New England Soccer Today

Time on Their Hands

Traditionally, when late-August bleeds into early-September, there’s usually plenty for the Revs to attend to.

Whether its a slate of MLS games to push its postseason agenda, a SuperLiga final, or even a pair of late-round U.S. Open Cup games, the Revs have often been a busy bunch as the unofficial end of summer approaches.

Except this year.

Thanks to a combination of Hurricane Irene, the FIFA International calendar, and a lack of extra-MLS competition, the Revs will remain off the pitch for over two weeks – 17 days to be exact, the longest span between games in the team’s history.

So what is a club like the last-place Revs to do?

Well, let’s see. First of all, the time away from the pitch will allow the bruises, bumps, and strains to heal. At last check, the Revs had seven players on their injury report. Seventeen days could serve many of the walking wounded well in preparation for their next match on September 7th at Philadelphia.

Next, there’s the recent arrival of Monsef Zerka, who joined the club for training last week. No doubt the added time to practice in between games will allow the Moroccan international more time to blend in with his new ‘mates, which can only aid the club’s fortunes during the final eight games of the season.

Then, there’s also Friday’s reserve game against Toronto. While some players may be taking it easy this week, there are a number of fringe players hoping to attract the attention of Steve Nicol and his staff not only for this season, but for their roster spots in 2012.

Of course, all of the aforementioned are things that the Revs can be expected to accomplish. Ideally, 17 days should also afford the players time to undertake some much needed work on their fundamentals. Nicol has said all season that the basics – or the lack thereof – have hurt this team, especially in close matches like ones against Houston and New York, most recently.

It would behoove Nicol to get his charges to consider refining their form. Scrimmages teach don’t hold the same value as hands-on instruction – as elementary as it may sound. Look at the Revs’ form in crunch time this season. Everything has to be considered, lest we forget that the Revs were actually compared to as “school boys” not too long ago by their own gaffer.

Another thing that may help is a renewed focus on the rest of the season. It would take a Christmas miracle to get the Revs into the postseason. Instead of inflicting false promises, why not make the remaining eight games a mini-season in itself? Forget the club’s cover-your-eyes cumulative record right now. The team should enter the September 7th game against Philly with the idea that it’s starting an eight-leg season, and they’re 0-0-0 in that mini-season right now.

Which leads us to the thing the Revs are desperate for the most: Confidence. The Revs were undoubtedly shaken after conceding last-gasp equalizers against the Dynamo and Red Bulls. Instead of playing to win, it’s as if the Revs, when holding a lead, have been conditioned to avoid the loss. The Revs are in dire need of some motivational exercises. Perhaps a quick review of the Revs’ finer moments, or a visit from Bill Russell could boost their spirits (hey, it’s worked for the Patriots).

Lastly, Nicol should use this two-and-a-half week respite to evaluate his entire roster, from top to bottom. The Revs have a trio of talented rookies on the roster – Ryan Kinne, Alan Koger, and Andrew Sousa – who have proven themselves well in Reserve Division and Open Cup competition this year. Why not give them a bite of the apple and find out what they’re made of in a top-flight atmosphere?

Also, with the European transfer window about to close, it might not be the worst idea for Nicol or VP of Player Personnel Michael Burns to scan the transfer wire, maybe make a trip overseas, and take a gander at a player or two who may not have landed with new clubs and/or are in transfer limbo. Given the fallout from Turkey’s recent match-fixing scandals, it may not be a bad idea to hop another plane for Istanbul.

The Revs have a lot of time on their hands, some of it in due part to their lack of their overall success, both within the league and outside of the MLS schedule. And given that the Revs have no SuperLiga, Open Cup, or postseason dreams this year, the focus has to be on the here and now to ensure that the Revs’ success 12 months from now doesn’t mirror their situation today.

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