You know, when the MLS schedule was announced back in January, I remember thinking to myself, "Wow, imagine if it came down to those last two games against the Columbus Crew!" Well, here we are. Two games for the mighty Revs to do what they need to do (win both games) to get a sure fire shot at the playoffs. Two games left to leave it all on the line, to dig deeper than they have all season. Two games left to show everyone that this is not only a good team but a GREAT team--a team that deserves to be in the playoffs this year.
Now, for the sake of argument, let's assume that, despite their most valiant efforts, the Revolution don't make the playoffs. Yes, it would be terrible. We've come so far! We were so close! How frustrating! The agony!!
But really, it would suck a lot.
Now if you're like me, then you let that anger and despair brew inside of you over the course of the next month or so as you begrudgingly watch the MLS playoffs hoping at least for some decent games to watch. And then the playoffs are over and someone like, say, the Seattle Sounders win or something. Then you've got to deal with lots of hype and headlines, pictures of confetti-filled CenturyLink Field flood the internet for a couple weeks. Etcetera, etcetera.
And then the dust settles... And you are alone with your thoughts about what was and what could have been... And so I ask you: When you look back on this season for the New England Revolution, what will you think?
Well, for me, I'm proud to say that it was a good year for my team. It was and exciting season, all year long, and one
that I'll look back on fondly no matter what happens between now and December.
But why? Why stay positive if we don't make the playoffs again? Why encourage the new status quo of not-quite-good-enough? Why, you ask?
For starters, the Revs flirted all season long with a playoff spot. No more bottom of the table for us! Well, that's thanks in part to D.C. United having a truly awful campaign and of course Toronto FC faring not much better. But still! We pulled it together, fixed our anemic attack before it was too late, strung together a more-than-respectable amount of shut-outs, and made a pretty decent summer push (instead of the usual summer slump).
Jay Heaps and his staff built this season's squad around a core of returning players like Kelyn Rowe, Lee Nguyen, Chris Tierney, Dimitry Imbongo, and Diego Fagundez (to name a few)--all contributors last year who showed the kind of promise, talent, loyalty, and attitude that Heaps was looking for from his team in his sophomore campaign. And of course they brought in some new talent, too, in the form of stand-out captain Jose Goncalves, rookie sensation Andrew Farrell, and midfield maestro Scott Caldwell, all of whom have become indispensable in the Revs lineup all year long.
And the Revs made a relatively deep U.S. Open Cup run, too; even played a game in the city at Harvard! A Revolution first! Plus they had some truly shining moments this year, like beating the back-to-back MLS Cup Champion LA Galaxy 5-0 (as one example).
Over the course of the season boy wonder Diego Fagundez scored double-digit goal, becoming the youngest player in team history to do so. Not only that, but as of this writing he is currently the fifth highest goal scorer in MLS this season. Simply put, Fagundez showed up this season in a big way, living up to the success story that everyone wanted for him and becoming the striker that we desperately needed him to be.
But the plaudits don't stop at Fagundez. Kelyn Rowe and Lee Nguyen shined once Heaps shifted them into the center of the pitch, tallying 11 goals and 13 assists between the two of them. Rowe in particular had what one could best describe as the complete opposite of a sophomore slump. Meanwhile Nguyen, who was voted the team MVP from last year, embraced his role as the engine in the midfield, sparking counter attacks and picking out surgical passes every chance he could. Oh, and let's not forget that the front office made a smart move to bring in U.S. National Teamer Juan Agudelo from Chivas USA, even if it was only for this season. His addition was pivotal in the Revolution's mid-season success that kept them from falling into their usual funk that we're all too used to happening.
Honestly, the more I think about it, it was a pretty damn good year. Sure some things didn't work out. Jerry Bengtson was a bona fide bust (despite scoring our first goal of the season--a game-winner IN Chicago, no less--and getting everyone's hopes up). Kalifa Cisse, an EPL veteran with lots of promise, didn't quite meet expectations and lost his job to a rookie half his size. And, yeah, we dropped points here and there (probably more than we should have), particularly when teams figured out that they could score goals on us if they shot from distance (but hey, at least we're like 10x better at defending set pieces this year, right?).
We held a league-leading defense for most of the season (and we still might to this point, I lost track). Sure, we were punch-less in front of goal for the first quarter of the year or so. But then Agudelo came in and Fagundez started scoring in droves and Kelyn started ripping curlers from 20 yards out and Dimitry barreled his way through backlines for a few ugly ones, too, and then things were different! Things were good! We were happy!
Remember on the road against Columbus when Goncalves scored late from a corner!? Remember his face as he ran toward the Revolution bench? REMEMBER THAT FEELING?? Well, I sure do. And THAT is the season I'll remember this being.
This season had its ups and downs, there's no denying. I've had to look away more than once. Believe me, I'm not saying it was all peachy--far from it. But it felt like a cohesive team through and through. This Revolution team has looked more like brothers this year than just simply teammates. There was a lot of heart out there this season, and a lot of trust, too. Jay Heaps' philosophy, whatever it might be, seemed to really get through to the whole locker room. They bought in. And I bought in, too, because of it.
This season I saw a group of guys fighting for 90+ minutes week-in and week-out, not only for themselves, but for each other, for their coach, for their fans, and for that little finger-painted, '94 World Cup rip-off American flag emblem on the left side of their jerseys.
Call me the eternal optimist if you must (and believe me, there were times this season when I was the proper antithesis of that), but when it's all said and done this season and we prepare to go into MLS hibernation, I'll be damn proud of what I saw from my New England Revolution this year. And whatever happens these next two games, or maybe even over the course of the next month, I am so excited to see what we can accomplish next season.
More from The Bent Musket:
- Saer Sene Has Surgery, Out for 4-6 Months
- Room for Growth: Expanding the Breakers' Fan Base
- Midfield Dilemma: Analyzing Heaps' Solutions vs Crew
- Breakers' Forward Kyah Simon Loaned to Western Sydney Wanderers
- United States 3, Panama 2 - 2013 CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying Recap - We're Really Sorry Panama