Earlier this year, I was asked to write a Revolution season preview for Major League Soccer Talk. For the most part, I went into the season with realistic expectations. There were no delusions of Supporter's Shield nor MLS Cup in my head. The perfect season for these New England Revolution, with a new roster, and a new head coach, was just to play well and not finish dead last in the league.
However, I also wrote a "Worst Case Scenario". The majority of supporters who read it proclaimed that scenario to be "over-the-top", "mighty dark", "scary", and ne'er "impossible" for the team to reach. And honestly, when I wrote it, even I thought I might be taking my "Worst Case Scenario" a bit far.
Yesterday, I went back and looked at it:
Worst Case Scenario: Jay Heaps is overwhelmed, Benny Feilhaber is traded, Bob Kraft continues to ignore this franchise, Shalrie Joseph is transferred in the summer, and the team finishes 19th as opposed to the 17th they finished last year.
Pretty dark? More like pretty damn accurate to where we sit now.
Worst Case 1: "Jay Heaps is overwhelmed..."
It may be tough to say Jay Heaps is overwhelmed, but the early season success of the club has definitely seemed to dissipate. Heaps is having the struggles of a first year manager -- who has no previous managerial experience. There does not seem to be a set system for the Revs other than "We Will Attack." Sometimes the midfield a diamond, other times it's an empty bucket, other times it's a double-pivot, and a lot of times the midfield lineup does not seem to match the opponent.
Then there is where people are playing. Shalrie on the backline, Benny as a holding midfielder, Ryan Guy as every single position outside of goalkeeper. Heck, Heaps has played Saer Sene, Ryan Guy, Blake Brettschneider, Jerry Bengtson, and pretty much anyone with a pulse as a target forward.
The backline, which has been in constant flux, doesn't leave us with much more confidence in Heaps's plan. Going into the season, most thought A.J. Soares was going to be in the running for Defender of the Year or even a USMNT call up. Instead, many would now argue that he is not even having as good a season as Stephen McCarthy along the backline. Part of this may have to do with playing a backline that has two midfielder (McCarthy and Chris Tierney) on it.
Furthermore, while he may not be fully overwhelmed, there does seem to be a problem with the more experienced guys.The relationship between Heaps and Benny, and Heaps and Reis, and Heaps and Shalrie all seemed to have deteriorated at one point or another. And while I'm not a psychologist, or a body language expert, Heaps has seemed to have a bit trouble dealing with the more veteran players.
Worst Case 2: "Benny Feilhaber is traded..."
As of the writing of this, Benny Feilhaber is still a member of the New England Revolution. Nevertheless, as soon as Juan Toja was selected by New England via Allocation, nearly every expert began speculating the Benny should be on the block. In fact, this was something I speculated here before Toja even became a Rev.
Perhaps Worst Case 1 and Worst Case 2 are connected. Perhaps Benny would work without Heaps, or even vice versa, but would anyone really be shocked at this point if Benny Feilhaber ended up somewhere else before September 15th?
Worst Case 3: "Bob Kraft continues to ignore this franchise..."
There is photographically proven evidence that Bob Kraft has actually made it to at least one Revs game this season. However, it appears more of the same other than that. Truthfully, how much blame should be given on an apathetic front office to Kraft and how much should be given to the front office itself is uncertain -- and maybe even unfair.
That said, we are well past the latest "there will be news on a SSS" date. And Bob Kraft has spent more time helping his new girlfriend tryout for movies than he has promoting the New England Revolution to the public.
Worst Case 4: "Shalrie Joseph is transferred in the summer..."
Excuse me while I go cry over my Shalrie bobble head.
Worst Case 5: "and the team finishes 19th as oppossed to the 17th they finished last year."
The season started slowly, but after convincing wins over the Portland Timbers, LA Galaxy, and Vancouver Whitecaps we looked to be all set to finish closer to the playoffs. When Saer Sene seemed to find the back of the net like no Revs player since Twellman, we looked to be legit. When Lee Nguyen and Fernando Cardenas were putting on soccer And 1 clinics with tricks-and-flicks, there was no way we were going to finish any lower than 16th.
Is the team more fun to watch this year? Yes. But does that watchability factor make them more frustrating to watch? Yes. But the fear for next year is already creeping in. What is Sene's contract situation? Can we hold on to Bengtson? Did we break A.J.? Who is Reis's heir apparent? The worst case scenario always has us thinking that things will never get better.
Looking back on this season, we have to remember that we are rebuilding. Rebuilding takes time, and we as sports fans are impatient. But rebuilding or not, this is still playing out like the worst case scenario.