Thursday, December 28, 2006

Revolution Dreaming

It's amazing what topics spring to mind during the middle of a restless sleep.

"Whatever happened to Alex Kidd?”

"Why couldn’t those spoiled brats share their cereal with the Trix rabbit?”

"Why does Jazz always wear the same shirt when Uncle Phil tosses him out the door on Fresh Prince of Bel-Air?”

Yes, these are the thoughts that pound the passive side of my brain that just wants enough shut eye to function in the morning. Nonetheless, throughout last night’s bout of nonsensical discourse, this gem crossed my mind:"What will it take for the Revs to finally shed the bridesmaid’s role, get hitched, and win a championship already?"

Funny, I used to think this same exact thought not long ago in pertinence to my beloved Red Sox. More often than not, the answer I always arrived at was "pitching...and a speedy outfielder like Dave Roberts" (ok, I lied about the Dave Roberts part, but I should get half credit on that one). Whenever a team comes so close, on multiple occasions, to tasting the sweet nectar of championship glory, there is usually one glaring blemish that spells out the solution. So while I pondered this possible blemish in regards to the Revs, I went through the typical hasty, half-minded, three-thirty-in-the-morning logic by arriving at the following assertions:

"Goalkeeping...all set."

"Defense...superb throughout the season."

"Manager...experienced and proven."

"Offense...offense...aggressive, attack-minded offense...hmmmm"

The latter thought leaves much to be desired when it comes to the task of improving our squad in 2007. Although we allowed the fewest goals during the ‘06 MLS campaign (35), one could argue that the overall goal differential throughout the course of the season (+4) leads to the sobering reminder that we only scored a total of 39 goals, ranking seventh among the eight MLS playoff squads (only Colorado had fewer, with 36 goals).

Essentially, it was our stellar defense and world-class keeper that kept our necks above water as the offense was hard pressed to put the pelota in the back of the net. Granted, much of 2006 was an injury-riddled stretch that would've extended the run of M*A*S*H* another season or two. But injuries aside, there were many instances that left Revs fans scratching their heads at the lack of offensive punch during shown by the lads during the summer.

With that being said, one has to wonder whether Steve Nicol's defensive-minded philosophy will ever allow an offensive phalanx to assemble itself on Foxboro's now-synthetic pitch. Surely, the impending departures of Clint Dempsey and Shalrie Joseph won’t aid in the quest for the offensive firepower so often lusted for by Revs fans. We can only hope that the replacements, whether it be though free agency or the SuperDraft (or both) will ignite the Revolution offensive engine.

Now please don’t mistake me for one of those soccer enthusiasts that would rather be entertained by goals galore (unless it led to heaps of 7-2, 8-4 victories en route to a thrilling 37-0 MLS Cup win) rather than a clean, well-played match – I’ll take your garden variety 1-0 epic over a barn burning 6-5 loss. Now please affix the bullseye elsewhere. Thanks.

But one has to wonder what a little more of the offensive swagger that a player like Dempsey exudes on the pitch can do for a team that saw its share of 0-1 and 1-1 results in 2006. One player can’t do it alone. Spark is one thing; punch is another. Granted, Deuce is a special player with enormous talent, but his mindset is one that can easily be assimilated and implemented within an attack. To address this specific matter, what the team needs, in the crudest of senses, is more of the bold, cocky, and sometimes abrasive Clint Dempsey mentality on attack.

I’m not saying finding these types of players will be easy. On the difficulty scale, I imagine it’ll only be slightly easier than finding Kevin Federline’s rap career. But not by much. Heck, it’ll bear watching to see if the approach Nicol & Co. undertakes this off-season will remain focused on its defense or if it will alter its course and actively seek the offensive punch so many have thirsted for. Will it be more defensive stalwarts, who have anchored the team through famine, or will it be the confident, freewheeling offensive playmakers not afraid to charge the net on a whim that will be sought by the club this off season? Time never keeps its secrets for long. But bear in mind that the concern is not merely a private or personal one: it’s safe to assume the lack of offensive firepower (or flair, if you will) hasn’t kept just one Revs fan tossing and turning at night.

Corner kicks and tidbits:

-The Revolution announced that they have re-signed M/D Joe Franchino and F/M Pat Noonan on Thursday. In doing so, the Revs locked in two core veterans who have greatly contributed to the recent success of the club. Franchino, the gritty, stalwart captain, is the longest tenured player on the club since his arrival mid-way through the 2000 season. A consistent performer on the field, Franchino has played in over 170 regular and post season games for the home side.

Noonan has been instrumental in the team’s attack for the past four seasons when healthy, often serving as Taylor Twellman’s partner in crime at the forward position. The St. Louis native tallied one goal and three assists in limited action during an injury-hampered 2006 campaign. He was invited to US Men’s National Team camp by interim manager Bob Bradley earlier this month in preparation for the squad’s match vs. Denmark on January 20, 2007.

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