Shep Messing had a really interesting sentiment during last night's U.S. Open Cup boradcast. He mentioned late in the match, while the Revs were getting pummeled by the baby Red Bulls, that without Rally, Reis, Shalrie, and Taylor, the Revs heart had been ripped out.
I couldn't agree more. The Revs, as we currently know them, have no identity. Without the leadership that steered them to eigh straight postseason berths, these young Revs are searching , sometimes aimlessly, for who they really are.
As of this morning, the Revs are 2-5-1 in league play. Last night, they trotted out a back line that consisted of three midfielders and a rookie defender. Their midfield included their starting striker.* Their bench consisted of two midfielders and a newly-signed rookie keeper. It was painful.
(*I actually liked the idea of Dube in the middle rather than up top. I mean, it makes sense. He is the club's assist leader, while his finishing is incredibly suspect. Isn't that where good-passing, poor-shooting strikers go? To the middle?)
Okay, so maybe it wasn't as bad as those dumbfounding Quiznos commercials with the singing hamsters/guinea pigs. Those were awful. Just awful. Last night wasn't as bad. At least a handful of players looked like they wanted to play. Zak Boggs, who just came off a brilliant two-goal night last weekend, must've scratched his head when he found himself penciled in at right back. And he got burned by guys like Sinisa Ubiparipovic, who knew this kid was really a striker dressed as a defender. He stumbled. He looked outclassed, and he was. But the effort was there.
On the other end of the pitch, the other Zak - I mean, Zack - made run after run, and hardly ever saw the ball. And that's been a problem all season. Somebody needs to get him the ball. Look at his triple against Toronto. When you give Zack Schilawski decent service, he'll put alot of balls in the back of the net. Unfortunately, the service didn't make the trip to NY, either.
Hey, injuries happen. Last night's starting XI was a distaster-level example. But what's most troubling is the lack of fire by the fit. It was the silence between Marko Perovic and his teammates. It was Joseph Niouky looking like a one-man wrecking crew. That's not a compliment. It was Khano Smith looking like he'd rather be at seven other places rather than Red Bull Park last night. You can't help but worry about a player's profeciency when he comes in as a sub and loses interest before his first touch.
(*Another reason why I love Shep Messing: "Even those eight games (that Khano played for the Red Bulls last season) were too much." Mind you, the Red Bulls were HORRIBLE last year. And if eight games for an abysmal club was pushing it, then, well...I'll let you draw your own conclusions.)
You'd never see this kind of performance from the Revolution last year. Or in any of their playoff seasons. And as the first quarter of the season draws to a close, it's evident that the Revolution probably bit off a little more than they could chew when they let Steve Ralston walk out door over the winter.
I know: he hasn't even played a game this season although it looks like he'll return to action this weekend. But his presence on the bench and in the clubhouse for these first eight games would've been invaluable. History has shown us that a Steve Ralston team doesn't bow down the way the Revs have on multiple occasions this season. It just doesn't, because you can't get to four MLS Cups in six years by mailing it in.
Neither would Shalrie, who may be gone awhile. There's a reason why the Revolution midfield was probably one of the best, if not THE best, in the league during their Conference-winning days. A large part of it was Shalrie. After the likes of Clint Dempsey, Jose Cancela, and Joe Franchino left, Shalrie, alongside Jeff Larentowicz and Rally, were the straws that stirred the drink.
I understand that you can only keep a team intact for so many seasons. It only gets tougher when some of your better players set sail for Europe as Dempsey and Dorman did. It happens. Death, taxes, and player departures.
But the Revs failed to secure the players they could retain. They could've retained Rally. They could've brought back Avery John or Pat Noonan. Yeah, they're not the youngest or the most spry. Both are likely past their prime. But, that's not the point.
What they brought to the dinner table is knowing how to win, and the pride that comes with it. It's something that Larentowicz, an unknown supplementary draft pick, absorbed when he got here. It's that heart. And it's something that Boggs, Schilawski, and the rest of this young bunch are in dire need of.