Playing without Taylor Twellman and Shalrie Joseph, two of the league’s best players, New England showed off its depth in beating another short-handed team, the Houston Dynamo, for the second time this season. The 2-0 road win has helped push the Revs atop the Eastern Conference and has folks talking about them finally breaking that MLS Cup jinx.
Who would bet against New England, and more importantly, who would bet against Matt Reis the way he is playing these days? The bald-headed shot-stopper has been in MVP form all season and showed off his skills once again vs. Houston, saving a penalty kick and keeping yet another clean sheet.
SBI Correspondents Andrew Karl and Alex Swaim watched the match and give us their takes on last Thursday night’s match below:
These Revs look more complete than ’07 version
By ANDREW KARL
At the close of the 2007 MLS season, RFK stadium hosted another Revolution Cup final loss. The Houston Dynamo probably celebrated at a ritzy club somewhere in DC while I roamed Adams Morgan in a whiskey induced stupor. That night in October culminated in two things: extra work for a Hyatt hotel maid and the realization that something had to change in New England. Ives wrote on this issue, not on the fact that I didn’t lift the toilet lid in time and sent vomit spraying 360 degrees but on the Revolution’s over-reliance on Taylor Twellman. I wholeheartedly agreed with his points and screamed for a new and prolific striker partner for Twellman as well as a skilled, goal scoring attacking midfielder. But now, almost half-way through the 2008 season, the Revolution sit atop the league and Twellman has only seen the field for 45 minutes. My conclusion is not that Ives was wrong in his assessment of the team at the end of last year, but that the team has overcome this issue in an unexpected way.
Onlookers like Mr. Galarcep and myself believed a high-quality, possibly DP-level, striker was needed for the Revolution to overcome their runner-up woes. Maybe we should have known that this simply wasn’t Steve Nicol’s style (or that the Kraft’s were too cheap) because the coach has put together another winning squad sans-Taylor and avec-youth. And to be honest, I like it much better this way. I’ve been culturally bread to loathe high-spending, money-splashing sports teams – the Yankees will forever be the devil that ruined baseball – and put a much higher value on a team’s ability to build from within, upon youth, than to buy up in-prime stars. To make an English Premier League analogy, I despise Chelsea and their money-splashing ways and I respect Arsenal for their ability to develop young talent.The Krafts are the opposite of Roman Abramovich for sure and it has to be said that both Steve Nicol and Arsene Wenger have shown the ability to mold young players into successful professionals. The similarities between Nicol and Wenger continue when you realize that neither of them have won it all.
While the Revs looked at times shaky during the first few weeks of this season, the players worked hard to grind out some results early on and the squad now brims with confidence. There are focal points of this confidence, located up top and in net, which spearheaded Thursday night’s victory over the Dynamo. Matt Reis was, again, a man among boys. You can see his confidence in the complete lack of hesitation or reluctance in all the plays he makes. He is aggressive and smart on every play that comes his way and has his defense believing in his shot-stopping abilities one hundred percent. What’s more impressive, though, is his ability to make a single stick of gum last an entire half. I cannot go on without mentioning Reis’ celebration following his save on Stuart Holden’s penalty kick. Immediately after parrying the shot away and over the end-line, Reis hopped up onto his tip-toes, raised his fists in the air and let out a triumphant yell. In light of the new Hulk movie about to drop, I’d like to paint Matt Reis green. Up top, another player is performing with a full deck of confidence: Kheli Dube.
While Dube’s set up of Ralston’s goal was excellent, this guy’s a goalscorer through and through. While his previous tallies came on tap-ins and rebounds, his goal on Thursday night, hilariously volleyed off of back-up Dynamo keeper Tony Caig’s chest, was a thing of beauty. It was a culmination of what we’ve seen from this player lately, the attributes of a true goalscorer. Dube’s positioning, the runs he makes, and the way he makes himself available for his teammates screams striker. Remember back to the home game against DC just a while ago and the goal bound shot blocked by a DC defender. Dube was streaking toward goal, the ball played to him over the top, and as it bounced in front of him, Dube knew his only option was to volley the ball toward the far post. The pressure from Zach Wells was too great for Dube to have time to settle the ball and slot it at the open near post and the curling shot he unleashed was unluckily blocked by a tracking back defender. This sequence was proof to me that Kheli Dube is for real, and as he plucked the ball out of the air, like an apple from a tree, sending it off Caig’s chest and into the net on Thursday night, I knew I was right.
Regular season fixtures against Houston always bring back memories, good and bad, of MLS Cups gone past. And it is easy to overlook the fact that one regular season win has little to do with how the team will fair late in the year, but I can’t help it. The memories are too strong, the hangover was too painful, to simply move on. It’s also easy to overlook the fact that a team’s position on the table halfway through the year may not translate to a similar position at the end of the year. But right now, being atop the league having done so the way the Revolution has, I can’t help but say this: Supporter’s Shield, here we come.
Striker needs evident in another Dynamo loss
By ALEX SWAIM
After the final whistle was blown, the only phrase that came to mind was "an optimistic train wreck". And the penny on the track was named Matt Reis.
The Dynamo’s 4-6-0 formation did a great job of pressuring the Revolution, but nobody could find a way to put it past the keeper. It reminds me just how important an in form Dwayne DeRosario and Brian Ching are to this team. Nobody else can finish when they’re gone.
In other words, like it has been since the off-season, the Houston Dynamo need a striker or two. Caraccio was supposed to be the stopgap, but he’s been benched due to ineffectiveness. Chris Wondolowski is what he’s always been – a middling player, stuck between being a reserve deity and an ineffective starter – but played better on Thursday than the rest of the forwards. At least Wondolowski was willing to take his shots instead of waiting for the perfect opportunity.
Given the dearth of real options, the transfer window can’t come soon enough. But who will Dom bring in, and where will they come from? Two former Dynamo strikers, Nate Jaqua and Joseph Ngwenya, are currently looking for work but neither of them seems interested in leaving Europe so soon to be Houston’s second-half stopgap for the second straight season.
I little birdie (Bernardo Fallas) has been saying that Paul Dalglish – the solution from two years ago – is moving back to Texas from Scotland. For him to be the answer, he would have to show the dedication he did during his first season in MLS instead of the lackadaisical attitude he had while injured last year.
I don’t think any of the Dynamo alumni are going to be the answer this year. It’s also going to be hard to recruit help from outside. The curse of success in MLS is the total lack of league-approved spending money. You either have to scout well (Revolution) or trade well (Dynamo) to stay in contention year after year and find the missing parts.
So who could the Dynamo get? They would have to give up either a player or the DP spot (I can’t imagine them trading a player to free up the money to use the DP this year) in a trade, along with draft picks. But who’s available?
If the Brian McBride-to-Chicago rumors are true, then the Fire are going to be in the market for a DP spot. Sadly, due to draconian MLS regulations it looks like Toronto get to extort a player from Chicago with the early rumors suggesting that Chad Barrett would be the bait. The only other forward on the Fire who would be close to the value of a DP spot would be Chris Rolfe. That’s never going to happen. If MLS puts the kibosh on TFC’s precedence for McBride, then I could see a DP spot for Barrett deal worked out – and all things considered he isn’t a terrible fit up top for the Dynamo – but I have trouble seeing it work.
So what’s going to happen? Dominic Kinnear will pick somebody up from the trash heap and polish them to a shine. Don’t ask me who, that’s just what Dom does.