New England Revolution
2007 Record: 14-8-8 (2nd in East)
Coach: Steve Nicol (7th Year)
Key Players: Taylor Twellman, Matt Reis, Steve Ralston, Michael Parkhurst
Key Pickups: Chris Albright (from L.A. Galaxy)
Key Losses: Pat Noonan (to AAFK), Andy Dorman (to St. Mirren)
2008 Outlook: Good
It’s official. Revs fans are tired of the Buffalo Bills comparisons. For a team from the land of champions (Red Sox are defending MLB champs, Celtics are rolling in the NBA, and the Patriots were, um, almost perfect…), finishing second is simply not good enough, even if you can do it four times in six years (and three years in a row now). The U.S. Open Cup the Revs won last year was nice, but I doubt it satisfied the notoriously demanding N.E. sports fans.
The question then is, how does NER get over the hump? Well, due to the loss of longtime starters Dorman and Noonan, Ralston and Twellman need, more than ever, to continue to produce. This could prove tougher than it seems though as Ralston’s age is advancing (isn’t everyone’s though) and Twellman is upset over the front office’s refusal to send him abroad. To a certain extent, I understand Twellman’s disdain for the decision as he simply wants to improve his game (and make more $$$).
But, if you’re a Revs fan you have to appreciate the ownership’s decision for many reasons. The biggest reason though? Heck, he’s your best player and with Noonan gone, the Revs would have been almost bare at forward (other than the surprising Adam Cristman).
Beyond the obvious reasons, the owners also probably considered the fact that Twellman is the “face of the team” and loved by both the fans and his teammates. Losing him (and perhaps any influence he can have on younger players who can watch him domestically) in the long term for such a small short term gain at this point just simply did not make sense. And to be honest, if Twellman really wants to show he is pissed and deserves to be elsewhere, I would encourage him to try and play as well as possible this year. The sweeter he plays, the better the deal, and the better the deal, the harder it will be for the owners to turn down.
I like the Revs in 2008 even without Noonan and Dorman. Twellman and Cristman should be a good tandem up top and in the middle Joseph is probably the best all-around player in the league. Ralston, Jeff Larentowicz, Khano Smith, and Wells Thompson are all able midfielders. The offense should continue to be among the league’s best in goals per game.
Defensively, the Revs are even nastier than last year. Parkhurst plays like a crafty veteran despite his tender years and the addition of Albright not only helps the Revs keep the ball out of their net, but assists them in transitioning the ball down the field. Jay Heaps is also a reliable outside back. All in all, Reis shouldn’t be too busy this season.
The biggest reason the Revs will be successful though is their desire to win. Remember how in the RSL preview I mentioned that they lost too many games by one goal? Well, meet RSL’s doppelganger, the Revs were 9-4 in one goal games last season, which was the best in the MLS. If Nicol can keep his team focused, there is no reason the Revs can’t continue to win the close games and march back to the MLS Cup.
Once there, the Revs will have to win the Big One. If not, the Bills comparisons won’t just be accurate, they will be spot on.
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