary, stop expecting the world, will ya?

Overall, Moreno affirms the fact that he regretted joining MLS and decided to return to Colombia.  The exact circumstances of that return are a bit odd according to this, as he makes it sound like the Revolution tried to keep him for three more seasons and made attractive financial offers to do so.  But he decided to go home.  The article also says he missed almost two months due to an ankle injury “caused by the synthetic turf” where the Revolution play.

How much of this is a player saving face, and how much is reality, we’ll probably never know. The more juicy bits for me, however, were not about his contract.  Regarding the team, he had these things to say.

He said they appeared to want him to be bored, they took him to all the games but didn’t play him.  He said after they lost seven or eight games, he told the coach that in Colombia the coach would have been fired already and the players would need to leave the stadium under police protection.  “Because of this, I started to collide with the coach a lot.”  Well, the direct translation would be that he started to “hit” with the coach a lot, but overall it means they would not see eye to eye.

He goes on to say, and this is where it gets interesting: “I expected more from the sporting side, even though before traveling there I had seen that they were last the previous seasons, but they had brought in good players, however, there was much coldness in the group, it was a team that hadn’t any blood.”  I’d take that blood to mean the team had no passion, no soul, something to that end.  Which makes sense, as he continues…

“The players come from the universities and it appears that nothing matters. Whether we win or lose, they hit the disco and get back late to the hotel.”

Ouch.

After that, he speaks of trying to find a club for next season, that he’s spoken to first-division Huila, but they couldn’t find an offer that works.  He says he’s had offers from the second division in Colombia, but he’s waiting for a good offer.

Some of this is clearly sour grapes from a player who never fully wanted to be here.  Of that, there is no doubt.

But some of this, it should be argued, are comments by a player who has seen a number of teams in a number countries indicting the drive and seriousness – note, not the talent – of the New England Revolution.

Well the offseason started about 24 hours ago, Mr. Heaps.  The one thing nobody expected you to struggle with this year was heart and soul.  A veteran striker (potential head-case that he may be), just told the world your team “no tiene sangre”, what’s the plan to prove him wrong?

#Revs Ridiculousness and Real Fandom

Well, it’s back. It only takes a single tweet to ignite a debate in #Revs land about the hashtag #Revs.

(Let me note right up front, there’s thread here that I do agree with, which goes something like this “For goodness sake it’s only Twitter.”  True.  If you are firmly in that camp, please, just move on or you’ll be driven – even more – crazy.)

So back to the fire burning on Twitter, where you’ll note I was not a fire-starter.  I’ve seen the apathy or lack of understanding and (had) decided 140 character debates weren’t worth it. But, as a fan who thinks logic might help the team, a silly self-promoter and someone interested in the topic of Twitter use for marketing, etc. I do jump in when baited.  I’m more gasoline than match, I suppose.

So since 140 character sound-bites feel good, but explain little, I’ve again resorted to a blog post.  Again. I’ve just re-read my original post called #Revs Delusions Of Twitter Grandeur and I still stand by the logic and reasoning.  If you want to spar on Twitter or wherever – please read that first.  I won’t repeat all the points again – but they are valid and foundational.

But I figured I’d comment on activity I’ve watched pass by on Twitter recently and add a few other comments.  BUT PLEASE READ THE LAST ARTICLE TO UNDERSTAND HOW MY VIEW IS FORMED. Some of the quotes here are from my good friends, terrific, well-intentioned people – who are just wrong.

When I think about this, do I think about it as a Revolution fan or as a Revolution-watcher with an interest in marketing and social-media strategy?  The latter.  As a fan, I understand the “don’t surrender” mentality, but as a thoughtful watcher I giggle at its uselessness.

The entire crux of the issue can be summed up with two simple questions.  What do we think the reasons of having, and having the team promote, the #Revs hashtag are?  Do you think the current environment surrounding the hashtag would be viewed as successful if balanced against those goals?

If you think the goals are about positive promotion, engaged fans, increased and balanced news and conversation – I’d say the results, while not zero,  are a far cry from where they would be without all the “noise” associated with #Revs.  The team promoting the “noisy” hashtag makes it look that much worse.  If it was “just” the fans, so be it.

Now onto the Twitter logic fantasies…

“It’s OUR hashtag.”  My previous post already discusses the absurdity on claiming something is ours in a social-media world.  It “feels good” to defend the un-defendable, but look where it gets you. It gets you to “I’m WASTED.” in one tweet, and season-ending surgery for a player in the next.  Show me the trade-mark, I’ll show you what’s yours.

“Our #Revs will outlive their bar.”  Really? What if the Revolution Bar chain becomes the TGIF of the UK?  What if the Revolution are rebranded when Santander gives cheap funding for a Soccer Specific Stadium? (Ha.)  What is the obsession with these stupid letters?  Pride over logic.

Various forms exist in the idea that “We’ll flood it with our own content until they submit to our awesomeness.”  The first article covers this as well, but 1) they don’t use Twitter like we do, 2) they don’t care, and most telling – wouldn’t we see THEM bitching on the how we are abusing what they think is “theirs” just the way we do?  THEY DON’T CARE, SO WE CANNOT WIN IN THAT WAY.

A popular, and understandable concern is “What message would it send?” First, what message does it send now?  What does it say to an on-the-fence Revolution fan? It says: bush league.  Every AM we are filled with wasted youth and ridiculous statements.  Is that a better statement?

NOTE THIS: my original article was written in FEBRUARY.  What would this discussion be if we made a logical change then?  Dead. We’d have been annoyed for a few weeks, but it would have been over.

(Sure naysayers, it’s possible – though extremely unlikely – that we could run into this problem with whatever else we choose.  A) probably not.  B) they’d need to be similarly bizarre users to our current UK friends to not care about all the noise.)

Another refrain: “#Revs is fine when there’s news.”  Great.  And when the Brits are sleeping during our PR cycle.  And the moon is in the right phase and the tides are in. C’mon. The positive halo effects of those rare wins for us are very short lived.  And then we’re back to the same ridiculousness.

And lastly, there’s the concern that if we all – or at times me in particular – stopped talking about it and just invented (my word) things to discuss about our lagging team, this wouldn’t be an issue.

Fine.  I realize my version of fandom isn’t everyone’s.  I’ll get painted as the ultimate advocate for surrender.  Admittedly, as I’ve written about, I’m not a card-carrying #NTID guy, per se.

But I very much want soccer and the Revolution to survive and thrive.  I’ve been a season ticket holder.  I’ve bought the merch.  I’ve dragged the kids.  I’ve stood in RFK to watch the lose that heartbreaking final.  Thriving , to me that means we need both die-hard, bleed for the team fans as much as we need logic and good decision-making.

So yes, sometimes I am slow to jump on the positivity and find it easier to critique. Sometimes calling a lemon a lemon (which is what we’ve been given) is indeed easier than trying to make lemonade.  It’s not my job as an outside onlooker to be the beacon of positivity and promotion or chief lemonade maker.  Serve me some though, and I’ll drink. It happens from time to time because I’m ALSO a fan.

But we cannot simultaneously claim that nobody holds the Revolution to task in the media, and then also harass the independents – even as obscure as I – for calling out a failing.  And the Twitter strategy (strategy used lightly) is failing.

I cannot wait to read to commentary from on the real fans on #Revs, amongst the high-heels, sleazy boys, proclamations of drunkenness and vodka related noise.

Nachoversy 2012

I think it might be illegal for me to blog too frequently, so let me keep this brief and based on the topic – extra snarky.

Trigger happy #Revs twitter-ites have gone ballistic over a relatively benign New England Revolution family discount offering for “Hispanic Heritage Night.”  (Click link, pretend not to see the Patriots wording in the URL and read the information, please.)

Basically, it’s a discounted family ticket 4-pack with free soda and nachos.  And therein lies the problem.  Associating hispanic fans to nachos has been labeled everything from clueless to near-racist.

After already having posted some Revolution commentary this week I planned to stay out of the fray, that is until I saw a good piece about the subject over at The Drug is Football.  Please go read it, I’m too busy to recreate good thinking.

But about half-way through an overly-long comment I was about to write responding to it, I decided to just post it here.  (See why you need to go read it now?)

I agree with the post on a number of levels, one of which being that this is more about a missed opportunity than anything remotely bordering on racist. For goodness sake. Tacky? Sure.  Clueless, maybe.  Potentially insensitive? I suppose. But certainly harmless.

I’m not of Hispanic descent, so I’ll pick my words as carefully as I can here.  That said, my kids are half Colombian, so maybe that makes me a quarter Latin?  (No, it doesn’t work that way, but I digress…) And with friends, family and in-laws I am lucky to have some touch with Colombian, Mexican, Peruvian and Puerto Rican cultures to only name the most obvious ones.  (And hey, I have a black friend to, so I’ll also help solve all the racial issues in the world. C’mon, why so serious Revs fans?)

So first off, as a gringo, I think we all need to relax a bit. You have to see the irony that a bunch of white dudes (for the most part) are all up in arms about this. I bet many Latino fans a) don’t know, and b) could care less.  God forbid I write… C) would probably eat the darn nachos and not have thought about this in the least.  Worse, D) are gonna be pretty ticked off if we screw up this free nacho thing.

Anyway, what The Drug is Football post helps make clear is that it’s less about how offensive this is and more about what COULD HAVE been.

The idea to have a local restaurant/caterer participate would have been great – but giving up the concessions revenue for a relationship building experience would take a long-term perspective. I don’t know that we have that.

I mean, they already don’t make people pay to park their burros… (sorry, that was too easy to pass up.)

Another idea, why not use our Latin imports as “teachable moments” — perhaps Colombian and Honduran cuisine, for example, to celebrate our players from those countries. (Sorry Hispanic revs I forgot… moving fast here.)  Maybe some other culture expressions surrounding those countries – music or otherwise.

(And by the way, I know that even the Colombians dig a good Mariachi band for a pre-wedding ‘serenata’ – it cannot be explained, but my ears don’t lie. So again, let’s all take a deep breath.)

Anyway, I’d be all in for an arepa con queso… so call that Colombian lady from the Boston Common.  Now we are talking.

All that said, I think that (after reading this and retweeting it, of course) everyone should just take a step back from the hashtag, grab some nachos and chill out.  We are clearly making a mountain out of a nacho-hill.

The bigger problem is that we need some POSITIVE mountain building, but we can work on that tomorrow, can’t we?

The (Revolution) Thrill Is Gone.

Judging by activity on Soccer Soap Box you wouldn’t think that I’ve been an active Revolution watcher in 2012.  In fact, you might have thought I fell off the earth if you weren’t following on Twitter. But job changes, family obligations and good weather conspired against blogging and pushed me towards the 140 character variety of self-expression.  Ah, yes, Twitter: blogging-lite. So easy, it’s like cheating.

So it turns out I’ve not fallen off the earth, but like most people, I haven’t been to many Revolution games in person either. I have, though, watched nearly every game.  So despite a clear enthusiasm lag, I’ve far from ignored the team. But there’s more, and it is undeniable… my emotional connection to the Revolution has been tested this year.  It’s like a long-term marriage that has kept all the familiarity but lost all of the energy and intrigue. (Mrs. Soap Box, please note, I speak only theoretically, we’re all good.  Now, back to the program…)

Soccer, for me, is a game of passion and beauty.  I want to be enthralled.  I want to think the team I’m watching can deliver something of an emotional connection both on the field and in how they view the game and conduct their business. Yes, I want to see victories, but the intangibles are probably, or nearly, as important for me.

Sadly, the Revolution aren’t living up to such expectations.  (Mine or pretty much anyone else’s.)   The team has largely been incapable of creating the beautiful game on the field, certainly have continued having trouble creating passion within the fan base and simply doesn’t make decisions I can defend with both my heart and head being in agreement.

The year started positively enough, at least relative to the debacle of 2011, with an attempt at a fresh style and with a young and popular (as a player) new head coach.  New players, like Lee Nguyen brought skill and optimism. Possession improved and we occasionally didn’t boot the ball up field. It was delusional bliss, and I miss it so.

On top of that, the addition of three Colombians appeared to add skill, experience and guile from my adopted second country – heck some of these player acquisitions were announced when I was vacationing in Colombia… things looked – and felt – pretty good.

And while I was worried that appointing Jay Heaps head coach was an underwhelming and risky decision – thinking he was too inexperienced to right a ship that clearly needed a special brand of leadership (or quite possibly an exorcism), he’s a hard character to root against and I was willing to buy into the “we will attack”  battle cry.

But it wasn’t to be, was it?

The Revolution will miss the playoffs again, and were simply not good enough to suggest they deserved better.

So where are we?

Ironically, the team is full of good players.  The problem, is that ‘goodness’ is no longer enough across a team – some level of greatness is required. And we lack greatness.

Let’s review… our most exciting import?  (Arguably) Saër Sène.  He’s good.  Is he great? Not clear.  Maybe, but ‘great’ would bring that left-footed magic as well as the ability to occasionally win a header and an intensity that sometimes seems missing.  There’s potential for greatness though if he’s not done growing.

Jerry Bengston? He had a great Olympics, but has only looked good for the Revolution.

Lee Nguyen.  Certainly a good MLS player.  Can he be great at this level?  Maybe.

I could go on and on, but fundamentally the Revolution lacks stand-out leaders. It lacks All-Stars, officially or otherwise.

So to find “greatness” shrewd personnel moves would be required. It is far from clear that the Revolution have made the wisest personnel moves or that they even get the best out of what they have. Though, this year it’s the personnel decisions that baffle me most and have sucked the much of the passion out of me.

I am on record as thinking that trading Shalrie wasn’t the worst idea – and I can still see the rationale. He was not the same player from a few years ago, yet he was being paid based on that history, and certainly not his current performance.  Of course, his presence hasn’t really be replaced.

The Pepe Moreno fiasco isn’t worth commenting on at this point.  His arrival was a mess so his departure certainly was neither a surprise nor a real disappointment.  But let’s be clear, though imperfect, the guy didn’t get into European clubs because he couldn’t kick a ball.  What a mess.

Another head-scratcher was the undying affection for the Bromance-duo of AJ Soares and Stephen McCarthy.  Fine guys, but would they be a center-back pairing on any other MLS team?  Doubtful.  Unless John Lozano keyed the coach’s car, I’ll never understand how we walked away from a center-back with good history in the Colombian league without giving him a real run out.

Now, this will probably set off some warning bells for folks, but the last games, for me, are perfect examples of how my views of what I want to watch are nearly not the same as what the team is thinking.  On the bench Benny Feilhaber and Fernando Cardenas watched Ryan Guy and Kelyn Rowe get the start.

Really?

Sure, Rowe got a (deflected) goal.  And he’s a good player, a solid rookie who probably has a nice little MLS career in front of him if he keeps improving.  Heck, the Revolution fans even voted him “Man of the Match” for last game. (Oh those Revs fans, they never miss a goal…)

But for my eyes, when Cardenas is on the field the team the moves the ball more quickly and play wakes up. It becomes watchable and interesting.  He’s imperfect too, no doubt, but it is baffling he’s on the bench for this team – one that is static and constantly in search of the unexpected.  Yeah, yeah, “super-sub.”  We’ve all heard it – and some of you are guilty of saying it, “clearly, Fernando is better coming on late and running at tired defenders.” (When isn’t that the case?  Isn’t that patently true of any player? “Messi would be more effective coming on against tired defenders.”  Ugh.)

The Super-sub cliché is a great way to write off a player you cannot figure out how to properly integrate.  On a team this devoid of movement and ideas, that’s a darn shame.

And Ryan Guy. He works hard and is a good player. Better than Benny Feilhaber?  Not for my money.

My last blog (from what seems like years ago) was about how – during an almost-good stretch of Revolution soccer – Benny seemed to have a vastly improved on-field demeanor attitude.  Well, he’s struggled to get time recently and the team hasn’t done that well either.

Both of these examples show a lack of conviction to prioritizing skill and creativity in choosing players. Rowe and Guy instead of Cardenas and Feilhaber suggests effort over style is still the plan.  The team’s style has taken a step backwards since the beginning of the year, which points to a lack of belief that they can win with attractive football.  I blogged earlier this year that if nothing else, I hoped the Revolution would “keep the faith.” That faith seems betrayed.

Let’s be clear… I know it’s not exactly Rowe vs. Cardenas or Feilhaber vs. Guy, but the comparison it creates is illustrative as far as priorities, decision-making and what type of product we’ll see on the field. Maybe if the Revs were winning ugly, it would be forgiven.  But it’s not.   The team appears half-committed to half-attractive soccer.  It remains a team without a discernible style.

This all points back to an initial worry – is Jay Heaps really ready to fix this mess?

The evidence before us is damning. Young players that aren’t game changers get more faith that seems logical. One time stars fall out of favor (Joseph, Feilhaber.) Commitment to attractive soccer has waned. Players that might be on the verge of “great” are stuck squarely in “good.”

I’m not sure what the final games of another throw-away season can show us, and despite my sliding passion… but I’m sure I’ll watch.  I’ll almost certainly tweet.  I may even blog.

But will I be connected?  Enthralled?

Right now I sense that might it take World Cup qualifying, not the Revs, to rebuild such passion.

And you tell me, what does all that say for MLS?  It is bad that a team can so frustrate a die-hard fan and squelch his hope for seeing attractive soccer in his own backyard, or it is a positive development that the league has improved enough to have marginalized teams that simply are good, but not great.

I’d normally close this post with a request for ‘greatness.’  But I’m tired: of the night, of the season, of the same-old, same-old.

So screw greatness, just give me a sign you and I speak the same soccer language. I am not writing off the idea that I could fall in love all over again.  But as they say, once-bitten twice-shy.  I have a couple season’ worth of really bad bite marks on me, so you better get working.

Benny’s Big Bounce

The Revolution have offered an entertaining, if ulcer producing, last few games. Last minute goals secured last-second ties where losses seemed imminent.  It was entertaining and both encouraging (we did come back!) and frustrating (but we could have, should have, won!) stuff.

As we look back, amid the discussion of tactical adjustments, substitutions, defensive lapses, last minute heroics and (clearly) offside goals, one element that you hear much less about is attitude. Rather, you’ll hear a good deal about the “fight back” spirit that is within the team, but much less about the attitude that has been removed. And right now, both are noteworthy.

The fighting spirit is not to be dismissed, certainly, and it was sorely lacking in many of last-year’s games, where it became clear that the coach and players had lost the plot. I sense, as would many Revolution fans I guess, that these two last-second ties would have been defeats last year.

And that alone is something to celebrate.

I don’t know if the main reason for this positive change is Coach Jay Heaps and his staff, but he/they certainly must be a key element. If there were questions about the new Coach’s tactical acumen or experience (there were), there never was any doubt about his drive or energy. It seems we are seeing the affects of that now.

There’s another attitude adjustment that simply cannot go ignored. And that is the turnaround in play and approach from Benny Feilhaber. In fact, The Bent Musket just named Benny Feilhaber player of the month for June.

And in yet further proof that while my procrastination with this blog has helped my tan this summer, it’s done little to help my big-breaking-idea production, Steve Stoehr noted in the previously mentioned piece in The Bent Musket, that in 2011 Benny was seemingly “ hot tempered and out of sorts” and that recently he’s, instead, been “keeping his cool” this year.  This is something I’ve also noted, and been waiting to discuss for some time – but then decided to float around Barnegat Bay on vacation, instead.

While this notion of an attitude change is noted in The Bent Musket’s article, it isn’t a focus. Instead, the role change from wide midfielder, to more of a central attacking midfielder is the focus.

I don’t disagree with the significance of that change. Getting Benny to feel more a part of the game, more central and getting more touches is a good thing, and part of his continued upswing in form.

But the attitude change has been something that I’ve been marveling at. Forgetting for a moment the cause, Benny seemed equally ready to yell at refs, gesticulate and teammates that let him down or otherwise sulk on the field.

And this is an assessment from a Feilhaber fan. I was ecstatic when Benny came to the team, and excited about the possibilities such a skillful player might bring. But the attitude seemed not to match the skills, and that was saddening (and maddening.)

But, luckily, that was 2011.

In 2012, we’ve seen a very different Benny Feilhaber.

Does he he ever yell at a ref? Sure. But, it’s not with the unnecessary histrionics that we saw in 2011.

More importantly, we haven’t seen the glaring disappointment cast toward teammates when passes didn’t go to their intended location, or went unreturned after a run. We’ve also seen a significantly increased defensive work-rate.

The Bent Musket having appointed him the Player of the Month is a sign that others too are seeing this change. And all Revolution fans are certainly happy about it.

But it brings up an interesting question… why the change? I certainly don’t have any definitive answers for this, but here’s a few thoughts to keep in mind.

The 2011 Revolution Reality Check – Benny’s career has taken a pretty bumpy path to the Revolution, and he landed into MLS, without knowing what team he’d be on. “Lucky” him, it was a terrible Revolution team, one that would finish the season with only five wins, miss the playoffs, replace its coach and generally not play great soccer. That’s a tough landing for a player that undoubtedly thinks/knows he can play at a high level. Getting accustomed to that new reality is certainly going to affect one’s mental approach.

The 2012 Reboot – The Revolution have changed quite a bit in 2012, and this change has helped a number of areas, including Benny’s focus and attitude. Since so much has changed, that makes it increasingly difficult to pinpoint what new puzzle pieces might be making the most significant impact here, but having more skillful players around him, having a refreshed/refocused coaching staff guiding the team and having the goal of a style which will see him (and he whole midfield) much more involved than previously, all seem like obvious improvements.

Fireside Chats – Now, I don’t have a clue what, if any, conversations (one on one, or otherwise) Jürgen Klinsmann might have had with Benny. (And given some of Klinsman’s proclivities, maybe there haven’t been any?) But, might he have laid out a few “to be worked on” areas for Benny to get back to the US National Team lineup? Or, might Jay Heaps sat his star midfielder down and told him he needs to up his game – and bring the attitude in-line with his skills? As I offered, I couldn’t tell you – maybe both or neither of these fictional chats happened, but it’s not out of the question either.

The Waiting Game – What Revolution fans don’t know much about (unless I’ve missed something) and certainly must hope to NOT be a factor, would be Benny’s contract status and his real desire to be a New England Revolution player long term. LET ME BE CLEAR that I’ve never seen or heard anything that suggests Benny is looking to depart New England, but one imagines he has bigger goals in mind. Perhaps then, it wasn’t a coach that had a fireside chat with Benny, but his agent?

A Maturation Process – Perhaps, despite all my plausible explanations, Benny’s change of temperament is simply the maturation of an extremely skillful player whose frustration at not achieving his goals in the manner he expected to was coming to the surface. It might be as simple as a new understanding that to reach his full potential, there’s a time to get down to business and let the play on the field do all the talking.

Frankly, we’ll probably never know what has led to the attitude turnaround – and stellar play – from Mr. Feilhaber, and if you are a Revolution (or US Men’s National Team) fan, you probably don’t truly care, as long as it continues.

Either way, congrats to Benny and congrats to the Revs for giving a platform for him to make this adjustment.

As Revolution fans, we can only hope that MLS, Mr. Heaps and Mr. Klinsmann can conspire to keep him happy, productive and local, for some time to come.

A wonderful article (dissertation) on the Revolution’s challenges getting local attention and a great interview with Revs assistant David Vaudreuil on many things, including our soccer culture. A must read…

RevsNet

A VIEW FROM THE FORT By Jim Dow

Although the “official” attendance read well in excess of 12,000 it is hard to believe there were half that many hardy folks sitting and standing in last Saturday’s sodden conditions when the Revolution and the goal posts held the Fire’s feet to the fire for a deserved 2-0 victory. And while this display may have helped to some degree to erase the ignominy of giving up three goals in twelve minutes to a third division side at mid-week one has to wonder if both the positive or negative exploits of New England’s soccer team are like a solitary tree falling in the forest or one hand clapping? Besides the devoted and quite marvelous few that show up rain or shine, win, lose or draw to Gillette Stadium, the Banshee Pub and post on Big Soccer, does anyone in metro Boston and beyond…

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