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Know Thy Enemy: Revolution vs. Rapids Western Conference Statement Game Edition

The Revolution have two home games left, and the Rapids are the best team left on the schedule and likely the best team New England will play for a month.

MLS: New England Revolution at D.C. United Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Alright, let’s make this quick.

There’s been a lot of discourse on the Revs’ Twitter hashtag of late, especially interacting with fans out of Seattle. There are those that are of the opinion that the unbalanced nature of the MLS Schedule and the supposed lack of talent and wins in the Eastern Conference is what has propelled the New England Revolution to the top of the Supporter’s Shield Standings.

As someone who has paid money to watch Herculez Gomez score a goal for the United States in East Hartford, I feel confident in my ability to say that Herc is wrong here. Bruce was wrong in 2019. And Sounders fans are wrong too.

The major issue here is where people are assigning this supposed blame, which should be directed at the league, and not the Shield. The Supporter’s Shield Committee doesn’t make the schedule and in a GLOBAL FREAKING PANDEMIC, perhaps it’s best that we don’t have the league’s players flying across the entire country once a month. But that’s just a thought.

The Revolution won the Shield because they were the most consistent team in 2021 at winning soccer games. It doesn’t matter who they played and when, who was injured or away on national team duty, it matters that this year they have the most points in Major League Soccer. The single points Shield table is the only thing in MLS across a four-time zone continent that resembles the European model in our Super Bowl/Stanley Cup/World Series obsesses playoff continent and it should be recognized and honored as such. Especially by the league’s broadcasters and former players but Herc’s allowed to have one bad take every now and again, very unlike him in my opinion.

We should reward teams for regular season success, it’s a better indication of how good your team is rather than 3-4 games in November. We’re the Union a terrible team last year because they lost in the quarterfinals to the Revs in the playoffs? Absolutely not. Is MLS Cup more important the Shield. Absolutely yes, but that shouldn’t detract from how success a team was or is over a season.

I’ve watched a lot of sports over the years - my beloved Atlanta Braves are back in the World Series for the first time since 1999 and have I don’t even know how many NL East division titles going back to the 90s. The Chipper and Andruw Jones and Glavine/Maddux/Smoltz led teams managed by all-time ejections leader Bobby Cox were great - they just only have the one World Series to show for it cause it’s hard to win playoff titles.

The Philadelphia Eagles in the Donovan McNabb/Andy Reid era went to a lot of NFC Championship games and not a lot of Super Bowls, but were one of the best and most consistent teams for a decade. Not winning a Super Bowl doesn’t change how good those teams were and how much I enjoyed watching them.

There’s an unhealthy obsession on this continent with playoff wins and I quite frankly don’t get it. The Taylor Twellman/Steve Nicol teams of the 2000s are one of the best teams in MLS in that stretch but don’t have an MLS Cup to show for it, but they got there four times in six years. As heartbreaking as those losses are (and still are to this fanbase), it doesn’t change the fact those teams were good.

I don’t care if Sounders fans are bitter about not winning the Shield or think their team is better cause they play in a different conference. If their team wants to prove they’re the best there’s an open invitation to Gillette Stadium in December. The path to Gillette might go through Century Link... (wait, the name changed? When? Seriously? Alright...), I mean Lumen Field. Assuming the Sounders who have one point in their last four games and no longer control their own destiny can win the West can sort themselves out. But the backward conference logic and 13-win nonsense is just that - noise. And it should be ignored... while we drink beer and Dunkin coffee and eat New Haven apizza off the Shield in the tailgate lot at Gillette.

Onto more important things. Hey! The Revs play a Western Conference opponent in the Rapids tonight. Excellent, a chance to beat a team from a good conference. Considering the Revs are 0-1 against the West this year, losing to FC Dallas after beating both New York teams in the six days prior to a Ricardo Pepi coming out party, the Revs can really solidify their place in the standings with a win tonight.

No seriously, we’re on a quest for the most points ever in MLS history. Two wins in our final two games gets New England to 76 points. A great number. And an excellent test against what should be a mostly rested Revs side as they prepare for a long layoff ahead of their first playoff game.

As always we chat with our great friend Abbie Mood of the Burgundy Wave about all things Rapids including their continued success over the last few seasons and how they can improve long term but sadly don’t talk about a potential Burgundy-Red jersey matchup because someone finally has a good alternate kit. It’s not the Revs. Love the green Colorado, bring back the early Rapids logo too.

As always check out their site for my answer’s to Abbie’s questions.

1. Colorado currently sits third in the West, is that over or under where the Rapids thought they would be this year? Can they improve that playoff spot or will passing Seattle and Sporting KC prove a task too far?

If the Rapids get back into their groove, I think it would be totally reasonable for them to overtake Sporting and/or Seattle. They’ve missed some real opportunities to gain points but have pulled in 7 points in their last 4 games, so they’re trending up.

2. Who is the Rapids MVP for 2021? Maybe most improved/underrated and one player who struggled this year as well?

I would say the captain Jack Price is the MVP for 2021. He was here for the Hudson years and has been a part of keeping the guys focused on getting better and winning games. As far as his play goes, he’s been instrumental in their set-piece success and has 12 assists this season, which is third-highest in MLS. He’s a hard worker who never quits and I think he’s one of the most important players this squad has.

I don’t think there’s anyone who is really underrated per se, but Cole Bassett has really struggled as of late. He has a few goals this season but had a stretch of six or so games where he just kept hitting the post and seemed to be getting increasingly frustrated. It doesn’t seem as though Rapids head coach Robin Fraser has lost faith in the young player, but he’s definitely gotta get over the slump.

3. The Rapids have been on the rise the last couple of years, can they build on the momentum of their last two playoff seasons and what do they need to do to maintain that level of success?

I think a huge contributing factor to their success is having not just a competent coach, but a good one. Robin Fraser knows what he’s doing and has a solid staff around him as well, particularly Chris Sharpe, who has been around since the Pablo days and is the set piece specialist. The Rapids might not ever be a team who brings in a big name but they have been able to find the pieces that work. There are still positions that could be strengthened, so if they make some good signings this off-season, I think they’re going to finally be the perennial playoff team that the fans have been promised.

Lineup/Injuries/Predictions/Etc.

Younes Namli had a last-minute injury last week and then was out this weekend, so he’s up in the air. Keegan Rosenberry, who rarely misses any time, was also out last game, but I don’t have an update on either of them.

I think it’s going to be a tough game for the Rapids to be honest, but I’d be psyched if they came away with a draw.

Fraser likes to mix up the line-up with these mid-week games, so I’m not confident guessing about what he might do lol