"Revs Come Away Unscathed" read the headline at revolutionsoccer.net. Jeff Lemieux, the man who runs the official team blog, wrote that the lack of excitement and activity in New England related to the Expansion Draft was a good thing. At the end of the day, the fact remained that for the first time in MLS history, the Revolution did not lose a player to an incoming expansion team on draft day.
Perhaps the party line is not such a bad perspective in this situation. The Revs had left several important pieces from last season available for selection (Phelan, Gibbs, etc.) along with a couple of promising youngsters. It’s never a bad thing to see a familiar core group stay together, nor is it awful for a franchise to retain its best future prospects.
The pressing question is this: who really wants to keep a team together that finished sixteen points off the playoff pace last season? What good is a familiar nucleus if that same nucleus conceded a league-worst fifty goals, while scoring just thirty-two?
The Revolution of 2010 set franchise records for ineptitude. Their marks of thirty-two goals scored and a -18 goal differential were the worst in their fifteen-year existence. Who would want anyone on that roster?
Apart from a few players who were likely overlooked due to age or contract details (Burpo, Stolica), Vancouver and Portland passed on the unprotected Revolution players because they simply weren’t good enough.
The facts are plain. Even beyond a futile team effort, the individuals left unprotected posted fairly horrendous statistics by themselves. Kheli Dube scored just two goals in twenty appearances. Pat Phelan was tied for first on the team in appearances in the center of midfield, but his two goals were from set piece headers and he was a yellow- or red-card liability every minute he featured. Those players made available to the expansion teams weren’t just unattractive to the Timbers and Whitecaps, they’re also totally expendable to the Revolution.
On its own, this evidence serves to illuminate the Revs’ crippling lack of depth in 2010. Most teams would identify this as their primary offseason concern. The Revolution, however, are not most teams, and a brief analysis of the players on the protected list will illustrate that clearly.
Marko Perovic, Kevin Alston and Darrius Barnes are quality pieces to build a team around, without question. Matt Reis is a proven MLS goalkeeper and a team leader, while the protection of Bobby Shuttleworth was likely meant to avoid a fiasco similar to last season’s draft when keeper-of-the-future Brad Knighton was unexpectedly taken by Philadelphia. Finally, the Revolution were never, ever going to leave their captain and best player unprotected in Shalrie Joseph.
With six of eleven protected spots used on players of deserving quality (five if you don’t place value on retaining a young backup keeper), the remaining spots were used to guard players the Revolution regard as essential components or hot prospects. Their ability, however, can be called into question.
Chris Tierney was a critical piece in 2010, showcasing his versatility by playing just about every position on the pitch. He acquitted himself well both in open play and with his set-piece delivery, and is regaled in the locker room for his leadership qualities even at a relatively young age. These qualities, though admirable, are still the skill set of a bench player at best on any playoff team this season, and probably most Eastern Conference squads that finished above the Revs in the table. One goal and four assists from a regular starter who plays primarily on the wings or as an attacking fullback isn’t good enough.
Kenny Mansally and Sainey Nyassi are an enigmatic Gambian duo who played integral roles in 2010. Though tremendous athletes (Nyassi’s speed is close to the best in MLS, if not far and away there), neither seem to have a refined touch and are often guilty of making poor decisions. Nyassi in particular was often seen dribbling at defenders when he should have passed, shooting when he should have crossed and mistiming runs to the great detriment of possession and attack. Both players are rotation parts at best on a contender.
Zack Schilawski started 2010 on a brilliant run of form, snatching a masterful hat-trick against Toronto in his home debut. Unfortunately, he managed just two more league goals despite twenty-five appearances over the course of the season. As future contributors go it appears that Schilawski could be the real deal, but it remains to be seen whether or not he will adapt to the rigors of a full professional season and translate good early-season form into effectiveness in September and October.
Finally, the Revolution elected to protect Emmanuel Osei. Osei was a rock in ’09, using his amazing athleticism and unmatched bravery to compliment the calm and positioning of Darrius Barnes. Even then, though, he was known for instances of madness due to an apparent overestimation of his technical skills. In 2010, Osei became a total liability. He repeatedly adventured well away from the back line and gifted possession to the opposition, compounded by his ending up far out of position to defend the counter. The Ghanaian is a major reason why the Revs conceded fifty goals.
The aftermath of the expansion draft leaves the Revolution in stark relief to the rest of the league. They weren’t the only team to remain untouched in the draft but they might be the only squad that protected players no one else wants. Deeper issues than depth plague this side; their starting XI is downright awful.
Describing the results of the draft in reference to the Revolution as a "good thing" seems like an improper interpretation of events. In fact, the lack of interest in New England players is almost insulting. It would be insulting, if fans of the organization didn’t already know it was 100% justified.
Worse than the expansion teams’ total lack of consideration for Revolution players is the fans’ apathy toward losing any of them. There was little outcry and negative sentiment when the lists were released; comments on the Revolution home page indicated that supporters wouldn’t be too sad to see anyone go. None of this looks good for the organization. Perhaps, with the right offseason moves, next year’s expansion draft will be a bit more of a nail-biter for Revs fans. That would be a good thing.