A week ago, New England Revolution supporters got absolutely gut checked. Following a 1-0 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes, the team ran head first into a 3-0 shellacking at the hands of Sporting Kansas City. Suddenly, those old negative feelings of inadequacy began to creep back in, and a preseason that dared get our hopes up looked like nothing more than a glorious dream. Add in a supposed nightmare of a road trip sending the team to face the LA Galaxy and FC Dallas, and it all looked to be coming apart at the seams. But the soccer gods were not done with the bad news. After the two losses and the bear of a road trip, images of Benny Feilhaber in a walking-boot began to circulate around Twitter.
Our hero, the returning US International was hurt! The most creative force, the most dangerous, the most sought-after, and the most exciting player from our two defeats was out. Visions of Open Cups and playoff berths began to dissipate before our eyes.
Then, a funny thing happened in Foxboro.
The unbeaten Portland Timbers, a menacing threat from the Pacific Northwest, entered the sunken hollows of Gillette with their new goal scoring DP, Kris Boyd, as favorites ... and lost. They were defeated by the Revolution ... without Benny Feilhaber. Boyd, despite some chances, was held scoreless by a makeshift back line. It was a happy, if surprising, moment, and we celebrated it.
The hope, for most, was that there would be a happy return for Benny Blue-Eyes on the road to Carson; after all, the much tougher clutches of the Los Angeles Galaxy were awaiting. But suddenly, it looked as though Benny would not be returning until at least the D.C. United match.
All hope was lost. Until it wasn't.
With a 3-1 scoreline, the once mighty Galaxy crumbled. Lee Nguyen was a star, Chris Tierney was a hero, Ryan Guy was incredible, Kelyn Rowe returned to preseason form, and Saer Sene kept on scoring. But now, on the season, the Revs are 0-0-2 with Benny as the key to the Revolutions attack, and the team is 2-0-0 without him leading the charge. Who would have thought?
Years ago, Bill Simmons discussed the idea of "the Ewing Theory." The theory is that some teams do better without their superstar, marquee player. In the 1999 NBA Playoffs the New York Knicks lost Patrick Ewing to injury and suddenly went on a run to the NBA Finals where they ultimately lost. But the idea that the team was better without Ewing - their best player - haunted him and the team for the rest of his time with the Knicks.
I'm not yet ready to Ewing-theory Benny Feilhaber, especially not after only two games. In my mind, there is no doubt that Benny returns to the first-choice lineup at the soonest possible date. Yet with the team playing the way it's played over the last two games there is no need for him to rush back before he is ready.
Unfortunately, when he does, we have a new problem: who gets benched? Is it Kelyn Rowe in an attempt to maintain his Generation Adidas status? Is it Ryan Guy because he can cover for, at minimum, three different positions as a bench presence? Is it Lee Nguyen or Clyde Simms? Okay, we all know it's not going to be Simms or Nguyen, but still.
The relationship between the Revolution's suddenly good form and Benny Feilhaber's absence are just coincidental. However, knowing as we do that Benny plays better with players he trusts, perhaps him watching his team take care of business twice in a row (including a dominating win over the defending champs) will help him make a trust-recovery upon his return. Because if Benny can fit into the picture on his return to a much better, stronger, and more functional team, very good things could be in the future for our New England Revolution.