It is nearly upon us. A new season. A new chance for hope. A new chance for redemption. When the new MLS season begins, every single supporter dreams of MLS Cups and Supporter's Shields. Yet, more often than not, that's even less than a pipe dream. So why start off a year with exceptionally high - perhaps even unrealistic - expectations. An easy wager is because that's why we watch sports. We want a miracle, and sports are the place where they unfurl the most. Plus, we all know the clichés. They are inevitable because they are true: everyone has the same record, anyone could win it all, and everyone is on equal footing.
But the truth? Well, the truth is: some of us know better.
So as the new MLS season is nearly upon us. It is time to put those trite clichés away and take a good hard look at where exactly our New England Revolution could finish...realistically.
The dream of winning that elusive MLS Cup is nothing more than a dream. Sure we can dream, and maybe, just maybe we could be surprised. Still, in any given season, there are probably only five or six teams that are realistically competing for that goal.
New England, unfortunately, is still not one. There is talent on this squad, but they still need to prove that they can close out the tight games. In all likelihood, this team is going to be starting a very green back four, which will most likely include a rookie right back (Andrew Farrell) and an MLS newcomer (Jose Goncalves). Despite international form, Jerry Bengtson is still a question mark. And who knows what will come from Saer Sene off an injury.
Right now even talking about MLS Cup in conjunction with the Revolution is a joke.
Can a team go from ghastly (well maybe not ghastly, but you get the idea) to great? Generally speaking, most analysts believe that MLS is past their "worst to first" era; however, just last year the San Jose Earthquakes went from near the bottom of the league to Supporters' Shield winners.
That said, it took a career year from Alan Gordon, Steven Lenhart, and a record tying year from Chris Wondolowski for that to happen. Truthfully, the New England squad does have a player in Jerry Bengtson (wasn't I just talking about him?) who, in theory, could become an MLS force. Yet no one outside of Honduras is really ready to bet the farm on him. Perhaps Andy Dorman will be a better leader than either Shalrie Joseph or Benny Feilhaber ever was (something I'm more likely to bet on). Either way, it would take a lot of weird turns for this still young squad to go from the fourth worst team in the league to the best.
Eastern Conference Playoffs
Here's where we can get a little more argumentative. Looking ahead towards the playoffs is a case of how much more New England did than the other stragglers and current playoff qualifiers. Along with relatively lesser moves, they signed Kalifa Cisse along with the aforementioned Dorman and Goncalves; drafted Andrew Farrell in the Super Draft and Chad Barrett in the Re-Entry Draft; along with picking up a few spare parts here and there. These are not exactly earth-shattering moves, but they are not terrible either.
Then there are those that were here last year. Lee Nguyen is coming off a strong year, but now people are aware of him. Diego Fagundez is a year older and apparently - according to everything you read on the Revs - in the best shape of his young career. Saer Sene is still a question mark, and a year half as good as last year would be a huge win for Clyde Simms.
But while the Revs did not exactly sit still, neither did the other teams. The Columbus Crew made some moves to prime them to build around Federico Higuain's capable service. The Montreal Impact got more European, for whatever that's worth. The teams at the top of the East - Sporting Kansas City, D.C. United, Chicago Fire, and Houston Dynamo - all seemed to get better. Then there are the New York Red Bulls who, like we always say, look mighty dangerous on paper, but are bringing in a rookie head coach. And we know that could be either very good for them or very bad.
US Open Cup
Talk about a crap shoot. The US Open Cup is getting more serious each year. Match-ups, venues, and how serious Jay Heaps takes this tournament all will factor in. And while I'd love to predict that the Revs will be competitive, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that Bilal Ducket was picked up by the Revs off the lower-division team that beat them in last year's tournament.
Improved on Last Year
When you are stuck near the bottom, this is generally where to look. If New England can gather anything in the realm of 45 points, then most people would probably be happy, as that would at the least put them in playoff contention.