With an obligatory wave of their wand, with a nearly full moon hanging above, the Kansas City Wizards not only pick-pocketed three points from a superior New England Revolution, but also vanquished the MLS Cup fantasies of the playoff-bound club.
Yes, the plucky, 36-point Wiz, through one Hercules Gomez, in one brazen tackle, of one Steve Ralston, who suffered a broken tibia that will likely keep him out of action for the remainder of the regular season and postseason, effectively ended the Revolution dream of another MLS Cup berth this season.
To see hard evidence of this conclusion, look no further than the remaining 78 minutes of the match, whereby the normally potent New England attack looked so sterile that it could have verily become a collective candidate for Cialis, sans the bathtubs overlooking the ocean. And the normally inept Wizards, to their credit, seized the moment and tapped their goalscoring machine, centerback Jimmy Conrad, to provide the clincher moments after the hour.
The aforementioned is but a splice of what the Revolution can expect in the remaining two regular season matches, and the first round of the postseason. With Ralston gone, the local lads have not only lost their skipper, but any shot of returning to the MLS Cup finals for the fourth year in a row.
Without Ralston stationed in the middle, or anywhere on the pitch for that matter, the ball will have a difficult time finding Taylor Twellman, who scored all three of last season's postseason goals. For those who'd like a preview of what the coming matches will look like, just cut and paste a sequence of Twellman's exaggerated frustrations in or near the KC area from Saturday night, and play them on a ninety minute loop. Stagnant would be considered a compliment in describing how the attack will look in the coming weeks without Ralston.
Just look at the Revolution's form earlier this season without their skipper. It went 2-3-1 after Ralston suffered a separated shoulder during the 3-0 victory over Houston on First Kick. Moreover, the Ralston-less squad scored an anemic five goals during those six games. And while Twellman was sidelined with a knee injury during that period as well, it's hard to imagine how many many balls would have gotten to him if he were healthy. For an example of this, see Crew, Columbus, 6 Sept. 2008 - the last time Ralston missed a match with Twellman in the lineup. Final score 0-4, Columbus.
While many bobbleheads around the league will point to Guillermo Barros Schelotto as the favorite to take MVP honors this season, a case for Ralston has been building. Without him, the third-place Revolution have an astounding .250 winning percentage (2-4-2). As of today's date, the lowest winning percentage in MLS is Toronto's .350 percentage (7-11-9). Given those figures, one can easily deduce that the Revolution will find it difficult to convince the rest of the league that it is a bona fide MLS Cup contender without Ralston available.
To say that manager Steve Nicol his work cut out for him would be to say that Amy Winehouse has an affinity for controlled substances. It goes well beyond that. The roster freeze took place nearly a month ago. The Revolution must look in-house to address the short-term future without the man responsible, directly or indirectly, for nearly 40% of his club's total offensive output this season.
The piercing irony of the situation is that if the Revolution play .250 football into the postseason and thereby fall short of the MLS Cup final, it will surely solidify the argument that Ralston is indeed the most valuable player not only on the Revolution, but in MLS as well.