Last night’s New England Revolution loss to the LA Galaxy was a frustrating, if predictable, example of the Revolution struggles of late.
Watching it in the afterglow of the UEFA Champions League Final yesterday, where an excellent Barcelona removed any doubts about their status as the best team on the earth, made for some interesting contrasts.
For both games you just need to look at what’s right in front of you, and state the obvious.
The Revolution (and Manchester United) were both beaten by superior foes.
Barcelona have been given tougher games (and losses) from lesser opponents than Manchester United, and though a squad of inferior quality right now, MLS parity means that the Revolution could have beaten the LA Galaxy had a few things went differently.
They didn’t. And it wasn’t for lack of effort.
In the Revolution example, it was for lack of quality.
More than quality, I am reminded of the analogy Fox analyst (and former US National Team and MLS great) Eric Wynalda used pre-game to describe Xavi’s role as “conductor” in Barcelona’s mesmerizing midfield.
There is no doubt, Xavi is excellent.
But for that orchestra to play beautiful music, the surrounding musicians need to be masters of their instruments (positions, roles) and play from the same song sheet (tactics, style.)
While it’s unfair to compare the Revolution with Barcelona, the goals are the same, even if at different levels. Unfortunately, the Revolution have some missing ingredients.
Conductor? Shalrie is a magnetic force in the midfield when at his best, but not a top-notch conductor. (More the driving force in a hard-rock band, maybe…) And frankly, Benny Feilhaber hasn’t grabbed solid hold of the role yet either.
Musicians? At too many spots on the field the Revolution is simply average. How many of our starters would crack the first eleven of other established MLS teams?
Song sheet? Watching this team, you get the sense that if Mr. Nicol is going to motivate the team to pour more effort in, it’s not exactly sure into what that gets poured. Save for harder running.
Lastly, the very best orchestras showcase a stand-out soloist or virtuoso. Some may have a few. Lionel Messi stands out amongst the soccer “giants” at Barcelona, for instance.
The LA Galaxy’s obvious answers to that are Landon Donovan and David Beckham.
In my last post, I “thanked” the LA Galaxy for putting up with all the external noise created by Beckham’s presence such that the rest of MLS could avail itself of the media glow. (A blog which undoubtedly made fellow Revolution fan’s eyes roll. But count the butts in seats last night for my point to have been made.)
Let me be clear, I’m no Beckham fan boy. And no, I’d never have been in Gillette Stadium in a Beckham jersey.
But let’s also say this. The guy is a pro. Imperfect, predictable, aging? Sure. But he delivered.
He played his part to “conduct” accurately hitting passes from all over the field. He delivered a tough (some might say nasty looking) tackle on Benny Feilhaber that looked to add a level of uncertainty into Benny’s game for a while. And, of course, he delivered a terrific ball that led to the game winner.
Who’s the player on the Revolution who can step up into the limelight and lead? Where’s the soloist?
So, credit the Revolution’s effort, but there’s still more missing than present (orchestra analogy or otherwise.)
The fact remains that turning up the volume on bad music doesn’t make it sound better.