The Revolution’s Familiar “Fracaso”

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.

FIRE BURNS.

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.

 

Benny Feilhaber.

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.”

 

Milton Caraglio.

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:

and 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?

Frustrating.

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.

 

Gabriel Badilla.

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.

Face. Palm.

Ok, so a midfielder got away, right?  Not that big a deal.

Well, that is true I guess. Any others to replace him?

 

Mauricio Castro.

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.

 

Franco Coria.

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.

Why?

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.

 

Fernando Cárdenas.

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…

 

Jerry Bengtson.

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.

Why?

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.

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It’s Not Impossible, Right?

As I sit here realizing that the typical Revolution-supporter Twitter infighting might be starting at a record early point this year, I’ve decided to stop feeding the Twitter beast for a few minutes and actually justify the massive fifteen dollar or so investment I make each year to keep this silly URL by gracing the blog with an actual post.

I’d like to attribute my lack of recent blogging to one specific thing, but clearly that’s not reality. A new(ish) job has me knee-deep in to-do’s, Twitter is just so much darn easier to vent with and, most frustratingly, I typically write about the Revolution.

And, at least for me, they are… well… uninspiring.

(Important note… This is clearly an on-the-field commentary. As Matt Reis showed this week, and others have in the past, we have some inspirational individuals involved with this team. It’s the soccer I’m talking about here.)

Now, to level-set, I was at the opening game in “The Fort” with a frozen wife and kids, I have seen every game this year (though some on DVR) and am sitting here still wearing my Revs shirt after having let the kids stay up past bedtime to see the end of the Revolution game. (Hopefully they wake Mom, and not I, with the multiple-goals induced nightmares.)

I’m still here. And despite my venting, I’m probably not going anywhere.

I’m just not particularly motivated by it all.

I’ve been lucky. I’ve seen games in some of the world’s treasured stadiums and have tasted what – in some bizarro alternate world – we COULD have. It’s addicting.

I’ve been to versions of that reality in Seattle, no passport required. It’s a not-too-terrible facsimile of the experience that the rest of the world enjoys. Heck, the Portland atmosphere may have them trumped. And stadiums? We’ve got at least a couple that would make quite a few European teams envious.

At the best games there’s an electricity that carries through the crowd and onto the field. There’s a certain noise that simply cannot be recreated in any other venue. It’s intoxicating. In some of my first games internationally, I had to remind myself to look at the field, as I was so enthralled by the sights and sounds pulsating throughout the stadiums.

And then there’s the action on the field. There’s an unmistakable quality that means you are surprised when a cross flies desperately away from target, not the other way around. Being fair, I’m far from a Euro-snob and will defend the value of MLS and what it brings to anyone who cares to debate it. I can admit that – without a doubt – some of the games I’ve seen internationally were of no higher quality than what we get to see in many MLS games.

However, I know deep down inside that MLS isn’t at the level of on-field and off-field excellence I’ve been able to taste elsewhere. Since 1996 I’ve dealt with that just fine.

Oddly, what’s starting to get harder to deal with is that while MLS is starting to flirt with the reality of better leagues in both atmosphere and play, it’s not happening anywhere near home.

This reality causes me to vacillate pretty heavily from non-emotionally involved critic, to silly fan-boy, to angry blogger with some frequency. (Sometimes within 140 characters, it seems.) I’ll freely admit that, and I don’t expect it to change.

After my work and my family, I’ve invested pretty much all my mental energy into my interest in this ridiculous game. Those who know me, would agree that I am barely conversant in most other sports and don’t really care to change that fact. I’ve found my game.

So from time to time, I will vent.

I will vent that my local team fails to inspire me with the “style” they have played for all these years. A style that seems to quickly marginalize creative players for more athletic replacements. Where work-rate trumps creativity. Every time.

I will vent that I don’t always feel the team’s ownership is takes the Revolution as seriously as do its most dedicated fans. (Some of which are many, many times more dedicated than I.) I can rationalize why it’s the case, as the Patriots are quite the local institution, but that doesn’t make it OK anymore. We’ve seen what’s possible across MLS.

I will vent about inexperienced coaches who everyone likes and everyone quietly worries about. We can argue about Toja or Nguyen, if Bengtson is committed, if Benny was a basket case or any other tactical choices or personnel decisions. But to my eyes, there’s more in those players than we are getting. It’s eerily late-term Nicol-esque.

I will vent about a team management organization that’s undeniably smart and committed, but that perhaps lacks the spark or creativity to shake up this organization in a way that brings meaningful change. Competence is great, but dreaming big shouldn’t be seen as a silly enterprise. Leaders lead.

I will vent that it would have been hard to create such an emotional and poignant entrance like we saw pre-game today in our own home stadium. The atmosphere, size, logistics and overall environment require our Revolution supporter’s clubs to make superhero-like efforts to create something great from quite little.

I will vent about more.

And maybe I’ll blog about it occasionally.

All that said, I’d be much happier to blog about greatness. About goals. About cheering. About a noteworthy stadium atmosphere. About that no-look pass that actually led to something. And yes, about the spirit and dedication of our team to fight for a victory.

Playing the beautiful game well and being “Boston Strong” shouldn’t be in conflict.

It’s not impossible.

It just feels pretty improbable for 2013 right now.

If I’m proven wrong, I’ll be the happiest non-venting, infrequently posting blogger around.

The Revolution’s ‘Off The Record’ Dreaming

Having just returned from the New England Revolution’s “Media Round Table” it only felt logical to write something to justify my clearly trumped-up and hard to justify ‘media’ inclusion. (An inclusion I nonetheless remain quite grateful for.)

Interestingly, there’s already been some twitter reaction (from those not there) about the event having occured, including negativity about the off-the-record nature of some of the commentary and concerns about if we are hearing the real story.

Let me alleviate some of that angst by spilling the beans on the hottest off-the-record thing I learned, and I’ll admit it was quite a surprise.

The idea of building the country’s first subterranean soccer stadium (SSS) is so brilliant and progressive, I was blown away by its potential. It alleviates so many of the above-ground of the real-estate issues that were plaguing the project. It also explains why the team already advertises on the “T” … what a hint they had dropped. Sadly, since no sun shines underground, it’ll still be artificial turf.

OK, I kid.

But, since I won’t speak to any REAL off-the-record commentary, let me at least explain some impressions that I was left with.

The team’s outreach to the non-traditional media types is needed, logical, appropriate and gracious.

It’s needed because the Revolution’s lack of local “traditional media” coverage is both clear and frustrating for both fans and (we can only presume) management alike.

It’s logical, because it both informs the blogger/writer corps with some facts that are otherwise hard to share in other forums while building a level of understanding and a potential disincentive to jump on the “rant” wave that so easily takes over after any questionable decision.

It’s appropriate, because despite traditional media’s place atop the news food chain, it’s not a growth market and soccer has always thrived in alternative and online media anyway.

And it’s gracious, because however much the team officials might REALLY want to swat us away like some annoying, blogging, know-it-all gnats, they don’t. In fact, they hide that potential desire really, really well. Kudos.

I’ll offer this: largely, the event works.

As anyone whose spent time on Soccer Soap Box or following me on Twitter probably knows, I’m frequently pretty critical of the organization. And no doubt that it will continue to be that way when needed.

I realize that one (of a number) of reasons the team would host such an event is to humanize team management and explain (spin?) certain decisions in the light that they’d prefer. I undersand that as an objective writer about the team (well, mostly objective) that I must remain immune to such obvious ploys. (Mmm, desserts.)

But the fact remains that events like tonight’s nevertheless help deflate some of the most egregious of our fantastically negative assumptions.

Frankly, it’s easy, and often intellectually lazy, to throw 140 character bombs on Twitter about how clueless management is. Heck, I admittedly have tread pretty close to that line myself.

(One thing that should be made clear: is that despite their sharing of rules and information, and my having had an on-going dialogue with the team’s communications staff, they’ve never – ever – tried to change or influence anything I’ve written. I find that both noteworthy and commendable.)

But it must be said that Mike Burns and Brian Bilello (the front office stars of the night) are not clueless. In fact, they are both quite smart and super-knowledgable. That isn’t to say they are infallible or above criticism, as they most certainly are neither. In fact, after the last few seasons they’ll probably admit that without much pushback.

Nor can I see, however, how anyone argue that the front office doesn’t do what it thinks is best for the team. They do. We can, and will, argue that perhaps it’s not actually the right thing, or that they have skimped on certain investments, or made lousy decisions – clearly that’s all true in certain instances.

Now, can I really offer any real insight about things like how involved the Krafts are, or should be, in this team? Or will I ever truly understand how closely (or not) Sunil Gulati remains? Or know for sure the true aggression with which the team is driving for a soccer specific stadium?

No.

No on-the-record or off-the-record conversations can ever eliminate the conspiracy theories that the blogosphere and twittersphere can conjure up. And that’s OK.  It gives us something to talk about.

I can imagine that at this point, some of you have decided that after a dinner-date at Gillette, I’ve jumped ship and I’m in the front-office’s pocket, right?  Let me offer that I see it a bit differently.

I think it’s OK to acknowledge that the job of the Revolution management has is not an easy one. It’s not simple to build stadiums in the Boston area or keep fan interest in a market that offers champions in all major sports. It’s not easy getting foreign player transfers done or deciding which veterans to trade and which DP’s to pursue.

The good news: the Revolution front office has the smarts and knowledge understand their plight and plot logical moves forward.

And since that is the case, we should demand that their decisions are as good – no, BETTER – than other teams in the league.

And despite how smart they are, if it doesn’t work out, we: the fans, the bloggers, the real media, should continue to let them know about it.

And we will.

But frankly, given the toughness of their market and situation, I’m not left with a concern about them being smart or knowledgeable enough. They seem to have that covered.

If there was an area that concerns me, it is that their smarts has led them to a pragmatism that means they can appear devoid of the passion that they probably do indeed have for this team. It’s as if they are afraid to dream; afraid to weave a story of “what could be.”

Pragmatism is good for management, but not for passionate leadership.

And that worries the “media” side of me as well as the “fan” side of me. Because passion and creativity can be contagious, but smarts rarely are.

So Thank you, Revolution leadership for sharing your time and expertise in an open and very worthwhile discussion.  And while I’m certain to disagree from time to time, I’m convinced that efforts are being made to do what you think are the right things to make the Revolution succeed on the field and in a crowded and difficult market.

Now, maybe it’s time to stop thinking so much, and start building and sharing the dreams your fan base so desperately needs to hear.  Maybe then they’ll display more of that ‘Pride and Passion’ they’ve already been told they have.

Improving and Improv-ing the Supporters Summit

I couldn’t attend today’s New England Revolution Supporter Summit event, but did follow the tweet stream quite closely. (Major props to The Bent Musket crew for an amazing Tweet-stream of the event.)

For full disclosure, as I start typing this (with the family finishing dinner in the other room) I am a member of TWO New England supporters groups. In fact, I’ve been a member of The Midnight Riders and The Rebellion since about 11AM today.  (Though after this post, I may be denied entry after all…)

Of course, I’ve been a Revolution supporter for much longer and a blogger/twitter/general-pain-in-the-backside for a couple years now. I hadn’t joined the groups earlier because I never wanted to leap over the fence of self-proclaimed distance-keeper to full-fledged fanboy. For some reason, I thought it would be hard to write unbiased thoughts if I was a “New England Till I Die” guy, but in the end, I felt the supporters groups deserved MY support. And I have no doubt I’ll continue to be a vocal and unbiased believer that it’s not above my local team’s reach to play the game in a way that enthralls.

Maybe it’s because I crossed that chasm today and needed a clear counter-balance, or maybe I just needed a release from the daily grind, but following the event on Twitter, I quickly realized that I couldn’t keep my ridiculous commentary to myself tonight, so now you, dear reader, are subject to it.

Note: I think the team does a great thing by bringing in the supporters and is trying to do its best to run the team the way they believe will be most successful. Honestly. The Front Office probably doesn’t deserve any of the below commentary, but I couldn’t help myself with having a bit of fun with them. I take that back, they might deserve SOME of it…

So as I saw the questions and answers go by, I wondered… What if Revolution Management ended up like Jim Carrey in Liar, Liar? What if there was absolutely no filter between management’s thoughts and their words? What if we all saw behind the curtain?

Are these the real answers we’d get? Nah, of course not. Well, maybe a couple of them are, but most are the delusional ranting of a soccer blogger who really needs to get out to a game soon.

But since I found them amusing, maybe you will too. I tried to capture them more-or-less the way they flew by on Twitter, often keying off a theme provided by the front office. Sometimes not doing that at all. Enjoy.

(By the way, I’d really stop here if you didn’t show up with a sense of humor…)

———–

Why don’t you seem to take US Open Cup seriously?

Are you kidding? Spend money, tire the ridiculously thin roster and travel to some god-awful place for a game that exactly 237 New Englanders know is happening? Please.

What’s the deal about the Soccer Specific Stadium we are all desperate for?

It’s all about feasibility. You know, how feasible that we can keep dangling this in front of you year after year the right times before you all just give up. Do you really think we’d leave our owner’s palace and let it sit idly until our football team comes back for pre-season training?

Have you ranked potential sites for the Soccer Specific Stadium?

Yes, currently Gillette Stadium occupies spots 1-3. The practice bubble is right behind though.

Will David Vaudreuil be replaced?

Who?

How will the partnership with the Rochester Rhinos actually work?

We have no idea at this point. That said, we figure it cannot be any less impactful than the reserve league has been, so what the heck, we’ll give it a whirl. We’ve strategically committed to a one year, long term development relationship.

What’s up with playing during US Qualifiers?

We are one of a bunch of teams that is OK for playing on those dates. We don’t ever lose any US players anyway, and nobody, anywhere, with a remote interest in soccer, wants more rainy, Wednesday-night games in the echo chamber. It actually kind of spooks the players.

Is it true you lost the chance to play at Harvard for the US Open Cup on a coin flip?

Yes, who knew our tried and true player acquisition decision system would backfire on us? We need new coins.

How’s Sainey Nyassi coming along?

Great. He’s getting a bit pricey for a water boy, but he’s super-fast.

How’s Saër Sène’s recovery coming along?

Pretty well. It’d be quicker if he didn’t have to walk everywhere, but if you’ve seen him drive you’d make him walk too.

Are you still trying to sign Chad Barret?

Yes, there are a number of fans in The Fort who still sing the YSA chant and deserve to get whacked in the head for their foul language by stray shots gone wide and high.  It’s cheaper than adding more TeamOps folks.

Do you plan on doing more to engage with the region’s Portuguese population?

Yes, that’s why we signed Goncalves. Oh, and we’re planning a Nacho night.

Why do you think Jerry Bengston will have a better year in 2013 with the Revolution?

After we traded the Spanish speakers he was distracted by, we figure he’ll be more focused. And, we bought him a Spanish-English dictionary. We may also shred his passport, but that move is not finalized.

What can be done to get the folks in the “morgue” to be louder?

You’re thinking of it the wrong way. We’ve decided to go with the fans, not against them. There are some plans to offer Retirement Home discounts in sections that are a comfortable distance from The Fort. We call it Community seating.

What about using the Jumbotron to get people involved?

We’ve considered hiding cameras in the restrooms and taking pictures of the quiet fans at inopportune moments and then threatening to show them on the screen if they didn’t start making some noise. It didn’t test well in our focus groups though. We don’t get it, we heard other stadiums are getting more interactive.

How about getting people to stand up for the last few minutes of the game?

Well, the stadium has installed tazers in the seats in certain sections, they’ve been working wonders on drunk Pats fans and we are very optimistic for the 2013 season on their implementation for the Revs. We call them, “The Awakeners.”

Why are Season Ticket Holder counts shrinking?

Have you watched the team the last two years? Next question…

Why can’t we find more Revolution merchandise?

It’s simple it if won’t sell Adidas has no reason to make it. We are working with other like-minded teams on an answer. In fact, we have asked Adidas to consider making reversible shirts with FC Dallas on the other side. Win/win.

When do you think the Revolution would look to employ a full time scout?

You mean other than YouTube?

What do you think of Grant Wahl’s assessment of how ambitious the team is?

We’ve never spoken to Grant Wahl or most other media. Besides, we are at least 17th in that regard, and everyone knows it.

Would you consider having Shalrie Joseph back at some point so he could retire as a Revolution player?

Well, we sent him to Chivas, that’s a bit like retirement already, no? I suppose we’d welcome him come back, but we figure he’d punch out Heaps, so it might need to wait a season until we give up on that experiment.

How involved are the Kraft’s with the Revolution?

They are very involved at the MLS level. So, in that way, yes they are aware they have a team. We run big decisions by them. You know, stuff like should we trade Shalrie? How low to cut the turf on game day. Where to order pizza for Jose Moreno. Big stuff. 

Do you think the team performed up to its full potential last year?

No, but we blame Vaudreuil. Heaps dresses too nicely to be part of the problem.

And this year?

We’re going to be better. We haven’t played a game yet, but until we do, we’re better. No doubts.

————

Well, that’s all folks. If I haven’t had my Supporters Group memberships revoked by next year’s event (or by the time this gets read), maybe I’ll attend the event and actually write something of use in 2014.

Until then, it’s sport.

Enjoy it.

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?

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.