Well, we’re there. We are at that part of the season in New England Revolution-ville where the natives are restless, everything sucks, the world is grey and the sun may never shine again.
Along with this (pretty darn well deserved) angst, comes a buckshot worth of vitriol.
- Fire Heaps. (He’s winging it and is tactically overwhelmed.)
- Fire Burns. (He gets lousy players and couldn’t find a star in the sky.)
- Kraft apathy is killing us. (MLS 3.0? We’re still in Beta.)
Generally the anger is expressed in some combination of those three. Usually, with all three.
It’s easy to get caught up in it and join the chorus. This blog post, however, isn’t intending to explain who should be fired or why – though you could fill volumes with explaining how each of them have a shot at that crown.
Instead, I’m not exactly sure where this post ends – but here’s how it begins. I feel my own angst about this team, its current losing streak, and its general “uninterestingness.” (It’s now a word. Deal with it.)
I’ve never made any secret of the fact that I hoped for a more creative team. A more intricate style of soccer. Better passing. Some more “did you see that?” moments. A more Latin style, if you will.
That’s not right or wrong, but it’s what I prefer.
And I can discuss how I see the current team and if I think it has any discernible style in another post, but this topic of my hoped-for of Latinizing (yup, new word, enjoy…) got me thinking. Why can’t we get some Latin American influence to maybe put the ball in the back of the net? Or add a creative pass? Or, something…
The reality? The team has tried. And failed. And my presumption was this: we stink at finding good Latin talent, they come in and are just not up to MLS standards.
What came next, however, was the eye opener. Because it feels quite a bit more complicated than that. And that may not be a good thing, because Mike Burns is replaceable.
This all started in a rather roundabout way.
Remember #BringBennytoBoston. Yeah. They did. It didn’t work out.
But oddly enough, it seems to be working out OK for Benny in Kansas City. In fact, he’s the current MLS Player of the Week. Check out the recent highlights. Not bad.
Thought not really the Latin American influence I was craving, he potentially fit the bill for better passing and some creativity.
Why couldn’t he have worked out here?
Before we presume an answer, it made me think of the “true” Latin American players which were “not up to it” and flushed out of town before making the impact Revolution fans had hoped for.
Let’s start with one of our pretty big flops. One that really got people’s attention.
Our first “Designated Player.”
After confusing career moves, extended injury recoveries and a very interesting resume, Caraglio played 15 games for the Revolution, scored five goals and was sent on his way.
So maybe Diego Maradona (who called him in to Argenina’s National Team before he injured his knee) and West Ham (where he went on trial) were mistaken, or maybe he’d never really recover from the knee injury he’d suffered.
Oh well, we tried. He’s past it. Let’s move on.
Except, for one issue.
YouTube seems to think that in 2014, in Argentina, he is doing this:
And this cheeky scoop in 2013:
You know, being a goal scorer. In the Argentine first division. You see, after joining Chilean Club Social de Deportes Rangers (CSD Rangers) he played a few games in Italy, and came home to Argentina.
Why not for New England? Isn’t that the exact story we hoped for? Take the risk, have him make his professional resurgence in Foxboro?
So let’s restore the Revolution’s image a bit, and at least all agree on the biggest, most obvious, most glaring failure.
José “Pepe” Moreno.
I mean, talk about a disaster.
You sign a player who apparently doesn’t want to join and who flirts with other clubs after you announce him.
But he arrived. And didn’t do much. We called him porky and talked more about his pizza and attire than much else.
What a waste of space, right?
Well, if it were only that simple.
You see, Pepe, it turns out is still playing this funny game of ours. In fact, he’s a member of Colombian First Division club, La Equidad.
And, last year he scored this STUNNER… seriously watch this (and try not to punch the device you are using to watch it on):
And apparently wasn’t afraid to mix it up in the box –> see here.
You know, that whole elusive goal-scoring thing we need so bad? The one he was brought to Foxboro to do, he’s doing it. But not for New England.
7 games and one MLS goal later. He was gone.
Mouth agape, I decided this was clearly another weird anomaly. Maybe if we look back a bit further, I’ll feel better about some of the outcomes.
Remember him? No?
Signed in 2008. Got six games. Didn’t do much. Was gone in 2009.
It happens. “It’s a physical league.” Etc. Etc. Sometimes people just don’t have what it takes.
Except he went back to Costa Rica, and to his prior club, Saprissa – a team I don’t think the Revolution would fancy playing frequently – and for last year? He was its Captain.
And he’s still there now, 5 years after it was decided he couldn’t cut it in Foxboro.
Because in 2009, ironically in a release that also included our re-signing Kahno Smith (I cannot make this stuff up), he was gone.
Ok, so a midfielder got away, right? Not that big a deal.
Well, that is true I guess. Any others to replace him?
Can you guess where this is headed?
Well, to be fair, the talented midfielder isn’t ripping up a big league, but he was still setting up goals last year in Honduras for Atlético Choloma. That’s three years after he was waived by New England.
I wonder what we missed? I’m guessing that maybe we missed some of the creativity that he could have brought to our midfield and showed in flashes.
Maybe not the league leading Number 10 I may have wanted, but a start that I enjoyed watching.
However, the Revolution DID have a player, a fan favorite as I recall, that while not quite a traditional “Number 10” perhaps, but who came pretty close.
And fans missed him when he left.
José Carlos Cancela.
Pepe Cancela. Yup, another Pepe.
Now, this story is a bit different. Cancela had a good run with the Revolution. Hard to argue that.
In fact, in that critical midfield role he still has the (rather obscure) record of having more assists per 90 minutes than any other Revolution player, ever. And he’s tied with Steve Ralston for the most post-season assists.
But there was a feeling that we lost him too soon. That there was more to be had. But he was taken by Toronto F.C. in an expansion draft, and ended up in Colorado, and was eventually bounced from MLS.
And look, he was past 30 at that point. So no harm done. Right?
But of course, there’s a twist.
Not only did Cancela continue playing, but he played over 150 games in Costa Rica. There is even a Facebook page that proclaims “Yo también creo que Pepe Cancela es el mejor jugador de Costa Rica” – or for the less Spanish-inclined “I too think Pepe Cancela is the best player in Costa Rica.” 499 Likes. Adorable.
If you think the Revolution fans remember him fondly (they do) after 90 games, impressive assists and seven goals. Imagine the impact he had on Herediano, where he played a similar amount of games and scored over thirty goals. Yeah. They liked him. A lot.
And what did old-man Cancela (now 38) do less than a month ago, he signed with small, first-division Costa Rican club Belén FC. And they don’t look too sad to have him.
So, a good run with the Revolution, but the sense we could have had more of a potential “legacy” player.
Another Ralston? Another Twellman? Maybe, maybe not. But the kind of player you’d think we would like to have associated with this team at a much deeper level.
Hardly a loss of a similar character by any means, Coria came in a from the Argentine 2nd division team Chacarita Junior, and is now at a different Argentine 2nd division club, called Club Atlético Sarmiento.
Maybe that’s the right level for him. Though arguably that’s also a good feeder level for MLS “fill in” players. And being that he’s only 26, and we let him go in 2011, it does make you wonder how he could have developed.
But, no harm, no foul on this one. It seems to me. Though, I would have liked to see a bit more of him, no crying here.
Perhaps we have a better beat on defenders. Steve Nicol was world renowned defender. Mike Burns had quite a career, as did Jay Heaps.
Maybe that’s why one decision always puzzled me so much.
John Jairo Lozano.
After arriving from America de Cali, he saw six MLS Reserve League games and two MLS starts. And about six months later, he was gone.
Of course, maybe he didn’t show well in practice. Maybe it was something else.
But America de Cali’s not a bad team. And, as you may have guessed, John Lozano still soldiers on. After a season or so with Cúcuta Deportivo in Colombia first division, he signed with Atlético Huila on May 01, 2014.
Not a world-beater, perhaps, but you would think a player capable of first-division South American soccer would have seemingly gotten more than a two-game run at our not-quite-World-beater Revolution.
So what now?
There are two more players I’d like to mention, but let’s first call out the obvious: something certainly feels awry. Coming into this, I wanted to believe the “Fire Burns” story that these players are just not MLS worthy. I am forced to believe there’s a bigger issue here. Some quick examples of why…
- We were told that Pepe Moreno was “…a strong, target forward who has a lot of experience playing at the highest levels in both South America and Europe.”
- We were told that Gabriel Badilla was “… a strong, versatile defender who has gained tremendous club and international experience at a young age.”
- We were told that Milton Caraglio was “…a talented player who has played against some of South America’s best competition.”
I could go on and on… but the point here is that all those statements actually appear true – or close to it. But none of them came true for New England.
And why am I bothering to ask this now?
Because clearly within the fan base there’s a big desire for change, and maybe there are some opportunities still left.
In researching this, I also saw a similar story pattern with a player I really enjoyed watching. He was at times frustrating, but talented. Tricky and elusive. He seemed desperate to make an impact.
And while I don’t know anything beyond what Google helps me find, he seems to have done pretty well down in Colombia with Independiente Santa Fe.
But he’s appears to be on his way out. I don’t know why.
But maybe he’s worth a call? Our offense could maybe use a bit of a spark, no?
Would the result be any different than the before? Than any of the others?
I sure don’t know, but I really have my doubts. And that is what’s most worrying, this pattern seems unlikely to be broken.
Which brings us to fan favorite (choke, cough, ahem) and current Designated Player…
I sometimes enjoy playing Jerry’s own personal Devil’s advocate, or in this case, the person who offers that maybe he’s not actually the devil.
And no, he’s not done what a New England fan would have hoped for. Not by a long shot. Not at all.
But, forget everything you’ve seen of Jerry for a moment. I know, it’s tough.
Now imagine you are told that a player is joining the Revolution, that…
- Scores at the Olympics
- Scores in World Cup qualifiers
- Scored 26 goals in 54 games for his last club
- Is 27 and should be in his prime
One would imagine that, upon hearing this, any Revolution supporter would be buying Mike Burns a beer anytime they could. But no, but both Burns and Bengtson are unloved figures.
Because Jerry’s not gotten it done. Maybe not been given a REAL chance to, but certainly hasn’t made an impact.
But here’s the thing. I really, really don’t want to be writing this same article next year about a player that stunk for the New England Revolution, and went on to be a star elsewhere. I really don’t.
And we know that Jerry shows up in the right moments elsewhere, event when maybe we don’t want him to.
Maybe the goals aren’t always pretty. But they count. And that’s something for a Revolution team that cannot seem to score.
So, the question isn’t whether Jerry’s done what we wanted. We know that answer.
The question is WHY hasn’t he?
Or Caraglio? Or Moreno? Or Badilla? Or even Feilhaber.
Maybe it is Mike Burns who is at fault. That seems like the easy answer. But these are good players.
How many times can we say “that player would be great on another team” and not just admit, maybe it’s not THEM. Maybe it’s US.
It seems to me another team could make a good strategy of picking up after each of our Latin American “fracasos” (failures) and laughing all the way to a very strong squad.
I think our problem runs deeper. Until the Revolution is seen a place where people want to play and know they can succeed, we’re not not going anywhere fast.
For me, that is worse than any single losing streak.