By Ryan Fleming
The weather in Massachusetts could not better represent what the New England Revolution are probably feeling going into this weekend’s game against Real Salt Lake. The gloomy and morose conditions outdoors go hand in hand with the fact that the Revs are technically out of a playoff spot and are hereby playing for pride the remainder of the season.
Despite the “meaningless” overtone that this weekend’s game at Gillette Stadium (only one more remaining) might have for the Revs’ fans, the players must know that to them, the games, meaning playoff potential are not are all invaluable. With games against Real, Houston, Kansas City and New York, the Revolution are in a position to try different things, mix up the lineups and give coach Steve Nichol something to build on next year.
For youngsters like Seth Sinovic, Kevin Alston, Zack Schilawski, Sainey Nyassi, and Kenny Mansally, each game represents another chance to see more playing time, to get better and perhaps show Nichol a little extra something that wasn’t there before.
“I guess when the regular season’s done, then it’ll fully hit me. Right now, we’re just trying to practice and stay focused,” Revs captain Shalrie Joseph said to the team’s official website. “We’ve still got a couple of games left and we’ve still got to finish strong.”
Midfielder Pat Phelan, like Joseph, still maintains that the remaining games on the schedule will be taken seriously and the team wants to come away with three points. “The objective is to win on Saturday,” he said. “I keep saying that wherever we are in the table, the objective is always going to be the same and it won’t change for Saturday coming up (against Real Salt Lake).”
For the fans, though, it will be hard. Not playing games deep into fall isn’t something they’ve grown accustomed to. The Revs (7-14-5, 26 pts.) have made the playoffs eight-straight years, including four MLS Cup appearances. Last year’s near-playoff absence unfortunately gave fans a glimpse at what was to come.
“If you look at the organization over the last [eight] years, it’s been easy for people to be Revs fans,” said Phelan. “The last couple years have been a little tougher, and this year’s been the toughest.”
New England could go a long way in showing their supporters how serious they are on improving by finishing the season strong. Despite the clouds that hang over Gillette, Phelan and his teammates could start breaking through to the bright future that could lay ahead.
“We’ve got to give our fans something to come back for next year,” Phelan said.
Ryan Fleming is an editor and writer for The Soccer Guys. He can be reached at Ryan.Fleming@thesoccerguysonline.com.