The 2011 season grades forge ever onward! Corey, Matty, and I have looked at the four major areas of the team - goalkeeping, defense, midfield, forwards - and assigned our grades on a 4.0 scale.
Unfortunately for the New England Revolution, we don't curve based on the rest of the league.
Without further ado, here are our grades for the Revolution midfield, which was strong on paper but still performed below expectations. We discuss their performance and grade them after the jump.
Corey: I think we've learned a lot in the midfield this year. The installation of Benny Feilhaber to this team was a pretty important move, and one that I think just about all Revs fans have been thankful for. Over the course of the season, Benny and Shalrie Joseph grew together and formed a chemistry that gave the Revs a sound backbone to build upon. The rest of the midfield, however, has fluctuated considerably. I, for one, think that there are plenty of positives in the midfield. Allow me to discuss them in brief.
Although the Benny-Shalrie pairing wasn't the most consistent, it was damn close to it. On the wings, however, there was much uncertainty. For most of the year, Chris Tierney was holding down the left wing. Tierney's service into the box was clutch and his crucial role in the Revs' set pieces is undeniable. His critics typically point to one aspect of his game, however, and that is his speed. Lets face it, Chris is not that fast. What I felt was a functional role for Chris was at left back where he could still contribute to set pieces and provide service, but didn't have to be relied upon to control the pace and tempo of the game.
Sainey Nyassi had a long run at right wing, but all he really brought to the attach was his speed. He lacked poise and vision, in my opinion, and ultimately I feel that his injury was a sort of blessing in disguise. Ryan Guy and Monsef Zerka are two players that I think the Revolution can really build upon. Their insertion into the team was more consistent at the end of the season, and so it's hard to really judge their contributions, I feel.
Finally, there's Diego Fagundez-and what do we really even have to say about him. His potential is unquestionable, and his involvement this season can perhaps be viewed as the best thing we've got going for us. Although Diego played as a forward for much of the latter part of the season, he added a lot to the midfield as well, and therefore his efforts there definitely bump up the overall midfield grade.
Matty: Here is where, in my opinion, the team faltered all season. The possession and distribution of said possession was abysmal. With two target strikers up top, New England failed to get the ball in good areas to their scorers, and that mainly fell on the lack of wing play this season. This team has never been able to fill the shoes of Steve Ralston, who always found ways to distribute the ball to his playmakers in good positions.
Shalrie Joseph has certainly lost a step or two, but there is still no denying his heart, leadership and strength in the center of the park. When the team gained possession in the defensive half of the field, it was often Joseph in the middle of it.
Benny Feilhaber is an outstanding addition to this team no matter how you look at it. The skill he possesses as well as the seasoning of playing in Europe are more than evident. A full off-season of training and better quality team mates around him will only bode well for the Revs' new playmaker.
Still want to see more of late additions like Zerka and Guy, as their roles weren't truly defined under Steve Nicol. It also may be team to cut ties with the Gambian connection, as neither have ever truly developed into the player the previous regime that they would. Perhaps I'd give them a half-season under Heaps to see if maybe a different voice could propel them to better form.
Steve: The Revolution's best outfield players were located in the midfield this year. Shalrie Joseph and Benny Feilhaber were the team's top performers, and players like Stephen McCarthy, Ryan Guy, and Monsef Zerka periodically put in good shifts as well. Unfortunately, it wasn't usually enough, and like last year the midfield had a terrible time keeping possession.
Steve Nicol started the season with a 3-man midfield engine room in mind as a way to combat 2010's passing and possession woes. It didn't work. The Revs couldn't keep the ball and they certainly couldn't create scoring chances. Worse, the squad's wing play was ineffectual at best until Zerka arrived and the technical staff finally decided to use Ryan Guy, but even then New England had difficulty generating offense from anywhere in the midfield.
Even a switch back to a four-man midfield with two in the center didn't save this team. Joseph faded as the season went on and although Feilhaber played well, he wasn't quite the difference-maker that many hoped he would be when the Revs picked him up. At the end of the season, not nearly enough chances were made and the midfield was a major reason for that.
Overall Grade: C/C+