FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 10: Rajko Lekic #10 of the New England Revolution celebrates his goal against the FC Dallas at Gillette Stadium on September 10, 2011 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Come on now, Revs, don't go getting me all excited and optimistic again! Fool me once.. or.. err... 4 times.. shame on you, but fool me a 5th time... you get where I'm going. Needless to say, I was quite shocked to hear on Saturday night that the Revs won, against FC Dallas no less. Unfortunately, I was unable to watch the game until last night, so forgive my delay in getting this piece up.
What a game. To begin, this starting XI has got to be our A Squad. It is for me at least. Is it too early to say that Monsef Zerka just might have been the missing piece to our puzzle in the midfield? Probably. I might just say it anyway. Franco Coria in the back 4, paired with Soares in the middle, just seems to be so much more effective. I don't want to be too overly critical of Ryan Cochrane, but Coria just seems so much more active and involved. And it seems like he and Soares have good chemistry and a good partnership; one that I feel more comfortable with when Kevin Alston or Darrius Barnes spring forward when the Revs are on the attack. That is a big improvement for me and I hope that Coria can stay healthy so that we can see more of him.
Also, this was yet another A+ game from A.J. Soares, in my opinion at least. Bravissimo!
All in all, everyone seemed to be in sync during this match. A perfect example was our opening goal. Caraglio skillfully takes a ball that was kind of overshot for him, uses what little time he has to pick out where his support is, back heels the ball to Zerka who then glides in a cross for Shalrie's head. Just beautiful. Plays like that were virtually non-existent in the beginning of the season. Seriously, guys, look how far we've come.
For all my past criticisms of Rajko Lekic, this match makes 2 in a row where I thought he played really well. Key points for me were his shot in the 51st minute from about 25-30 yards out that was just barely handled by Kevin Hartman (proving to me that he can actually function as a more well-rounded striker), his play to Benny Feilhaber in the 54th whose shot hit the post and during which he was called offside anyway (still a great play), and, of course, his goal at the end. The best thing that Rajko did, though, was his defensive stop in the 58th when FC Dallas earned a free kick in the box after the Matt Reis confusion/miscommunication. He single-handedly stopped what was probably FC Dallas' best scoring opportunity all game.
Reis of course did his part this game also, and put up yet another commendable performance. As the season ticks down, I can only hope and pray that the Revs manage to keep him around for seasons to come. I hope he's got a few more in him.
A general improvement that I really saw during this game was the fact that the team spent time in the attacking third. We all bitched and moaned about not being able to do so for the better part of our season, but just look at us now. Time in the attacking third = goals. Imagine that: the Revs scoring goals. And not just from Penalty Kicks anymore! I know, I know... there's PLENTY more to work on. But, you have to admit, the team we see now could kick the crap out of the team we saw at the beginning of the season.
I am not without my critical eye, mind you. There's plenty for me to still be concerned with (Caraglio missing on an open net? Come on!! I'd expect that from Kenny Mansally but not from you, Milton!). But, maybe-just maybe-we're learning from our mistakes. Obviously the biggest example of that was not making defensive substitutions in the second half when we have the lead. As Stoehrst points out, hopefully this will be the beginning of a shift in philosophy for the Revs. While the playoffs are just about out of sight for us at this point, I see no reason why we shouldn't be able to build upon this and give everyone else a run for their money as we finish out the season. When we look at this season in the rearview, regardless of how we finish it out, it will be hard not to see it as a disappointment. But maybe we'll also be able to call it a "rebuilding year" for the Revs; maybe we'll be able to say it was a season of just some inevitable growing pains.
Thanks for the win, Revs. But I'm still not holding my breath.