New England Soccer Today

Final Goodbyes?

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Did Saturday night’s home finale signal the end of an era?

With the contracts of longtime manager Steve Nicol and skipper Shalrie Joseph set to expire in the offseason, last weekend’s match may have marked the last time both walked off the pitch as members of the Revolution. But was it?

It’s hard to say, especially with one more game – Saturday’s season finale in Toronto – remaining. However, Nicol, for his part, stated his desire to remain in Foxboro for an 11th season shortly after his team’s 3-0 loss to Columbus.

“I certainly hope so,” said Nicol when asked about whether he’ll be back next season. “I have no idea (if I’ll be here next year).”

That’s not entirely surprising. After all, if it were Nicol’s call, there’s little doubt that the longest-tenured manager in team history would extend his contract and return to Patriot Place for another season.

But since it’s not his call, and the decision presumably lies with Chief Operating Officer Brian Bilello and President Sunil Gulati, only they can accurately speak to Nicol’s future in Foxboro. And, for their parts, the neither’s publicly provided specifics regarding Nicol’s status for 2012.

If the decision to let Nicol go is made, the front office will have to conduct a laborious search to find his replacement. While former Nicol lieutenant Paul Mariner has been rumored, if not outright wished for by many, as a replacement, the price for the former England striker may prove to be too steep. It’s likely that the team will search for an economical choice – perhaps a college coach or MLS assistant – to fill Nicol’s enormous shoes in Norfolk County.

Then, there’s Joseph. The heart and soul of the stumbling squad has given conflicting answers when questions regarding his future are raised. Over the summer, he tweeted that he wasn’t returning next season. Last week, he told The Boston Globe that wasn’t coming back unless Nicol’s back as well. On Saturday, Joseph praised the fanbase for its loyalty but, as expected, refused to state for sure whether he’ll return.

“I love playing here,” said Joseph. “The fans came out in so many numbers tonight and (even though) it was a little bit cold tonight, they still came out to cheer and show their appreciation. That’s what makes it fun playing here.”

There’s no doubt that Joseph, who’s been a fan favorite and perennial MLS All-Star during his nine seasons in New England, would be welcomed back by the front office – for the right price, of course. Although the powers that be may have allowed Andy Dorman, Pat Noonan, Michael Parkhurst, and others to leave for higher-paying gigs, Bilello and Gulati have a record of success in wrapping up deals with the faces of the franchise. Just ask Taylor Twellman, Matt Reis, and – you guessed it – Joseph, who’s already the highest-paid player on the roster.

Even so, there’s no telling what the skipper’s asking price for 2012 and beyond will be. At 33-years-old, the central midfielder is probably eyeing the last significant contract of his career this winter. Will he take a hometown discount, rather than maximize his earnings one final time?

And it may not be just the money, either. The team’s three-year slide has clearly worn on the skipper’s pride. It’s not beyond the realm to see Joseph jump ship for an atmosphere more conducive to winning and, by extension, allow him to stretch his playing career.

These are all worthwhile questions to consider when Joseph’s status for next season enters the conversation. Meanwhile, if Saturday was, in fact, his final farewell in Foxboro, Joseph had nothing but kind words for his adoring fans.

“Even though we don’t have our own (soccer specific) stadium, they still come out all the way to Foxboro and support us,” said Joseph, who was clearly touched by the positive response of the Revolution fans after Saturday’s home finale. “I think that’s why I love playing here. They come here and show us love, they cheer for us, and that’s what you want from fans.”

Joseph wasn’t the only one who applauded the fans. Nicol, who’s always shown an appreciation for the supporters, also went out of his way to praise their loyalty in the wake of Saturday’s loss.

“We appreciate them coming every home game to watch us and support us, which they have done fantastically all season,” said Nicol. “So it’s disappointing we couldn’t finish up by giving them something to go home with a smile on their face.”

Especially if last Saturday night proves to be Joseph and Nicol’s swan songs in southern New England.

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  1. Chris B

    October 19, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    Okay I have a couple of questions. Sorry if these are annoying because I’ve only been on board for this year and I’m still learning.

    First, what is the difference between Burns and Bilello? It seems like Burns just makes contracts for players, he seems like a page just writing up the contract, does he even make decisions? Also it seems like Bilello just runs the stadium/team for Kraft, so shouldn’t Burns be the one who could choose not to offer Nicol a new contract?

    Second, I noticed we’ve been trialing players of late but why are they already training with other clubs? I just saw Svard is in San Jose and Dieuze is in Chivas USA. It’s not like I was dying for the Revs to sign any of them but are they just “shopping around” to see what MLS teams they like the best or has Burns/Bilello already failed in convincing them to play in NE?

  2. Brian O'Connell

    October 19, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    Hey Chris,

    No need to apologize at all. From what I gather, Burns oversees player personnel,and since Nicol isn’t a player, I suspect Nicol doesn’t “answer” to him per se. I see their relationship more of a collaborative one rather than one in which one answers to the other. Then again, I could be completely wrong.

    Bilello’s duties seem to be more far reaching than Burns’, and in saying that, he would seem to be a person – if not, THE person – who has the power to bring in a new manager, if need be. Him, along wth Sunil and possibly Jonathan Kraft, would be the ones who could determine whether Nicol stays.

    In the last two years, the Revs have made it a practice to bring in trial players as the season winds down. Last year, it was Domi and Dabo, but there were others as well, if I remember correctly. Essentially, what the team’s doing is auditioning players that have pubclicly expressed interest in playing in MLS. In the case of Dieuze, he didn’t appear to wow many people (including myself). So his recent cameo with Chivas USA didn’t surprise me. However, Svard may be a guy worth thinking about. From what I’ve heard, he’d like to play in New England – it’s just a matter of if the Revs will meet his asking price. That price may warrant lower-end DP money. It’s just a matter of if the Revs are willing to pay him what he’s asking. I’ll say this – if Shalrie leaves, the Revs might be willing to spend on Svard. However, if Shalrie stays, then I think Svard goes to another MLS team.

    • Chris B

      October 19, 2011 at 7:00 pm

      Thanks! I forgot Burns was “VP of Player Personnel”. Yes, I had heard Diueze wasn’t so great from Sean’s comments on his article and his reply to me asking him, but they didn’t have Svard play the reserve match so I had no idea how his (apparently week-long) trial went and since I saw Frank Dell’apa from the Globe say on twitter Svard wants to make the move I was surprised he crossed the country to try out with San Jose. You have a very good point, since I don’t know the player I don’t know what his salary might be but maybe the negotiations with Joesph are improving seeing as I thought they trialed these two defensive midfielders to either replace Joesph or as a tactic to respond to his cryptic tweet earlier in the season after the Caraglio signing about his possible departure.

      • Brian O'Connell

        October 20, 2011 at 9:39 am

        Chris – you can totally count on the Revs continuing their search for possible replacements for Shalrie. No question. I don’t think they have a choice, even without that cryptic midsummer tweet. My gut feeling is that he’ll stay, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he went elsewhere, especially if Stevie Nicol doesn’t return.

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