As the 2016 New England Revolution season continues its slo-motion implosion apologists in and for the organization as well as though outside of it are desperately casting about for an explanation as to why, with as much talent as there is on the roster (and there really is a lot), the team can’t seem to get out of its own way? Let’s take a look at a few of the excuse flags that are being run up the proverbial poles at the moment.
It’s Jay Heaps and he needs to be fired!
Has Heaps done a great job this season? Probably not. I supported his hiring and I don’t think he should be fired, but I can see, for example, how it could be maddening to play for him. Heaps is a “tinkerer.” Not only does the starting eleven seem to change each week, but even if the same players are in the line-up there’s a pretty good chance they’ll be playing in different positions (or “out” of position entirely) than the last time they were on the team sheet. Yes, injuries, field conditions, the opposition’s tactics, etc. sometimes necessitate changes in both the line-up and positioning, but I think with Heaps it’s more than that. I think Heaps is a perfectionist and in this case, it’s not a good thing. Instead of putting out an “A-” line-up each week Heaps is convinced that with “just one more change” he can put out an “A+” line-up. Sometimes it works and the team looks dominant. More often though, the side seems unsettled and while they might play well in spurts, it usually ends in tears. Again, the Revs have a talented roster, but not like Heaps is debating where Maldini, Baresi, and Costacurta should play on the back line.
It’s the injuries, part 1
No, not really.
Juan Agudelo has been hurt- but isn’t he always? Hasn’t that- and his “feast or famine” goalscoring form- been the reason that a) he’s never been a “star” in MLS, b) made the big move to Europe, or c) become a mainstay in the USMNT? Darrius Barnes has been hurt, and while a useful player, he’s not the key to any of the club’s problems. Charlie Davies was out injured and had, you know, CANCER, for a few months, and the club was so eager to get him back in the line-up that they shipped him off to Philly. Digression: The club being “surprised” by the fan backlash to the Davies trade was laughable. First of all, you don’t say, “YAY! Charlie is back and healthy! Oh, by the way, he wasn’t just injured, he was also undergoing cancer treatments- isn’t he a hero!?”, allow the fanbase to collectively gasp and then cheer, before adding, “Oh, one other detail, we’re trading him…and not for anything that will help the club this year.” Second, when the news that you’re trading a charismatic native New Englander who has now cheated death TWICE lands with a “THUD,” your explanation needs to be better than, “Well, Philly approached us with an interest in trading for Charlie, so we went to Charlie and he said he’d be interested in the move, so, you see, it was his decision!” Hmm? What is Davies supposed to say? If New England wanted to keep him they would have gone to him and said, “Hey, the Union asked about trading for you, but we told them to get stuffed.” But that’s not what they said to him, was it?
It’s the injuries, part 2
Let me begin by sincerely saying that none of what follows is meant as a personal attack on Xavier Kouassi. The only reason I am talking about him is because as the Revolution’s season crashed and burned over the last fortnight it seems that all I’ve heard is, “Well, if Xavier Kouassi hadn’t gotten hurt we would be talking about any of this!” Revolution supporters and employees need to pump the brakes on this nonsense. Folks, Kouassi was never going to be the “solution.” Kouassi was the player signed when the Revolution let the Jermaine Jones saga drag on for so long that they ran out of time to find an suitable replacement and signed Kouassi instead, passing him off as an “international designated player” (more on that below). Two more things about that before I move on. The club was right to let Jones go. Where they were wrong was trying to lowball him and letting the scenario drag out for so long. They were also right to sign Kouassi, a player that they’d been scouting for a while, a player with a similar pedigree to Jose Goncalves- who has been a very good and occasionally “great” player for the club since 2013. Now about how Kouassi was “sold” to the club’s supporters…
Here’s more or less what we were told:
Here is what any punter (in this case, me) can find out on the internet that fleshes things out a bit more- and not to the club’s credit. Again, I’m not blaming Kouassi for being who/what he is as a player, he’s just not what the club portrayed him to be.
Now, I pause for dramatic effect…
Kouassi was also sold to the supporters as an Ivorian “international,” no doubt creating visions of Didier Drogba, Solomon Kalou, etc. in the heads of supporters. While Kouassi is technically an international footballer…
Here is Kouassi’s international resume:
That’s it. So it’s not so much “one cap” for the Ivory Coast, as it is one minute.
Since his one cap/minute here are some of the midfielders he has been unable to dislodge from the national team picture:
If you’ve heard of any of these players other than Toure my cap is off to you.
Oh, and his Wikepedia entry is one sentence long. One.
Again, none of this means that Kouassi won’t be a good, very good, or even great player for the Revolution next year, but the idea that this season was somehow “over before it started” because Kouassi go hurt is, again, NONSENSE!
US Open Cup
And then there’s this…
A few have voiced the very weak excuse that New England’s run to the final has worn the club out. No, sorry. I’m sure it hasn’t helped, but that’s just paper thin. As is the idea that if the Revs win the Cup (and I hope they do!) it will make up for the debacle that the MLS season has been. Sorry, no. That might be true if the US Open cup held the same prestige in the U.S. as the F.A. Cup does in England, but, for myriad reasons, this is not the case. It will be a nice piece of silverware for the trophy case if they do win it, but would anyone- ANYONE!?- take it over an MLS title?
Finally, is it even remotely shocking that talk of a soccer-specific stadium (this time on the old Bay State Expo Center site in Dorchester) for the Revolution has begun again- just in time to distract supporters and journalists from the club’s failing fortunes on the field. Hey, wait just a minute! Is it possible that lack of a soccer-specific stadium is hurting the club’s ability to be competitive in MLS? Is it possible that potential signees don’t want to don’t want to grind their knees into dust on the Field Turf? Don’t want to play in a 2/3 empty stadium (and that’s when the Revs are drawing well!) on a regular basis? Don’t want to play in a stadium that is an hour outside of Boston in a town that appears to be entirely comprised of fast food franchises and body shops?
Nah, couldn’t be.