In the 19th minute of Saturday night’s crucial match vs Chicago Fire SC, Revs' left back Brandon Bye was dispossessed by Fire right winger Aleksandar Katai in the Revs’ defensive third. The Serbian dribbled toward goal, feigned New England centerback Michael Mancienne into a block attempt to elude him, and then fired a shot past netminder Brad Knighton. The two defensive mistakes opened the door to the match’s opening goal and an unexpected 1-0 Chicago lead.
Following a Revolution equalizer in the 62nd minute, speedy Fire left winger Raheem Edwards received a through ball in the area, then launched a cross that was inadvertently redirected into the net by Mancienne. The goal gave Chicago a 2-1 lead. The Revs would draw even again, but they wouldn’t find a game-winner and thus would settle for a point when three were absolutely necessary.
The common theme in those two Fire goals was Mancienne, the highest-paid defender in MLS, who was supposed to cure the Revs’ defensive ills. Has he done that? The former Nottingham Forest fullback does lead the team in both clearances and blocks per game after only five appearances, but his miscues on Saturday were glaring, especially considering the game’s magnitude. And New England has just one win since his arrival, the epic 1-0 victory in the Bronx over NYCFC. Their other impressive performance, a 1-1 draw at LAFC, occurred while the Chelsea youth product was in England for the birth of his first child. Overall, the Revs are just 1-2-2 when he’s been on the pitch.
Mancienne is an affable young man, the son of a former Seychelles international midfielder. The former England U-21 national teamer is a guy who’s easy to root for. However, he has remarked that the physicality and speed of MLS is something he didn’t expect. Having spent time in the Premier League and Bundesliga, one would think he’s seen it all and would be prepared for the American league. Could it be that he’s in over his head? Is it a lack of concentration? Are these the reasons his stints in the Premier League didn’t quite work out, relegating him to the Championship?
Haven't Revolution supporters seen this movie before? Claude Dielna arrived late last season with a similar pedigree and much promise (not to mention a nice contract), but he hasn’t panned out at all this year and can’t even make the matchday roster. The same goes for Gabriel Somi. There have been others before them, as well.
Could it be that Major League Soccer’s play has been elevated above the second divisions of power nations such as England, Germany, and Spain? Could it be that players who wind up in these European second divisions are no longer able to cross the pond and be difference-makers in what's widely regarded as a subpar professional league? There’s been a recent influx of first division players from Central and South America, such as the Revs’ Cristian Penilla and Atlanta United's Miguel Almiron, and they seem to be doing just fine.
Was Mancienne worth the largest-ever contract for a Revolution defender? Did the Revs do their homework? Or is the league just improving faster than we think?