Saturday, August 11, 2007

Red Sox Nation: Get to Know the Revolution!

By now, you may have heard of some soccer player named David Beckham coming to town this weekend. If you haven't bought tickets for Sunday's L.A. Galaxy-Revs match at Gillette Stadium, well then, you'll have to catch it on TV38 because the game is sold out. Nevertheless, should your interest be piqued by the glamour and glitz or the bending banana kicks of Mr. Beckham, here is a cheat sheet for those of you who know the Red Sox, but may not know much about the New England Revolution (colloquially known as "the Revs").

Back to Beckham: He's kind of a big deal in the world of soccer, and although he's not the best player in the world, he's certainly the most popular, with numerous global brands attached to his very likeness. In jest, he is called "Mr. Posh" after his wife, the high-heeled and large sunglasses-sporting former Spice Girl, Victoria Beckham, who you may have also heard of at some point as well.

But, if that's all you know about soccer, then you are in luck. If you're familiar with other team sports- say, the Boston Red Sox - but are new to soccer, then you may have some trouble getting to know the lads chanted and cheered for by soccer fans across New England.

Now if you are indeed member of Red Sox Nation and wish to see what all the fuss is about, the stars are aligned for a perfect afternoon and evening: the Sox are playing at 1:35pm in Baltimore, thus allowing plenty of time for you to mow the lawn, mix some lemonade, give the dog that bath you've been putting off all summer, and still have time to catch the 7:00pm start for the Revs and Galaxy game. So after the Sox play nine against the O's in the early afternoon, you are personally welcomed to take a gander at our sport. After all, it is the world's game. And lucky you - it’s played professionally right in your own backyard by one of the best clubs in Major League Soccer!

So without further ado, in order to better educate you on some of the more notable Revolution players, the following is some crude, yet somewhat insightful (hopefully) comparisons between some notable Red Sox players and some notable Revolution players.

Taylor Twellman is Manny Ramirez. Twellman (#20) is a forward (also known as a “striker”), and his primary responsibility is quite simple: to put the ball in the back of the net. He is not only the most productive player on the Revs roster in terms of doing just that, but is also one the best strikers in MLS, and has 82 career goals in his six year MLS career to prove the point. Like Manny, he is the offensive catalyst for team that has many offensive weapons, and as a result, is also one of the most popular players on the Revolution.

Steve Ralston is Mike Lowell. Ralston (#14) is a midfielder whose primary responsibility is to help organize the attack, and is often a chief engineer of many Revolution goals. The stats don't lie: the MLS Ironman - he's played in an MLS record 328 games and counting - has 115 career assists, which is also an MLS record as well. This year he's recorded nine assists thus far, and a stat like that speaks to his uncanny knack at sparking the offense. Like Lowell, he brings a steadying veteran presence, and quietly goes about his business, letting his team's record do all the talking.

Matt Reis is David Ortiz. Reis (#1) is a spectacular player who is best known for stepping up in the clutch. Like Ortiz, Reis, the club's goalkeeper, has shined under pressure, as highlighted by a spectacular performance during last season's playoff shootout vs. the Chicago Fire. Not only did he deny two of the five attempts - the success rate of penalty kicks is about 80% - but also blasted one home for the Revs during their sequence of attempts as well. Ortiz and Reis are also much beloved players by their respective fans, and Reis often goes one step further by publicly supporting worthwhile charitable causes.

Andy Dorman is Kevin Youkilis. Dorman (#25) is an attacking midfielder, whose primary responsibility is to not only feed the forwards (like Twellman and Pat Noonan), but to take charge and also put the ball on net. Like Youkilis, the tall and lanky (in that respect, the comparison is bad) Welshman is one of the League's most productive and underrated players, with seven goals so far this season, and does well to terrorize the opposing teams goalkeeper. Interestingly, while both players were deserving of accolades, both we snubbed in their respective league's all-star selections this year.

Shalrie Joseph is Jason Varitek. Joseph (#21) is also a team leader - much like 'Tek - but his responsibility is not only to help initiate the attack when the ball is fairly deep in the opposition end, but to also stopgap an opponent's attack as well. He is the prototypical cerebral player: extremely smart, hardly ever makes an erroneous pass, and is most noticeable when he makes hard challenges on the ball – challenges which he often wins. The tall, dreadlocked Grenadian midfielder is the best in the league at his position, and as a result, offers from oversees clubs have come in to try and pry Mr. Joseph from the Revs. His stats won't "wow" you; it's the incalculable impact he has on the field - the intangibles - that truly make him a special player, much like Varitek.

Adam Cristman is Dustin Pedroia. Cristman (#7) is the most productive rookie in MLS right now, with 4 goals and 4 assists on the stat sheet so far. Like Pedroia, the rookie forward struggled in his first handful of matches before he notched his first goal in May vs. the same LA Galaxy in town this weekend. Both rookies have found their spots on their respective clubs, and are leading candidates for Rookie of the Year honors in their respective sports.

Now, a brief LA Galaxy-baseball comparison:

Landon Donovan is Alex Rodriguez - playing for the Orioles, that is. Donovan (#10) is arguably the best player in the league, much like A-Rod, but is surrounded by a cast of underperforming players this season. Before Becks, he was the League's "Golden Boy" in terms of both marketing and skill on the pitch. His status as one of the best American- born players is backed up by his 34 career US Men's National Team goals, despite the fact that he is only 25 years old. It also doesn’t hurt that he is married to actress Bianca Kajlich, giving the nicknamed “Landycakes” an extra bit of star appeal.

David Beckham is…well, there's only one David Beckham. Imagine, if you will, Michael Jordan leaving the Bulls and joining a lesser, talent-deficient team…wait, he’s already done that.
Truth be told, there really isn't a comparable baseball player, or any other athlete other than Jordan to compare him to; Becks carries with him an unrivaled worldwide appeal that brings a newcomer like you to see what the big deal is.

And with that, I hope you get to know all of the local soccer players, and most of all, I hope you enjoy the game!

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