Some things just defy explanation. Whether it’s Pa Madou Kah’s diss on Clint Dempsey, Dimitry Imbongo’s dye job, or MLS refereeing, there are things in this world that only doom us to hit our head against the wall over and over…and over.
While one could easily breeze through 1,341 words on any of the above topics (especially Imbongo’s hair), the most pressing unsolved mystery at the moment is this one: How on earth have the Revolution failed to win at BMO Field over the years?
Some may point to the club’s disappointing form in recent years, and there is some truth to that. In the last three years, the Revolution haven’t played the most spectacular soccer. At times, they have looked like a glorified reserve team. So in that vein, there is some logic to that argument.
But that doesn’t take into account that some certifiably good Revolution teams have somehow avoided beating their hosts to a pulp at BMO Field. When Michael Parkhurst deposited a 55-yard lob in 2007, it appeared to be a fortuitous omen. But Danny “I’m on my last legs” Dichio buried a spectacular volley to level it late at two apiece. It should be noted that the very same Revolution team that couldn’t manage a win that day went on to earn their third straight trip to the MLS Cup final.
The Revolution settled for another draw in 2008, then suffered the cruel indignity of 3-1 (!) and 1-0 losses in 2009 and 2010, respectively. A pair of draws in 2011 and 2012 allowed the Revolution to reclaim some of their pride, but to this day, the Revolution remain winless at the grounds of one of the worst teams in MLS.
True, the Toronto supporters are some of the most passionate in the league. BMO Field isn’t exactly the local soccer field down the street with rusty goalposts. But even with a vocal 12th man, Toronto is perennially 6-8 additional players away from being a respectable team.
Six games may still be a small sample size, but the Revolution’s 0-2-4 record in Toronto is still a puzzling stat. Perhaps a rare Friday night match will do the trick. Perhaps the momentum of the Revolution’s last two wins will carry them toward a long overdue win at BMO Field. Perhaps the gold-domed Imbongo will even score the game-winner. Who knows?
But until we see the Revolution walk away with three points from Toronto’s grounds, the world (see: Revolution supporters and a few MLS pundits) will continue to scratch their heads as to how this keeps happening.
We’ll try to keep the head scratching to a minimum with this week’s set of questions.
1. Can Kelyn Rowe keep his torrid run going? One of the effects of Juan Agudelo’s return – besides the team scoring a lot more goals and generally playing winning soccer, of course – is the amount of extra space that opens up for players like Rowe in front of the area. And Rowe, with all that extra space to work with, has gone bananas in the goalscoring aisle. After tallying only twice in his previous 22 games, the former UCLA Bruin has bagged three in his last two. Heck, with a little better ball control and smidge more precision, he probably could’ve bagged six goals. Against a generous Toronto backline, it may be like deja vu all over again for Rowe. And while he won’t hesitate to launch any more long-distance rockets, don’t be surprised if he finds even easier shots at BMO Field and we see him Roweing his imaginary canoe once again.
2. Will Jay Heaps make any changes to the lineup? Since overhauling the XI two weeks ago, the Revolution are not only a perfect 2-for-2, but they’ve outscored their opponents 7-1, and have lept from seventh to fifth in the standings. True, two games does not make a season. But there is something to be said about going with what works. Matt Reis has looked strong between the sticks, while A.J. Soares has played some of his best soccer this season in the last two games. Putting Chad Barrett on the wing hasn’t quite conjured images of jogo bonito, but the scraggly striker does have the savvy to help orchestrate chances, even if it’s, like, awkward at times. Nevertheless, if there’s one thing we know about a Jay Heaps lineup, it’s this: Nothing is ever set in stone. Nothing. A strong week of practice can allow a reserve to leapfrog a starter during any given week. But if Heaps does decide to change it up a bit, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Saer Sene reclaim his spot on the right.
3. Can the Revolution avoid another post-explosion hangover? Earlier this year, we saw the Revolution post a 5-0 win over the Galaxy before they followed it up with a dreadfully awful scoreless draw to conference doormat D.C. United. Now, days removed from their 5-1 win over the Union, the Revolution face a similar scenario with another woeful opponent on tap. It may not be a trap game per se, but the Revolution must resist the notion that things will come easy. In their 0-0 draw to D.C., the Revolution tried using the same bag of tricks they employed against L.A., and failed miserably. This week, they cannot slip into a similar scenario. Toronto, despite its lackluster record and general poor form, probably saw the film from earlier this week, and are planning accordingly. In light of this, the Revolution cannot be content to trying the same things over and over expecting the same result. They have to remain creative and unpredictable and, for heaven’s sake, beat a team that is very beatable.
4. What do the Revolution have to do should Toronto successfully clamp down in the rear? The Revolution have to be better on set pieces. (The preceding sentence provided by Microsoft AutoText 2010.) There’s just no two ways about it. Earlier this month, Toronto had no qualms stifling the Revolution by fouling, and using brute force to push the likes of Fagundez, Nguyen and Imbongo off the ball. This is what bad teams do when they lack the overall skill to play actual soccer. They sit back, generally distrustful of their defenders, midfielders and forwards, and hope that an adversary’s mistake turns into a scoring chance (as it did four weeks ago, with all due respect to Jose Goncalves). The best way to combat this brand of anti-football is to be bold, to take on a defender and go to goal. If there’s a foul, well, make them pay for it on the set piece. While the Revolution escaped danger on defensive set pieces against Philadelphia last week, they have to be especially effective on attacking set pieces on Friday.
5. What can’t the Revolution afford to do on Friday? Although Toronto may be on its way toward another fine ninth place finish, they’re not exactly slouches in the talent department. Not at all. In a sense, the Revolution can certainly attest to Toronto’s ability to field skillful players at a position or two. And while the Reds may not play like a skillful team at times (especially between March and October), all it takes is a momentary lapse for a Matias Laba, a Jonathan Osorio or even a Reggie Lambe to damage a defense. This is how Toronto makes its living. It may not be the stuff of instructional DVDs, but it’s somehow kept them out of the basement, a minor miracle brought to you by D.C. United’s nightmare season. With plenty of game film at their disposal, the Revolution have to know that all it takes is a mistake – whether it be innocent or egregious – for a team like Toronto to pounce on it and, possibly, make them pay. In other words, the Revolution have to avoid the blooper reel against a team that often casts itself as the leading actor in such reels.