New England Soccer Today

Smoke and Mirrors

It’s still hard to grasp how the Revs didn’t get absolutely obliterated in their last two games.

Despite being outshot, outplayed, and generally outclassed on the whole by a mediocre D.C. United, the Revs miraculously clinched their first road victory of the 2011 season last Wednesday thanks to an opportunistic Stephen McCarthy header. But wait. There’s more.

Ranked 63rd, rookie center back A.J. Soares is the highest placed Revs player in the MLS Castrol Index. (Photo by CHRIS ADUAMA/

Later that week, the Revs improbably dodged a Chris Tierney red card, a 70-yard Kosuke Kimura goal, and a stealth Rapids attack led by Sainey Nyassi’s twin brother to salvage a 2-2 draw in Commerce City. Seriously, watch the highlights. You could not have made up how that game played out.

Four days. Four points. And goodbye to the bottom of the conference table. Is it actually possible that…the Revs are turning their season around?

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s acknowledge the results. Yes, a win is a win, and the Revs finally won on the road (their first since a 2-1 win over Houston on October 10, 2010) in D.C., even if it was uglier than the world’s ugliest dog. And yes, their draw in the Rockies was exciting, even if Benny Feilhaber admitted that the attack’s chances were lacking throughout. But, props to the players for gutting out both results, especially in the 90+ degree temperatures.

Now, let’s look at the cold hard facts. Actually, you may want to look away. That’s because in both matches, the Revs possession percentages fell below 40% – with an abysmal rate of 31.5% against Colorado. How the Revs escaped both venues without a loss can only be attributed to either 1) pure luck, or 2) dumb luck.

Here’s another sobering stat: the Revs last nine goals – not to mention 12 of their 19 total goals on the season – have all come via the set piece. That leaves only seven goals from the run of play. Seven. In 21 games. To put it lightly: that’s a worrying amount of goal creation between the whistles.

There’s no doubt that New England’s zombie-like offense has been their most troubling concern. Twenty-one games into the season, the offense still ranks last in goal production (19),  last in shots on goal (70), and next to last in total shots (227). If these numbers aren’t enough to convince you that the Revs aren’t built for a playoff run, then I have a bridge I’d like to sell you.

There’s still a lot of work to do to turn the Revs into a legitimate contender rather than an occasionally competitive team. And in the coming weeks, Mike Burns and Steve Nicol will have to do a lot more than hint or tease about unidentified transfer targets – one of whom Nicol recently confirmed had already walked away from the table.

For starters, they still need at least another quality outside midfielder to shock the attack out of its slumber. Five assists from the wings is an indication of how unreliable the flank play has been this year.

Next, they need another veteran on the back line. Didier Domi was obviously signed with that in mind, but now that he’s gone, the talented, but the young defending corps needs an anchor to help fortify a rear guard that’s given up multiple goals in four of its last five games.

Oh, and then there’s the issue of the striker. It’s been three months since Rajko Lekic was signed. In those three months, he’s scored exactly three goals – one of which was from the penalty spot. He’s six-figure striker with a 0.2 goal/game strike rate. Think about that for a second.

Last, but not least, let’s talk about the MLS Castrol Index and see where the Revs’ players rank on the latest list. Caution: It’s not for the faint of heart.

You won’t find a single New England player in the top 50. In fact, the highest rated Revs’ player can be  found at number 63. And if you can believe it, that player is not Shalrie Joseph. It’s not Benny Feilhaber, either. It’s actually A.J. Soares.

This may sound crazy: when your rookie center back is its highest performing player, and you only have three total players in the top 100 (Soares, Joseph at #69, and Kevin Alston at #80), well, you may be in for a rude awakening if you’re harboring any fantasies of reaching the postseason.

It’s obvious that the Revs are in dire need of new players. And the gaffer has acknowledged this on many occasions, both in words and actions. How else do you explain the ongoing deployment of the ultra conservative (not to mention loss preventative) 4-5-1 this season?

Unless the Revs make a series of rapid roster improvements, it won’t be long before their true colors – the colors of a below-average team with an snooze-inducing attack – reveal themselves again.

The Revs may indeed be putting together a mild run as the final third of the regular season approaches. But it won’t last. Why? Because the numbers don’t lie.

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