Not long after we witnessed Saer Sene clutch his lower left leg in pain on the Stade Saputo pitch, a wonderfully poignant video emerged on revolutionsoccer.net. In a sense, it’s that really captures the spirit of this Revolution team. In case you haven’t seen, check it out below:
You want to know why this team is still in the postseason hunt with two games to go? Or how it managed to pull three points out of Montreal? The video above may not say it all, but it certainly speaks to what this team is made of.
There’s a saying about how good chemistry can make an average team great, but how a lack of chemistry can make a bad team average, or worse. What we see, as Sene, who’s still in his jersey, is a glimpse of a team that’s fought for each other this season. A team that, despite the adversity, has made it to the cusp of a postseason berth. A team that, for all its flaws and shortcomings, has figured out a way to do what close teams do: survive.
We don’t know what will happen in these final two games. The Revolution could very well come away with six points, four points, three points, one point or zero points. They could flame out entirely, or steamroll into the postseason on the heels of a three-game winning streak (or six-game unbeaten run, depending upon your perspective).
Regardless of what happens, though, this image of Sene climbing into the bus to the applause and support of his teammates tells the story of what this group of young men has accomplished this season. They may not all be besties and facebook friends with each other, but this Revolution squad is, perhaps, one of the closest-knit units since the MLS Cup days. This is a team that is starting to come of age, and nothing else sums it up better than the 39 second-snapshot shown above.
Indeed, there was great insight to be gained from the Sene clip. But what did we learn from the 90 minutes on the pitch that preceded it?
1. Saturday’s game showcased why no defender in Revolution history has brought more to the table than Jose Goncalves has. If it hasn’t already been done, someone should make a Vine clip of what Jose Goncalves did to Andres Romero in the 37th minute. From a Davy Arnaud throw, Goncalves allows the ball to roll to him, then shields Romero away from the ball, turns, and looks ready to send it away. But instead of clearing it, he decides to bring it back a few steps, fights off Romero, then takes a few touches before sending it up the field. The only unfortunate thing about this sequence is that it wasn’t a part of the MLSsoccer.com highlight package. Nevertheless, this vignette was just the latest addition to Goncalves’ highlight reel. A highlight reel that’s probably pushing for a sequel at this point in the season. But it isn’t just his good feet, physical style or ability to read the game that makes him such a valuable addition. After Sene’s gruesome injury, an injury that can rattle a team as young as the Revolution are, Goncalves made sure that the focus wouldn’t deviate. And, of course, we saw him score the game-winner, which kept the Revolution alive in the postseason hunt with two games to go. If Goncalves isn’t absolutely what the Revolution needed this year – or during the last four years, for that matter – then maybe this column should be renamed Five Things We Know Nothing About.
2. The fact that Goncalves’ status is still uncertain is a heck of a headscratcher. For every week in which Goncalves has reminded us just how truly good he is, it becomes even more puzzling how or why the organization has not cemented some type of long-term deal. If we are to believe the interested parties, then a deal to keep the center back in Foxboro should be a shoe-in. But for reasons unknown, his status for next season remains up in the air. Granted, this isn’t to say that loan deals are easiest agreements to negotiate. If they were, well, then this probably would’ve been resolved during the summer. Now, this isn’t to say that the Revolution aren’t working with Goncalves’ agent and Sion FC on such a deal. Perhaps an announcement is imminent. At the same time, though, you have to ask: why are we still having this converation in October?
3. Don’t look now, but the Revolution looked like a bonafide playoff team. There have been many opportunities for the Revolution to show us that they mean business about the postseason. And, as we’ve become accustomed to in recent years, they’ve usually bypassed those opportunities to remind us of their mediocre habits. After thrashing the Galaxy, they laid an egg against D.C. Following a convincing 2-0 victory over San Jose, they were outplayed by the Dynamo. A week after their 5-1 assault on the Union, they slipped into a sloppy 1-1 draw at Toronto. Yes, the Revolution have done well to remind us many times that they were happy to sit on the fence that separated good teams from mediocre ones. But that changed on Saturday. In a must-win game on the road, they laced up their boots and put together one of the best performances of the season. The defense stayed strong, the midfield found ways to frustrate the Impact, and there were plenty of scoring chances to be had. It was the kind of win we aren’t used to seeing – the kind of win the Revolution needed in order to prove that they belong in the playoff picture.
4. The Revolution might not be able to afford to leak through another goal for the rest of the regular season. If there’s one thing that’s held the Revolution back in the weeks leading up to Montreal, it was their inability to keep the opponents off the board. Seriously. For a team that collected clean sheets like a hoarder with a bed linen fetish in the first half, the Revolution curiously went laundry-free for 11 weeks with one going into Saturday’s clash. Yes, 11 weeks. And in the last four weeks, the Revolution were forced to leave points on the pitch, thanks to four straight weeks of games decided by a goal or less. Not surprisingly, those lost pushed the Revolution below the red line. So there’s a clear lesson here: in order to keep its postseason hopes alive and well, the first thing the Revolution have to do is to continue its defensive form in Montreal against Columbus during these final two weeks. That means two more cleans sheets. Sure, the attack is going to have to do its part, too. However, if the defense lets even one more goal through, it could mean farewell to late-fall football.
5. Lee Nguyen is definitely going to be missed against Columbus. The creative-winger-turned-box-to-box banger put in one of his best performances of the season on Saturday. He launched rockets from outside the box, helped cover in the rear, linked with his teammates, doled out some punishment (okay, maybe a little too much punishment) and cooked the post-game meal. So maybe he didn’t put on the chef’s hat after the game, but the fact is that Nguyen was a force to be reckoned with. And that force will be missed on Saturday thanks to the caution he picked up right before the half. While Clyde Simms may fill in admirably at Nguyen’s spot, it’s hard to imagine him giving the attack the bite it had on Saturday, as Nguyen looked like a man on fire in Montreal.