By Ryan Fleming
Let’s breathe for a second. Sure, they are 1-0-1. Yes, they are just a measly two games in. So, should the New England Revolution fans be that excited? Probably not, but I’m impressed.
This isn’t saying that if I was a fan, I wouldn’t be over the moon, as they say. Fans of any teams, but especially soccer ones, have a long memory. It wasn’t that long ago (a year) that the Revs played some uninspired ball. Sure, they were stricken with injuries, players were playing out of position, but the bottom line is they just plain stunk.
For now, the stormy days in New England seem to be fading.
Shalrie Joseph, who took a leave of absence from the team to enter the league’s substance abuse program is with the team, is playing his part – dominating the midfield, spraying passes and for now, scoring goals. Much can be said about the presence of Joseph. The lanky midfielder is by far the best player on the New England roster and as important as any player to any team in the league. Scoring two goals in two games will get your name recognized and published, but for an underrated midfielder in a market that isn’t anywhere near the top of the league, Joseph could start getting some much-deserved publicity — especially if the Revs continue to play well.
For a second year forward who played some of the worst ball on the team toward the end of the season, Zack Schilawski has turned it around. For now. Schilawski, hands down the man of the match in New England’s 2-1 win over DC United, looked fit, appeared confident and morphed into a Jozy Altidore type forward who can hold the ball and pass when necessary. There are a couple problems, though. United’s defense is nothing to fear and what cannot escape the memory is that the Wake Forest product’s goal should have never counted. Either way, there is improvement, but let’s wait to see before we get carried away.
One of the biggest areas of concern, despite Schilawski’s play, is where all the goals are going to come from. Currently Marko Perovic remains out with a left hamstring strain. Perovic led the lowly Revs last year with six goals and showed he had more creativity in his boots than any teammate out there. Give props to Nicol and team GM Michael Burns for spotting the Serb. Even with Perovic in the the lineup, the Revs averaged a goal a game, without him a bit over (24 goals in 24 appearances with, eight goals in six games without). That’s hardly evidence that Perovic makes the team better or worse, but watching him on the field, you can sense an element that he brings, which stats don’t account for.. But without a real goal-scoring forward or a poacher, this team will end up near the depths of the league in goals scored
The defense, though, could be a different story. By far the most glaring stat the Revolution owned was their 50 goals allowed – the most in the league. Nicol and Co. added French veteran Didier Domi, drafted AJ Soares out of California in the first round; ex-Houston defender Ryan Cochrane; and Argentine youngster Franco Coria. As a whole, the newcomers have only allowed two goals in two games, a feat that’s impressive when you see that they lined up against Landon Donovan, David Beckham and Charlie Davies (yes, I’m saying that Davies will be among the top scorers in the league). A reason for concern though is how Coria, when he is healthy, and Soares will stack up when they are under pressure.
So far the two have passed each test they’ve come across, and impressively so. Cochrane is a nice addition, but not a player who is a game changer. In Saturday’s win Domi showed that he isn’t afraid to push forward and take matters into his own hands offensively. He wasn’t tested all that much defensively, but handled himself when he was called on.
The Revs do deserve credit for the way they have started the season. They’ve played solid defensively, created a number of chances offensively and have taken points out of both games. It’s too early to get excited, too early to start calling them the comeback team of the year. Two games in is hardly enough of a sample. One fact that is true, this team is improved and ready to face adversity this year.
Ryan Fleming can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.