By IAN HOLLIDAY
After missing the playoffs for the first time under Steve Nicol last season, the Revolution enters the 2011 season with more questions than answers.
The Revs have been in transition since Taylor Twellman first sustained the head injury that would eventually end his career midway through the 2008 season. With Twellman's retirement in November, the team can no longer be seen as waiting to get its star striker back, and must instead focus on finding a productive goalscorer and a creative midfielder to supply him. Shalrie Joseph has the skill to fill either of these roles capably, but his best position is as a holding midfielder. While Serbian imports Marko Perovic and Ilija Stolica showed flashes last season, it remains to be seen whether their production over the course of a full season will be enough to get the Revs back to the playoff promised land.
The team will once again spend much of its preseason training indoors in Foxborough, with trips planned to Orlando in February and Atlanta in March. During the Atlanta trip, New England will take part in the inaugural "Atlanta MLS Challenge," a three-team exhibition tournament featuring the Revs, the Columbus Crew and the Houston Dynamo.
Here is a closer look at the New England Revolution's preseason plans:
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION
Training schedule: Jan. 31-Feb. 13 in Foxborough; Feb. 14-24 in Orlando, Fla.; Feb. 28-March 2 in Foxborough; March 3-13 in Kennesaw, Ga.
Tentative game schedule: matches in Orlando TBA; March 6 vs. Columbus Crew; March 9 vs. Columbus Crew; March 13 vs. Houston Dynamo
Key arrivals: D A.J. Soares, D Didier Domi, D Ryan Cochrane
Key departures: F Taylor Twellman, D Cory Gibbs, D Emmanuel Osei
What to watch for: The Revolution gave up a league-high 50 goals last season, and their offseason transactions were almost all aimed at bolstering the back line. Gone are the unpredictable Osei and the oft-injured Gibbs, and added are veteran Frenchman Domi, former Dynamo Cochrane, and Superdraft selection Soares. The newcomers will join third-year pros Darrius Barnes and Kevin Alston, both of whom will be looking to improve after less-than-stellar sophmore seasons. Depending on how quickly the group gels and how quickly the talented Soares adjusts to life in MLS, the unit has the potential to be much improved this season.
Of note: In addition to giving up a lot of goals, the Revs had a lot of trouble scoring in 2010, managing only 32 goals in 30 games. With few changes to the midfield and forward corps, the team seems likely to struggle again in this department. One potential long-term solution worth watching is Diego Fagundez, the Revs' first homegrown player. The 15 year-old has scored goals in bunches with the club's U-16 team, and signed a contract with the senior team in November. Fagundez will not be joining the full squad during the preseason, but expect Steve Nicol to give him a look sometime during the summer, especially if the team is having trouble finding the back of the net.
I’m sorry, I didn’t catch any Cosmos games lately….oh, they must not be playing in the league with the Revs, when they start playing in the league you can post comments like that.
Gotta question how many games the people above me actually watched.
Beyond the scoring issues (which wasn’t really addressed from the season before), the major issue the Revs had was a lack of consistency along the backline.
Barnes, Gibbs, Osei, and Alston all missed considerable time due to injuries forcing the Revs to play a number of midfielders out of position. Generally the poor defending can be contributed to a lack of playing time and general inexperience.
There are certainly a number of bright spots from last year including Perovic’s free kicks and Nyassi starting to put it together out wide, and the Revs have always built from the draft. Sure the team may not have some of the names that Revs fans were used to seeing, but a little patience to let the new faces grow into those roles is certainly warranted before we jump down the front offices throats…
I would agree with this statement. Nicol will never play anybody that young, no matter how good the kid is.
The real mystery with the Revs is who the problem is? Is it the front office that refuses to spend any money or is SN never satisfied with the players he could sign?
All I know is I went to zero games last year and unless they do something to improve the team, I won’t waste my money this year either. I used to go a lot
Almost every little bit of talent that the Revs had 3 and 4 years ago is gone. Those were the good old days. Thinking about all of the players that have been through the Revs lineup and have since left is kind of depressing. Heaps, Parkhurst, Larentowicz, Dorman, Dempsey, Ralston, Noonan, Twellman… The Revs were once the team to beat year in and year out and now… well…
Revs will continue to be a joke until an SSStadium is built in Boston, we garner a shirt sponsor, and rebrand the team….
Then the players and the fans will come!
Going to a game at Gillett sucks!
stick your head in the toilet.
He does have a number. They issued him #14.
I’ve always admired Stevie Nicol but this team and talent acquisition (especially with Mariner gone) have left him with no tools.
I’m convinced that a big factor in NE’s defensive struggles was having to push Shalrie Joseph up the field. If he plays a true holding mid role, their defense will be a lot better. But the offense will suck even more.
This is a team that has probably relied on its’ stars (Twellman, Dempsey, Joseph, Reis) maybe more than any other team in MLS. And as they’ve left or retired or seen their game drop, the team just hasn’t replaced them or upgraded.
There is no way Diego Fagundez will see even the smallest bit of playing time this season. He is not close to the MLS level and is still working through his High School course load.
He is definitely one to watch for in the future but in context of the very long term.
The team would even tell you that if you asked. They released jersey numbers to the newest players and they didn’t even provide one for Fagundez.
If the international signings announced for Monday aren’t talented, proven attacking players, you can throw the Revs into the 2011 trash bin.
In fact, the franchise has more money to spend now (including the Dempsey allocation money still out there) than ever.
So if THESE aren’t big signings, they never will be, and New England will incredibly become a permanent second class citizen in a salary-capped league.
Two words: Who cares? Go Cosmos
It’s very disappointing to see the front office waste another off-season and further disengage a once passionate fan base.
Living in a market that doesn’t have a MLS team anywhere close by (Atlanta), I can’t wait for the chance to finally see MLS teams play in person. Even if its just preseason….and the fact that the Revs are involved. 😉