Who Will Lead The Revolution?

New England Soccer Today author Brian O’Connell posted an interesting article entitled “Captain Distraction” that is worth a read.   The summary though, is that despite being a great player, New England Revolution’s captain Shalrie Joseph has demonstrated that he might not be a great leader.

The article makes some interesting points about some inexplicable absences, poor judgment and disciplinary concerns that seem unbefitting of a captain.   It also focuses on the fact that amidst all the inexperienced players, there are few players that would be willing and able to hold Shalrie more accountable for living up to the expected role and responsibilities of a Captain.

After reading the article, I was left with a few unanswered questions myself…

If Steve Nicol alone cannot instill this integrity and focus into his players, I worry that either a) the player is a lost cause to learn it, or b) Steve has lost his grip on the team.   I’m hoping there’s a “c” option that I’m not thinking of here, since those choices are not great ones for the team pulling together to rectify a pretty sad 2010 campaign.  (The “c” option is probably that we are all over-reacting, but I’m not about to let that stop my, umm, well practiced over-reacting.)

I agree with Mr. O’Connell’s position that a lack of vocal player/leaders in which to challenge Shalrie’s dominance has probably not helped keep Shalrie on top of his game leadership-wise.   I wonder if that changes at all in 2011 with a more comfortable (and comfortable with English) Perovic/Stolica combination, or the addition of a potential Domi/Dabo French connection, since both of those tandems that have seen a variety of European teams and experiences.

I also find it interesting that there did not seem to be such significant transgressions when Shalrie was hunting for the big contract.  These “issues” did become more obvious after he became a top-paid player for the Revolution though.  Coincidence?

Now, all is not lost and I don’t think most people are ready to throw in the towel on someone who is/was the Revolution’s best player.  But it also does nothing to help them marketability of the team’s star or quell angst in the team’s fan base.

In reality, there are not many other players who could step into this leadership role on today’s Revolution roster.  More than that, is there anyone who can step into the role of team superstar – either from a fan psyche or on-field production standpoint?  Most players wouldn’t be recognized outside of Foxboro today.

Matt Reis is one possibility, though I sometimes worry about a Goalkeeper as a Captain being so far from the play of the game for large stretches – but it has certainly worked elsewhere.   And while Matt has the personality to win fans over, he’s been our star keeper for a number of years and has won the hearts and minds of core fans, but I’m not sure he’s the next big mainstream star in Boston.

All this is likely a huge over-reaction to some early season missteps, but it does offer a fragile fan base one more reason to fret.   It also might drive further concerns about the criticality of landing a big name (Designated) player… which could add an experienced voice to the locker room that demands respect and could offer the marketability that the team has lost when Taylor Twellman’s career ended early due to injury.

Given all these pre-season questions, 2011 looks like it will be many things for Revolution fans, but boring is probably not one of them.

Revolution Pre-Season Update: Team Still Half-Baked.

If this pre-season is the time when Chef Nicol creates the Revolution main dish that will be served for the MLS 2011 season, then it’s clear that the meal is still half-baked.

Here on Soccer Soap Box I have occasionally counted on the contrasting perspectives of situations being “Half Full” or “Half Empty” in game reviews, and will apply a modified, point by point, version for reviewing where the team is so far this pre-season.

Half Full: The Revolution has secured two victories in two pre-season games, both 2-0 victories.

Half Empty: The Revolution did not score a goal from the run of play against a team of second string 16 year olds (no players in that US Under-17 Team scrimmage started today’s important match against El Salvador) and only put two in against a college team, one of which was a deflected (aka, lucky) shot.


Half Full:  Significant press coverage given to Shalrie Joseph’s increased focus, acceptance of leadership responsibilities and even direction to pursue coaching someday.   In fact, when talking about the amount of inexperience surrounding him Shalrie offered, “we just have to be leaders for these guys and try steer them in the right direction.”  Great.

Half Empty:  Team experience, skill and salary leader Shalrie Joseph was sent home for unspecified disciplinary reasons.


Half Full:  The Revolution quality and experience in midfield in Ousmane Dabo.

Half Empty:  While not the team’s fault one supposes, coaches and fans are still waiting for Dabo to join the team as the requisite paperwork goes through.   A tease of potential quality that hopefully fans will get a taste of soon.  


Half Full: The Revolution added quality and experience in wide-defensive cover with Didier Domi.

Half Empty:  Kevin Alston, who would book-end wide defensive responsibilities the other side of the field, hurts himself within a the first half of the first pre-season game and gets sent home with Shalrie Joseph under odd circumstances.


Half Full: Revolution bring in some Latin blood with the addition of a young Argentine.

Half Empty: Fans hopes for Latin creativity are largely unrequited as the new addition, Franco Coria, adds additional cover for the central defense in the form of another (Barnes, Soares, etc.) big, young defender.   While Mr. Coria might be a great player, and I’m all for shoring up what was a weak defense in 2010, the Revolution’s claims that in Argentina’s Chacarita Juniors “he was primarily a reserve player for the club during the last four seasons” are not enthusiam inducing.


Half Full:  Significant press coverage of a newfound optimism and energy for the new season, which is exactly what fans are looking to hear.

Half Empty:  Chris Tierney, a player who at least has provided some moments of optimism with a nice free kick and some assists, said what fans are worried about… “I don’t think the level we’re playing at right now is going to be sufficient…

I’ll leave it to you to decide if this trend is “Half Full” or “Half Empty” at this point, but there’s clearly work to do. I’ll also leave the half-baked proclamation alone, because given our disciplinary concerns and 2010 history of marijuana related suspensions, hoping the team gets fully baked might not be the best idea after all.

New England Revolution’s Steve Nicol and the Intelligent Foul

Steve Nicol’s recent rant about the lack of referee protection for his creative players (namely the much improved Sainey Nyassi) was interesting on a number of levels.   When I first read the quote, I was struck by the unabashed choice of words that sounded as to me as if Steve was expecting, or at least wouldn’t be surprised by, a league-imposed fine.

The soccer-literati picked up on the quote as well. Paul Gardner of Soccer America jumped on the apparent contradiction in such complaints from Steve Nicol.   Gardner’s focus was on the fact that Steve Nicol’s teams push the physical envelope as far as they can as well.   Though Gardner sneaks in a commentary about not thinking the Revs are a “dirty” team, the general theme is that you cannot have your cake (push physicality) and eat it too (have your “skill players” see no physicality applied to them.)  

He also uses some arguments about Nicol’s ESPN commentary on other matches that allude to Steve’s respect for a physical game.   Fine.  Perhaps there is a some latent contradictions there, but Steve is not what I think most people would call out as a serial complainer – either when the Revs players are getting fouled or getting called for too many fouls.

Despite his (typically excellent) review of coaching, over-coaching and the many ways that the beautiful game is getting stifled, I was surprised Gardner didn’t comment more on Nicol’s potential motivation.

I’ve written about Steve Nicol’s coaching for the New England Revolution with admiration before, so my general view of his capabilities is fairly obvious.   Given that, I looked at the commentary about too-lenient refereeing with more interest in “why did he go there?”

Given the week the New England Revolution have had (most notably losing Shalrie Joseph for an as yet undetermined length of time) and the month they have coming (eight games in a month, really?) the rationale for this commentary seems straightforward in two areas.   It is both a tactical calculation and a hope for self preservation.

The cornerstone for either of these ideas is the belief that irrespective of referee impartiality – refs who know there are complaints out there by the Revolution/Nicol or that Nyassi (or others) have been getting little protection might have that in the back of their heads as they call upcoming Revs matches.   Much like a rabid crowd can help influence calls for a referee, such thoughts lodged into the brains of referees may be able to sway decisions or demeanor.  (And, given the reserved crowds the Revolution get there’s little risk of a significant home-crowd advantage.)

The Revolution is dealing with a reality of a foreseeable future without Shalrie Joseph. Without Josepph, the Revolution have looked downright ordinary.   It’s not that Pat Phelan or Joseph Niouky are bad players, but they are not players who are about to take over a game and own a midfield.    Without the ability to control the midfield, calm the game and spring attacks, the Revolution are very vulnerable to opposing offensive moves.

What is a coach to do?  Clearly Nicol will look at tactical changes he can make, and how to wring the most out of the players he has.   But it never hurts to get a little outside help – and that’s where his complaint about the referees comes in.

In games that refs call tightly, more fouls and more stoppages are inevitable.   It slows the pace of the game and would allow the Revolution more time to organize their midfield and adjust positioning.   It also means that forays into the other penalty area are a bit more likely to lead to a foul and a dangerous dead-ball opportunity.  (Which newcomer Marko Perovic has shown he can be quite useful with.)

On top of that, Steve Nicol is looking at a criminally busy month of games.   He has a roster limited by injuries, personal leave and MLS reality.  He has to worry about playing his homestand on the punishing artificial surface that usually lengthens recovery time.  He has to work about young, skillful players trying one to many tricks in front of grizzly MLS defenders.   Even if  the games don’t appreciably slow down, any protection advantage that is there to be found would help.

So Steve bet that he might get referees to watch more carefully and call his games that much closer.   He’s hoping that his team can survive the month, and surprise some opponents while their two best and most expensive players remain inactive.

Steve played the card he had.   It may cost him personally, but it sounds like one of those “intelligent fouls” we hear so much about. 

It’ll be interesting to see how closely MLS is calling this game of public relations.

New England Revolution: Stink, Brink and Other Over-Reactions.

Having last written about budding optimism about the New England Revolution’s current state, I now sit here at 36,000 feet on a cross country flight worried.  

About what?  Stink and brink.  Stink, as in “they stink.”   Brink, as in “franchise on the brink.”

I’ll freely admit that before going off the grid for my flight’s take-off, I was barraged in the Twitter-sphere about Shalrie Joseph’s “indefinite leave” from the Revolution to take care of personal matters.  (I wish him all the best and a quick return.)   This barrage has spun me into a reactionary state . . . which I’m sure is bad for my sanity, but turns out to be pretty good for blogging.

The importance of Shalrie to the New England Revolution is no secret, and something I’ve talked about before in “The Steve and Shalrie Show” and elsewhere – but that anyone who watches the Revolution with their eyes open can see.

Do the Revs stink?  Maybe not.  But they’re not great.

The Revs have always found ways to have terrible performances mixed in with their usually Eastern Division strength.  “This too shall pass” we might think.

Perhaps winning isn’t out of the question, I remember sitting in the 2002 MLS Final with 61,000-plus friends cheering the Revolution though for much of the season I found the (hard working team’s) soccer hard to watch.

Watching how Steve Nicol deals with the cards he’s been dealt – including indefinite absences of two of his best players and two largest salaries – Taylor Twellman and Shalrie Joseph – will be very interesting.  

There’s always talk of building the “spine” of a team . . . right up the center of the field.   The Revs first choice goal keeper is out injured.   The Revs center-back, Cory Gibbs, is new to the Revs system.  The star midfielder is, uh, on hiatus.   The star forward is still dizzy, or at least not playing.  

Nicol (and Mike Burns, and company) did what he had to – including the clearly difficult decision to trade Jeff Larentowicz – to shore up that spine.   Capable Preston Burpo came in to man the nets in the same trade that brought us the solid Gibbs.   They have tried every forward we can afford to replace Taylor Twellman, and they’d still not hesitate to stick him in the starting eleven immediately if/when he says he’s ready.

Now that Shalrie’s taking care of personal business, that trade suddenly stings – especially as Jeff came into town and with mid-field counterpart Pablo Mastoeni – controlled the Revolution’s home pitch for most of the game.   Meanwhile, Burpo watched a few awkward long-range shots sail into the net.   

All is not lost . . . as examples, my optimistic view from a couple weeks ago still holds in some areas. Sainey Nyassi appears to have matured significantly and Marko Perović seems to have unique and impressive skills.   The Revolution rookies appear to be MLS caliber.  Etc.  Etc.

What I just described though is a group of maturing – or otherwise unproven – players that will need to play out of their skin to make this season something to remember.

Which brings me to this franchise being on the “brink.”   The on-field challenges are one thing, and if anyone will steer them to a good show this year, it’s Steve Nicol.   Being “memorable” though, is a bigger challenge.

But who will steer the franchise into relevance?  Who will help it become loved?   I’ve not seen signs that there is an answer forthcoming.   I do believe that people are trying, but the Revolution are from where they need to be.

One plane ride isn’t enough to come up with the ingredients of a successful MLS franchise.  But a common sense top-five list of what a team must have, might look something like this:

  1. Recognizable star players with skill, personality and a fan following.
  2. An attractive brand of soccer. (especially important in winning over skeptical MLS fans)
  3. A trophy winning record.  (especially in a market that’s grown accustomed to winners)
  4. Professional credibility that merits respect.
  5. A lively, community-oriented, memorable experience for fans.

I’ll likely want to expand on that list after more thought . . . but even if we consider that 5 of 20 things that a successful franchise needs, the Revolution are clearly on the brink.

How do they line up? 

  1. Most recognizable star?  Taylor Twellman.  Currently easier to find on Twitter than on the field.  (Not his preference, I’m sure.  I hope for his speedy return and full recovery.)
  2. Style?  Given the challenges to personnel this seems like quite a reach.
  3. Winning some games is probably more likely than attractive soccer – but at risk as well.
  4. Credibility? The Revolution playing in Gillette look like a little boy in daddy’s suit.   Speaking of clothes, why no shirt-sponsor?  Wait, I cannot find a jersey to buy anyway.
  5. There are two communities.  Supporters and those sitting on their hands. And they are separated by a stadium.

So I’ll be on the lookout for signs that I’m wrong and that the lackluster attendance, local chatter and momentum is just a temporary phenomenon.  Or signs that I’m right and major changes are coming.  

But aside from that, I’ll fly across the country over-reacting as I fester in bad news for the Revolution and for one of our greatest ever players that actually does engender fan “love.”

Was my optimism in my last post premature?  Yes.

Are my “stink” and “brink” concerns an over-reaction?  I sure hope so.

The Revolution Was Televised

For the New England Revolution fan that, like me, was not fortunate enough to make the stadium today, there was a question as to whether or not we’d tonight’s game on TV.  You see, some green/white basketball team apparently had a game at the same time.   Luckily, some odd arrangements were made by all involved (Thank you!) and even on my not-so-glamorous Charter Communications cable, I was able to watch.

So not only was the (New England) Revolution televised, but it was a bit of a Revolution on the field.   Against what?  Against the pessimism that most Revs fans have had about this season – and potentially against the status quo on the field.

The pessimism was palpable a few weeks ago.

  • Steve Ralston is gone?
  • Paul Mariner no longer prowls the sidelines?
  • Jay Heaps is an announcer, not a defender?
  • Jeff Larentowicz is not part of red-and-dread anymore?
  • Matt Reis is hurt?
  • Taylor Twellman is still perpetually dizzy?

Hopes were at rock-bottom.  

Then however, a few things happened.  The Revs visited the Los Angeles Galaxy  and “only” lost 1-0 – and that without Shalrie Joseph in the lineup. 

Then the Revs went to D.C. United and Kenny Mansally wowed everyone watching by pulling a 2-0 victory out of an otherwise stale match, where the Revs were outplayed for large stretches.  

Thoughts changed to “maybe we can scrape through this year.”

Then there was tonight.  A 4-1 victory against division rivals Toronto F.C.   Yes, Toronto helped the Revs a bit, with at least two of the goals coming from rather silly defensive errors.  But a 4-1 victory is a 4-1 victory.   People’s hopes are buoyed . . . and not just because of the score. 

Why else?

  • Shalrie is back bossing the midfield.
  • Kevin Alston remains terrific.
  • Players who were unremarkable last year appear to have more confidence this year.  Sainey Nyassi – great game.  Chris Tierney – is it the move to midfield?  He appears way more confident and dangerous than last year.
  • Two rookies – Seth Sinovic and Zack Schilawski – started and looked like veterans.  Zack gets a hat-trick on his first home game.  Seriously?  Sinovic deals with DeRosario. (Steve Nicol remains a king of the MLS draft.)
  • Turns out Preston Burpo knows how to play goal and Cory Gibbs knows how to play defense.  (Duh.)

I could go on, but you get the idea.

One point should not go missed though, that gives me greater hope than even most of those just mentioned.   Tonight we got to see our first glimpse of Marko Perovic.   Having come on late in the game against a down-trodden Toronto F.C. is probably not the best way to judge a new player.   But, from what I saw, Perovic is for real, and will quite possibly remake our midfield.  He showed touch that is uncommon in MLS, taking more than one ball out of the air and directly to the feet of a teammate.  (They almost seemed surprised.)  He appears to have top-notch ball skills, and at 6’ 1” seems to have a physique that won’t get pushed around in MLS.   I noticed a number of occasions where he made a quick pass, moved into space and hoped to have the ball played back quickly – which generally it was not.   

Give his teammates time with him (he arrived yesterday) and I am extremely interested to see what he can do.   Steve Ralston will never be forgotten, but with a skillful, sizable and productive (yes, I’m way ahead of the evidence here) 26-year-old in midfield – the Revs may be able to move on.

Yes, the Revolution game was televised.  

But judging by the youth movement and a very promising new arrival, maybe there was more than one Revolution going on tonight.

The New England Revolution’s Steve and Shalrie Show

For fans of the New England Revolution this has been a pretty tough offseason.  Reading a very interesting interview with Steve Nicol at FoxSoccer.com made it very clear that there are some very interesting hurdles to make it over this year.

  • Paul Mariner: Hugely respected Assistant coach with vast experience and knowledge – gone.   What did Nicol have to say in the interview? “To be honest you can’t replace him” 
  • Jay Heaps: Defensive leader who was part of the “soul” of the team – gone.   Heaps wasn’t called out in the interview, but Nicol glowed about Heaps the player/man during his retirement event.
  • Jeff Larentowicz: Half of our reliable, trusted midfield core – gone.   In the interview, Nicol says “Jeff was huge for us. . .”
  • Steve Ralston: Team captain and a player that made all the others around him better – gone.   Nicol, though asked about Twellman and Ralston, only commented on Twellman’s importance.   Interesting, as they were probably negotiating Ralston’s contract . . . and we saw how that ended.
  • Taylor Twellman: Goal machine and often the “face” of the Revs – still here, still trying to get well.
  • Matt Reis: Confidence inspiring keeper, one of the best in the league: out injured.
  • Chris Albright: While less of a Revolution mainstay, an experienced player with a winning tradition – gone.

So where does that leave the Revs?  Enter the Steve and Shalrie show.  

Steve Nicol, the longest tenured coach in MLS is the one constant in this team over the last few years.   He is respected by players and other coaches alike, due to his stewardship of the Revolution as well as his history as a Liverpool great and Footballer of the Year.   Last year his managerial skills were tested during an injury filled campaign that left him without key players (Twellman, Albright, Ralston to name just a few) for long stretches of the season.   The team made the playoffs, but rarely dazzled.   Given the roster issues, that’s probably considered a success.   Unless some major acquisitions are announced before the season, Nicol will again need to wring out the most of an unspectacular roster.  

One area of interest – and big question mark so far – will be what Steve’s draft choices can offer.   MLS draftees are typically less impactful than in some other major sports, but the Revolution have been among the best at pulling solid MLS players from the draft, and often, MLS standouts.  Surprisingly stellar rookie campaigns from Kevin Alston and Darrius Barnes last year helped buoy a troubled back line.   It will be interesting to see if a similar magic act is performed this year.

The other constant is the excellence of Shalrie Joseph.  Nicol put it this way in the recent interview, “How Shalrie Joseph does not win the MVP award is beyond me.”   Many Revolution fans agree, as do quite a few MLS watchers.   If Shalrie isn’t wearing the captain’s armband next season, there will quite a few fans scratching their heads during the season.  But Shalrie is only human.   His game is the engine that keeps the team humming, but the more that is asked of him – and the fewer trusted players around him – can only serve to lessen his impact.   He cannot simultaneously be the midfield general, defensive anchor and center forward.

So the Revolution Front Office and fan base have put their trust in Steve Nicol to steer the ship for the last few years and for the foreseeable future.  (A good choice.)   He has Shalrie Joseph – and Taylor Twellman, if healthy?? – and a band of supporting characters with which to work with in 2010.  He’ll need every ounce of coaching to make this season work, but a couple pre-season signings wouldn’t hurt.  (I see they’ve already hit their “Steve” quota again despite Ralston’s departure with the addition of new Assistant Coach Stephen Myles.)

There are other signs of hope that we can dig through at another time.   But if Shalrie pulls up injured in pre-season, we’ll need to have Revolution fans – and their team manager –  hand over any sharp objects, belts and anything else they could use to end the misery.

“Cero a Cinco” Caps a Long Soccer Weekend

Well, that was quite a weekend of soccer.   My eyes hurt.

“Cero a Cinco”

Surrounded as I am by a large Colombian family of in-laws, I understand and revel in the “Cinco a Cero” (5-0) hysteria that rang down as a high-note of 1994 World Cup Qualifying when Colombia downed Argentina by that score in Buenos Aires.   Any Colombian of the right age will remember that night, or at least remember the hang-over from the partying that ensued.   And why not?

I never expected that today’s Gold Cup final could be the flip side of that for the USA vs. Mexico. Since this wasn’t a World Cup Qualifier, it certainly doesn’t carry the same weight as that Colombian victory . . . but Mexico really needed a victory like this against the US to set them back on the right path.  And I’m sure they are delirious South of the Border.  (Well, or in lots of places North of the border too, like Giants Stadium which looked like an Azteca preview party today.)

On Friday, I acknowledged that we didn’t yet know enough about our USA “B” team and that “. . . it’s Sunday against Mexico for the final where we’ll really learn something.”  Well, lesson learned.

Stepping back . . . a questionable penalty tilted the field toward the US goal and then the flood gates opened. The US team on that field is further away from the best 11 we’d start than the Mexican team was from their best eleven (since it certainly contained some first team starters.) And for good stretches of the match, the US looked as dangerous as Mexico.  At 0-5 though, none of that will matter, nor should it.

There is a bigger picture here, both in terms of the Gold Cup and the US v Mexico rivalry.

Gold Cup: As I noted on Friday, the pressure in the Mexico/Costa Rica Semi-Final was much higher than what the USA faced against Honduras – a representation of the fact that the USA’s group stages overall shouldn’t have been that hard to get through. Reaching the final inflated expectations which were brought down to earth in a hurry today. When we started this competition, everyone acknowledged this was NOT the best eleven for the USA but would provide an excellent growth opportunity and learning experience for a (mostly) young US Squad. Well, this is one lesson the players on that field won’t ever forget.

US v. Mexico: US fans have had it easy for a while. The USA has “owned” Mexico on our soil, beat them at the World Cup and overall had a pretty clear sense of superiority about them recently.  Is that real though? Are we better than Mexico? Probably need to define “better” . . . our best eleven can beat Mexico’s best eleven, we’ve proven that. But be it the National teams or club teams (as evidenced in Superliga, CONCACAF Champions League, etc.), what was proven today is that there remains a pretty serious experience gap after you dig deeper into the roster.

Again, I’ll avoid player ratings here, as there will be too many offering opinions already. I heralded Jay Heaps for his improved play after a rough start . . . if I were clairvoyant, I’d have begged him to take the accolades and run for the hills.  Missed opportunities in the final third and tackles that needed to be all or nothing but missed that mark were shared by many. Risks were inevitable after the team was a down by a couple goals  . . . but the disintegration of the back line screamed for experience. Too bad Jimmy Conrad’s bell was rung against Panama, he might have helped.

The real question is what will happen on August 12th in Mexico City. Can new found confidence push Mexico to leverage the Azteca advantage and romp once more?  Will the USA “first-eleven” feel the need for some “revancha” in Mexico and be even more motivated than they already were?

MLS Games

Funny things happen when the New England Revolotuion can get some of their better players (Shalrie Joseph, Steve Ralston) on the field.   They win.   I have a secret (and perhaps unreasonable) hope that this season has some potential left. Why? Based on no-data to prove this it seems to me that many teams which start out gangbusters tend to run out of luck (injuries) or otherwise lose their way by the playoffs, whereas the teams who work through early season injuries/issues are fresher and more focused come playoff time. Hmmm, perhaps all we need to do is sneak into the playoffs and keep recovering from injuries.

David Beckham played and even shook a fan’s hand, but he didn’t score.  His captain did.  Both were out done by the more than half-field goal by Claudio Lopez.

I didn’t see the Red Bulls / Colorado game, but I didn’t really have to, did I?  RBNY really is THAT bad.  Unfortunate for MLS.   Hysterical for a Revs fan.

World Football Challenge

I struggled to care about these games. How is it possible that some of the best teams in the world are visiting and I struggle to care?  Frankly, it’s sad to me that the crowds are coming out for a pre-season warm up “competition” in such numbers as to suggest they had no other soccer to watch in this country. I thought Taylor Twellman’s (whose team gets maybe a third of today’s crowd) tweet said it all “gosh I wish the stadium filled like this for OUR games be so cool.”   Yes, it would . . .

Taylor also tweeted on the joys of playing on natural grass. Which makes me wonder . . . if it is feasible to install a grass field for some of these one-off games is it really out of the question for MLS to do something for the part of their season that doesn’t conflict with the NFL?

As for the AC Milan / Inter Minal game, the idea that this game was anything like a true “derby” is laughable if I’m being generous. I’ve been to a European derby (Chelsea/Arsenal), a Brazilian Derby (Fluminense/Flamengo — OK, preseason, but still) and actually stood in the last row of Inter’s Ultras at the amazing San Siro.   The intensity of those games is hard to describe.   What happened at Gillette earlier today pre-season warm up with a little extra juice than the others we’ve seen in this tournament.  But not much more.