Friday, July 17, 2009

The Setting Sun

Flash back almost 1 year ago, to 7/20/2008. I wrote this post, as the Revs were in the middle of a great run, and in position to compete in every competition they were in. They had just gone through the group stage of SuperLiga rather easily. A few weeks prior they had beaten Crystal Palace Baltimore to advance to the USOC semifinal. They were sitting atop the MLS overall standings, gaining strength as teams below them dropped points all while they were idle in league games due to other competitions. The CONCACAF Champions League was on the horizon. Taylor Twellman hadn't even seen the field yet, and the team was cruising. Things looked fantastic. Then the wheels came off...

Although I have been critical of SuperLiga as a legitimate competition, I will give the team credit for finishing off that competition last year, and taking home a well deserved trophy. What happened after that however, has been nothing short of a disaster through today.

Little by little the team began to pick up nagging injuries. Twellman, Castro, Larentowicz, Phelan, Joseph, Badilla, Igwe, Ralston etc... all helped play a part in a downward spiral. The Revs also played 11 games in 39 days between July and the beginning of August, in a number of competitions. A number of cross country, and even cross continental trips in a matter of days, also took its toll. The team that had shown signs of quality depth at the beginning of the season, were starting to show its inexperience and real lack of quality throughout the squad.

Since the Revs won SuperLiga last season, they are 6-11-9 in league play (27 points in 26 matches). They crashed out of the CONCACAF Champions League, being outscored 6-1 in two matches vs. T&T side Joe Public. The Revs lost the semifinal of the 2008 USOC to DC 3-1 in a very lackluster effort. The Revs crashed out of third round of this years USOC to USL-2 side Harrisburgh. They failed to advance in MLS Cup, with a crushing loss in the first round to Chicago. Failed to qualify for the 2009 CCL. Another cup loss to Chicago, in the SuperLiga this time (just a few days ago). In all competitions, through 36 matches, the Revs have won just 8 matches, and drew 11. They have lost the other 17 matches, and have been outscored by their opponents 42-59.

With a continuing trend of poor play, injuries, age and players lost, can it be asked if the sun is setting on this Revs run? Of course they have rebuilt the squad with a lot of youth, and only a handful remain from the MLS Cup sides, but the core is still there, although aging, and injury prone. It has been a while since this team has really enforced its will on the league, and other teams. It has also been a while since the team was completely healthy. As high as we were as fans a year ago, is seemingly as low as we are right now. I'm not sure if the bottom has been reached, and if it has, if we will begin to ascend back toward the top of the league. There seem to be many more questions about this team than real answers. Where will the goals come from? Will Twellman ever come back? Can Ralston and Joseph stay fit? Can the team maintain possession through large stretches of games? Will the young players step up their game? Will Larentowicz be gone at the end of the season? Will Nicol stay? Will Mariner be lured away? Will the tam be moved to Montreal(as rumored by MLS Rumors)? Is there a light at the end of this dark, dark tunnel? Let's hope that the sun is not setting on this club.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Limited Rosters, Limited Interest

During this past off-season, the powers that be in MLS decided to rethink the reserve system, and roster sizes. Coaches and GM's around the league were quite pleased with this, because there were some inherent flaws with the reserve system. They also voted to reduce rosters sizes to 18 senior players, plus 4 developmental players. This decision helped GM's better manage the talent on their roster, and It also allowed them to disperse cash better (within the salary cap) amongst the players on their roster. Theoretically, a 2.5 million dollar cap would bring you better quality players in a 24 man roster, than it would for a 28 man roster, simply by how much money could be distributed per player.

What MLS failed to really understand, was how much fixture congestion there is for some teams in MLS, especially the better teams. Before the MLS season even started, Houston had to play two matches in the knockout stages of the CCL. This past week 4 MLS sides began playing SuperLiga (your Revs being one of them). This ensured a minimum of 3 games for the participating clubs. MLS sides also participate in the US Open Cup this week. Then for four other MLS sides, some CCL qualifying matches, and group stages matches are looming on the horizon.

As a Revolution fan, we have seen what these competitions can cost a team. Last season, the teams deep runs in SuperLiga and USOC may have cost them a chance at the Supporters Shield, MLS Cup and the CCL, as the team was decimated with injuries, and fatigue come August and September. While SuperLiga was a novel idea at first, and the US Open Cup has nostalgia, neither put an MLS side in a good situation with their very limited rosters. Just this week, the Revs came into a game with 14 players on their roster for a SuperLiga match. Star players like Shalrie Joseph and Steve Ralston have been sidelined with injuries during these competitions. Even some of our good young players, like Kevin Alston, have been limited to watching from the sidelines.

Admitedly, some of the roster problems cannot be attributed to fixture congestion this season. Gabriel Badilla and Mauricio Castro have both failed to see the field this season, and Twellman and Albright have been in and out of the lineup. But all teams are going to have their injuries throughout the year. It is inevitable in sports that players will miss games. I just find it a bit absurd to ask teams who are limited to just 24 players, to compete in at the very least 34 matches for some teams (not including MLS Cup), and possibly many more for teams in the CCL or who make deep runs in other competitions.

With SuperLiga the problems run even deeper. The previous two seasons, the competition was held in July. This year SUM, in its infinite wisdom, decided to put the competition in the middle of June. At first glance I guess this could make some sense. It wouldn't be in direct competition with the CCL, or USOC. However, anyone that follows soccer in this country would have known that the most important tournament in three years was going on at this very time...and MLS players were playing in it. The fact that SUM, FMF and MLS decided to hold this tournament during the FIFA Confederations Cup, and actually have matches which were scheduled for the same day, just proves how little they actually get it. People may point out that the Brazilian league was playing at the same time, but I don't really care about that. I can almost forgive league games being played at this time, because this is our playing season. While I believe the schedules could be worked around FIFA dates, that is another discussion entirely. For SUM to schedule SuperLiga during this time, is an absolute joke.

I did not attend yesterdays Revs/Atlas clash. Why? Because I was busy living through the post mortem of a crushing loss to Brazil. The thought of driving down to Foxboro to watch this game never even crossed my mind. I was almost insulted that SUM had scheduled at SuperLiga match on the same day that our country was playing in its first ever FIFA tournament final.

With the ignorance of SUM, and the limited roster sizes, it is no wonder interest in this tournament has waned. Attendance for these matches has been laughable at best, and if not for the efforts of people in supporters sections and hardcore fans, I doubt anyone would even notice people in the crowds.

Let us call SuperLiga for what it really is, a cash grab. SUM wanted to capitolize on the Beckham mania, and try to endear itself to the Mexican community within the US. The first season, the tournament was a rousing success. CONCACAF had still yet to really get its act together by creating a quality intraconfederation tournament. I will even give SUM credit for almost forcing CONCACAF's hand to create the CCL last year. Attendances were high, and the atmosphere was electric. Even the quality of soccer was very high. Then last year we saw some of the inherent flaws in the tournament. Mexican sides playing in their preseasons, were more interested in being thugs, than actually playing soccer. Attendances dropped. All games were played within the US. Players got hurt, and missed portions of their league season. The problems were enhanced ten old this season when SUM decided to schedule the tournament during the Confederations Cup.

When you couple the problems of SuperLiga's exsistence and scheduling, with the fixture congestion it causes (along with the Open Cup), then factor in the limited rosters withwhich MLS sides are limited to, and the only road leads to an impending disaster.

The Revs now face an uphill climb in the league, with more games to play than anyone else in the second half of the league, injured star players, and potentially tired legs again coming this season. With that being said, there are something the team can do to get by. It was announced yesterday that the team brought in a player to replace Twellman up top. They still have more work to do, however. It may mean making some tough decisions, and cutting some players before July 1st (which is the date when players contracts become guarranteed for the year). Their roster is still littered with injuries, and if players are not replaced, the coming knockout phase games in the USOC and SuperLiga, plus league matches, could leave this team in a bigger rut than they are presently. I'm not trying to make excuses for this team, as some will know my dismay over how the Revs handle their roster each season, but these extra competitions could end up costing this team, as it did last season.

MLS needs to rethink how it allows its teams to structure its rosters. With the collective bargaining talks looming, one hopes that both sides can come to an agreement which helps the teams become profitable, but also increases cap spending and roster sizes, to ensure quality, and allow MLS sides to compete in a worthy competition like the CCL.

Glory Glory Revolution!

Player Signed: Edgaras Jankauskas

According to a Kyle McCarthy (, Boston Herald, The Revs have agreed to a contract with 34 year old Lithuanian striker, Edgaras Jankauskas. He now awaits visa and ITC approval before he can join the team. Terms of the deal have yet to be announced. Also, it is unclear how they will free up a Senior International slot on their roster. It was announced last week that Twellman would hit the DL for about two months, but the vacancy left by that move would still leave the roster without an open SI slot. So, we expect more moves or announcements regarding the roster to come soon.

Jankauskas is a towering figure, and a powerful striker (coming in at 6'4"). He began his career by playing for his hometown club FK Zalgiris, of Vilnius, Lithuania. He quickly made a name for himself in his native country, by scoring 41 goals in 93 matches, all by the age of 21. Edgaras then spent the next few years hoping around clubs in Russia (Torpedo, CSKA Moscow), Belgium (FC Bruges), and Spain (Real Sociadad). After his first season in Spain, he was loaned out to Portuguese club Benfica. He only spent one season on loan to Benfica, but it was enough to then Porto Manager, Jose Morinho, to notice him, and sign him from Sociadad.

During his time with Porto, under Morinho, Jankauskas saw a mixed bag of success. He was a part of domestic cup winnings sides, and even the 2004 UEFA Champions League winners. However, during the 2003 season, Edgaras was left out of the final for UEFA Cup winning team.

Jankauskas then spent the next few seasons trying to get into regular team play in various other clubs (OGC Nice, Hearts, Kaunas, Belenenses. to name a few) before trialing with the Revs earlier this month.

Jankauskas is known for his power, and with a clear lack of striker options, he may be just what the Revs need to sustain possession, and threaten on attack. Without Twellman in the lineup, the team lacks a player who can hold the ball up in possession, and power his way through the box. The move will allow Nicol to move Joseph and/or Ralston back where they belong, in the midfield.

Admitedly, I have only seen Jankauskas play in 1 or 2 matches, and a few youtube clips, but this signing brings more hope to me than excpectation. The Revs have had a definitive problem at striker over the last two seasons. As a supporter of the club, I hope EJ works out, and can help be one of, if not the missing piece the Revs need right now. The Revs have had trouble finding quality SI strikers in the past (Abundus, Sunsing, Diallo, Fernandez etc...). Let's hope that changes with Edgaras, and he can help bring us back to the top of the table, and bring home our first MLS Cup!


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Rev Links


Injury-plagued New England Revolution face Kansas City Wizards in SuperLiga doubleheader
L.E. Eisenmenger

Revolution can't count on numbers edge
Kyle McCarthy

Episodio 9 - El Medianoche Viaje
The Midnight Ride

Broadcast Booth Bits - The Blue Laguna

Brad Feldman

Also, Jonathan Kraft and Don Garber will be on Dale and Holley today on WEEI. Check it out, and hopefully they will talk more about the Revs, and less about the Patriots. I'm not holding my breath however.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

USL/NPSL Update 6/23

New England area lower division updates

Tier 3 - USL Second Division:

Western Mass Pioneers - Last Tuesday the Pioneers were bounced from the US Open Cup after losing a second round match-up to league rivals Harrisburg. The match was decided in penalties (4-3 to Harrisburg) after 120 minutes of the match went scoreless. The loss prevents the Pioneers from facing in state rival New England Revolution for the second straight year of the US Open Cup.

In league play the Pioneers tried to bunch back from their USOC exit. They again had trouble finding the back of the net, and were held to a nil-nil draw at home to Pittsburgh. The draw leaves them 6th in the table, on 14 points from 11 matches, and 8 points back of leaders Harrisburg.

Next League Match:
Sat. June 27th Pioneers @ Bermuda

Tier 4 - USL PDL:

Rhode Island Stingrays - Rhode Island bounced back to score 3 against Newark, in a 3-1 win. The win keeps them 6th in the table, on 11 points from 10 matches, and 17 points back of league leadering Long Island.

Next Games:
Sat. June 27th Stingrays @ Ocean City

New Hampshire Phantoms - New Hampsire dropped their midweek clash with Ottawa up in the Canadian capitol. The loss puts New Hampshire firmly at the bottom of the table on 5 points from 10 matches.

Next Game:
Tue. June 17th New Hampshire vs Brooklyn - Southern New Hampsire University - 7:30pm

Tier 4 - NPSL:

Boston Aztec - Drew with New England rivals Maine Sting 2-2. The draw keeps them top of the table.

Next Game:
Sun. June 28th Boston vs. New York AC @ Amesbury Sports Complex

Maine Sting - Drew with New England rivals Boston Aztec 2-2. The draw moves them into second place in the standings.

Next Game:
Fri. July 3rd Maine vs Long Island

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

New England Soccer History: Part 2

...continued from part 1.

Turn of the Century:

As the century turned over, so did the many leagues in the New England area. Although the area was a hotbed of soccer at the time, it had a hard time keeping continuous teams and leagues afloat. Immigrant populations began to turn over generations as well, and with that came desire to gravitate towards American created sports, most notably baseball. The desire for immigrant populations, and especially their children, to become more 'American' left the game constantly needing to rely on new immigrant populations to feed the game. Of course the Southern New England area was booming with immigrants at the time, due to industry, so the turn over was quite quick, and helped fuel the love of the game year after year. This infatuation with becoming more 'American' didn't undermine the importance of soccer in the region at the time, but rather stunt the long term growth. Still, the area was poised to help justify it
's name as soccer's Golden Triangle.

With the new century came the countries first true professional league. The American League of Professional Football was very short lived, only lasting a season. However, the league was important, because it showed the hunger for a professionally organized game in the country. The six team league comprised of teams from the Northeast, included a team associated with National League Baseball team from Boston. The Boston Beaneaters were the forebears of the Boston Braves, which now reside in Atlanta, with the same nickname. Immigration issues cut short the life of the league, as t
eams were accused of illegally employing players from the British isles, who were not proper U.S. citizens. The pressure caused the league to fold after just one season of play, in 1894.

For about 12 years following the collapse of the APFL, the game remained entirely amateur in this country. Teams like the Fall River Rovers, Howard & Bullough F
.C. (Pawtuckett, R.I.) and various predicessors to New Bedford F.C. (which later became New Bedford Whalers) had endured years of league changes, and amateur style football until the formation of the Southern New England Soccer League.

The rival league at the time, the National Association Foot Ball league had also sprung up around that time. The league included a few Boston teams such as Bunker Hill F.C., and Essex County F.C. This league also included a team which would soon become the greatest rival to the New England areas dominance, Bethlehem Steel F.C. N
either of the Boston teams ever won the league.

The Fall River Rovers were still among the best teams at the time. They carried their American Cup success over to the National Challenge Cup (which is known today as the US Open Cup). They reached three consecutive finals, between 1916 and 1918.
However, they managed just one trophy, in 1917. The Rovers were met in the finals all three years by legendary Pennsylvania club, Bethlehem Steel F.C. The first meeting of the two clubs (1916) would cement this rivalry as maybe the most fierce in the United States. The hotly contested Cup Final was one of the first indications of fan violence in the region. The game controversially ended with a penalty being awarded to Bethlehem late in the match. Near the conclusion of the game, another controversial call went against the rovers, and a pitch invasion ensued. Tensions between these two clubs were also heightened by nationalistic ideals and pride. The Rovers were made up almost entirely of locally born players from the, where as Bethlehem was a club with a heavy British influence.

The 1917 National Challenge Cup Final saw the Rovers exact revenge from the game of the previous year. They beat Bethlehem 1-0 on an early goal. In 1918 Rovers and Bethlehem would play the rubber match of their cup rivalry. This time the game fittingly was tied after regulation. In those days overtime was not a part of the rules of the game, and a replay of the match was scheduled. Bethlehem handled Fall River in the replay, 3-0. This would be the last time the two teams would meet, and although they only met 3 times, the rivalry had become something of a legend that would unite the two soccer hotbeds as rivals throughout the next decade.

During their time the Fall River Rovers (1884-1921) saw impr
essive amounts of success. Two American Cups (1884,1889), one National Challenge Cup (1917), winners of the New England League in 1909, and a league cup in 1917.

Another dominant team in the Southern New England Soccer League was the New Bedford Whalers. The winners of the first two league titles in 1915, and 1917 (no champion was crowned in 1916). This team would only last a few seasons, before coming back again in the next decade. They two had a rivalry with the Rovers. Local star Thomas Swords, and U.S. International player, moved from New Bedford back to Fall River
after just one season, sparking a fierce rivalry, as it shifted the fortunes of the two clubs.

J & P Coats (Pawtuckett, R.I.) won in 1918. The next season the league would take two seasons off due to World War I. When the league resumed play in 1921, Fore River of Quincy, Ma. won it’s first title. They had been robbed of a title in 1916, when the league was shut down due to financial reasons, even though they were leading the league at the time.

ASL Beginings: By 1921 the game of soccer was growing in popularity, and in the Northeast it was probably only less popular than baseball. It was time for organizers to develop a real national league. The rivalries between clubs in the two main leagu
es at the time, the Southern New England Soccer League, and the National Association Foot Ball league had paved the way for a league that spanned over a larger regional foot print. In 1921 the American Soccer League (ASL) was formed, and most of the most dominant teams from the NAFBL and the SNESL joined to form the new national league.

In the 1921/22 season, only J & P Coats moved over from the SNESL. The SNESL had folded at the conclusion of the 1921 season, and so some of the other teams collapsed. With the collapse of these clubs, came the births of a few new clubs. H
olyoke Falcos (from Holyoke, Ma.), joined J & P in the leagues inaugural season. The other teams in the league were also mainly from the Tri-State area. A team not mentioned though, was also a local team. This team would become truly legendary, and would carry on the great traditions of New England soccer, especially that of the Fall River area. In 1921, after their predecessors the Fall River Rovers disbanded with the collapse of the SNESL, Fall River United formed. This club formed with a lot of the same players and management of the Rovers, but were a different organization entirely. Though United’s first season in the ASL was rather bleak, it would not be a sign of things to come, as this would become one of, if not the signature clubs of the American Soccer League. After that first season, the club was purchased by Sam Mark, who quickly changed the name of the team to represent his own namesake. The club would now be known as the Fall River Marksmen, and they would go on to dominate the next decade of American Soccer.

It would be irresponsible of me to not dedicate an entire section of this multipart piece to that of the Marksmen. They are too important for this area, and even the entire country, for me to just mention them in passing. With that being said, I guess this will be a sort of teaser heading into our rather lengthy next part which will be almost entirely dedicated to the Marksmen and the old ASL.

Until then, check out our friends at Bump Pitch, and the cool shirts they created to keep the heritage of US Soccer alive. There are a few shirts of old ASL teams, and most notably, the Marksmen.
Go to their website to check them out

Again, don't forget to check out the great archives at and help preserve our heritage.

Glory Glory New England!

USL/NPSL Update 6/16

New England area lower division updates

Tier 3 - USL Second Division:

Western Mass Pioneers - The Pioneers kept up their good form this weekend, with a 2-0 win over the Charlotte Eagles at Lusitano Stadium. First half substitute Almir Barbosa had a brace, and helped carry the Pioneers toward their 4th league victory in a row. Revolution midfielder continued his loan spell at Western Mass. by putting in another full 90, and a couple of shots for the Pioneers. Keeper James Thorpe recorded his 2nd shut out in as many weeks. With the current run of good form, the Pioneers have slowly creeped up the table, and now sit in 6th spot, and still just 6 points off the leaders Harrisburg (whom they play in USOC action tonight).

The Pioneers have an important US Open Cup match tonight at 7pm down in Harrisburg PA. The winner of the match goes on to face our New England Revolution on the 30th of June.

Next League Match:
Sat. June 20th Pioneers vs Pittsburgh @ Lusitano Stadium - 7pm

Next US Open Cup Match:
Tonight @ 7pm vs Harrisburg

Tier 4 - USL PDL:

Rhode Island Stingrays - Rhode Island had a disappointing weekend with only 1 point from 2 games. On Saturday the Stingrays lost 3-1 to Long Island. Then on Sunday they tied Westchester 1-1.

Next Games:
Sat. June 20th Stingrays vs. Newark @ Rhode Island College 7pm

New Hampshire Phantoms - New Hampshire played New Jersey to a 1-1 draw, and still sit at the bottom of the table, tied with New Jersey.

Next Game:
Tue. June 16th New Hampshire @ Ottawa - Algonquin Soccer Complex - 6pm

Tier 4 - NPSL:

Boston Aztec - Boston continues it's early season dominance with a 1-0 victory over Long Island AFC. The win helps keep the Aztec top of the table, on 12 points in 5 matches.

Next Game:
Sat. June 20th Boston @ Maine

Maine Sting - Maine had a busy weekend, with 3 matches in 4 days. Maine took 4 points on the weekend. In the first game last Thursday Maine 2-2 with Long Island AFC. Then on Friday the Sting fell 5-1 to Morris County. Maine finished up the busy weekend with a 1-0 win over New York, which helped secure them in second spot of the table on 7 points in 5 matches.

Next Game:
Sat. June 20th Maine vs Boston

It was a mixed bag for New England area teams this past weekend. If you are looking to watch some good local soccer, definitely check out these clubs.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

USL/NPSL Update 6/10

New England area lower division updates

Tier 3 - USL Second Division:

Western Mass Pioneers - The Pioneers finished up a busy week last night in the US Open Cup, where they took down local amateur side Emigrantes Das Ilhas 3-2 in extra time. The win last night moves them on to a second round match-up @ Harrisburg City Islanders next Tuesday (June 16th). Earlier in the weekend the Pioneers played two games against DC Area rivals Crystal Palace Baltimore, and Real Maryland. On Friday night the Pioneers took care of Baltimore 2-1, and then the following day beat Maryland 2-0. Both matches were played at Lusitano Stadium in Ludlow, Ma. The two wins in the league help the Pioneers move out of the bottom of the table, and leave them just 6 points out of the top spot in the league.

Saturdays game vs. Maryland saw some reinforcements come to help out the team. Revolution players, and local New Englanders, Nico Colaluca and Michael Vidiera were both loaned out to the Pioneers for the weekend. Both players put in a full 90 minutes, and Videira netted one of Western Mass' 2 goals on the match.

Next League Match:
Sat. June 13th Pioneers vs Charlotte @ Lusitano Stadium, Ludlow Ma.

Next US Open Cup Match:
Tue. June 16th Pioneers @ Harrisburg City Islanders

Tier 4 - USL PDL:

Rhode Island Stingrays - Rhode Island took down Brooklyn 2-0 on Saturday, and moved up to 6th in the table on 7 points in 7 matches.

Next Games:
Sat. June 13th Stingrays vs. Long Island @ Rhode Island College 7pm
Sun. June 14th Stingrays @ Westchester - McKenna Field 5:30

New Hampshire Phantoms - The Phantoms won 1-0 at home vs Westchester this weekend, but still sit bottom of the table on 4 points through 8 matches.

Next Game:
Sat June 13th New Hampshire @ New Jersey - Morris Catholic High School

Tier 4 - NPSL:

Boston Aztec - Boston beat Morris County 4-1 on Saturday and retained their spot atop the NPSL Atlantic Conference table.

Next Game:
Sun. June 14th Boston vs. Long Island AFC

Maine Sting - Also beat Morris County, 2-0. They currently sit middle of the table.

Next Games:
Thur. June 11th @ Long Island AFC
Fri. June 12th @ Morris County
Sun. June 14th @ New York AC

With the Revs off this weekend, it is a good time to go check out your other local area clubs!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

New England Soccer History: Part 1

As mentioned before, we have been working on a piece to help bring the heritage of this game back to it's fans in New England. This area has a rich soccer history, which dates back to the origins of not only the game in this country, but also the development of the actual game itself. Soccer in this country has had a rough time mostly because of stigma's that are not justified. People believe the sport to be new and invasive. When in reality it has been here as long, and in most cases longer, than the sports we have adopted as our national birthrights. The games biggest rival in this country, or at least the fans who push it back the most, are usually American Football fans. The irony here is that the two sports were essentially born from the same game, and if not for evolution, would still be the same game. Separated only by a fork in the road, a sort of national condemnation has taken place by American Football fans trying and resist this game of Soccer.

We are not the first who want to bring this history back to the fans. Others have written, and researched these topics before. We just want to be another outlet for you fans to be able to access the information. The biggest problem this game ever faced was organization (or lack thereof) and the broken continuation of the evolution of the game. The sport has endured hundred of broken leagues, thousands of defunct teams and a sporting culture that has intentionally resisted it as something foreign, for decades. There are those in the media and fans who wonder when the game will "arrive." Well the game arrived a century and a half ago, and it never left. We as fans just need to understand our history, especially if the powers that be in this country don't want to help us.

Origins of New England Soccer:
Where and when the game of football (soccer) actually began is a topic for hot debate. While trying to steer clear of the actual origin of the game, we are going to do a quick run through of it's early days. We aren't going to get into the rehashed explanation of the origins of football from ancient Rome to Victorian England and beyond. Instead we are going to pick up where the game matters most to in New England.

Just prior to the start of the American Civil War, a Boston area sports club was born, and played a major role in the birth and evolution of the game in this country. The Oneida Foot Ball Club was formed in 1861. The club played a form game that has been debated for years. What cannot be debated, is that the club was one of the first (if not the first) organized club in this country to play a form of football. Both Association Football supporters, and American football supporters claim the team as their own. What is certain is that the team played an early form of the game of football.

The story behind this club is as foggy as the style of football in which the organized themselves. There are stories which live as almost folklore. During their existence, the club played their games on the Boston Common, against local area college clubs. The legend has it that the team was rarely, if ever defeated. Today there is a plaque on the common which commemorates the team, and claims that the team was never even scored upon during their time (1862-1865). Of course there are no official records of game results, so claim will stand as a legend which we may never truly understand. It is believed that the club was disbanded as the American Civil war began to boil over in 1865.

During the war, the game of football, in one of its various forms, began to flourish at the collegiate level. As the game itself evolved into its many forms (Association Football, American Football, Rugby Football, Gaelic Football etc...), the city of Boston, and area of New England were at the forefront of all this development. The game(s) was vastly influenced both here, and in the UK, by collegiate athletes. Yale University in Connecticut is said to have adopted the English style rules of the game we now know as Association Football, or soccer. However, with their growing rivalry with Harvard University, Yale was convinced to play a sort of hybrid style one-off game which resembled both soccer and rugby. Yale ultimately lost the match, and decided to adopt the Rugby style rules to become more competitive with their New England Rivals. This was said the be the pivotal moment in the direction of soccer in this country. Soon the collegiate game became almost entirely rugby style carry ball, and then later gridiron football.

The fate of the game in this country seemed to be decided. However, soon after soccer’s death at the college level, the game was quickly picked up by other locals. By the 1880’s the game was fully revived again, in another grassroots incarnation. This time rather than being a game of rich college kids, the teams and leagues were born on the backs of working class immigrants, mostly French and Irish. American football remained popular at the collegiate ranks, and especially in the Midwest. But here in the Northeast, Association Football ruled amongst the people. Urban areas like Boston, New York, Southeastern Mass/Providence, Northern New Jersey and Eastern PA. were the original hotbeds of the game of soccer.

At this time the city of Fall River, Ma. had began to boom, mostly due to the textile industry. With the industrial economic boom came many working class immigrants into the city and surrounding area. These immigrants began to form local sporting clubs which adopted the game of modern Association Football. Working class workers would work throughout the week, and then blow off steam on the football pitch on Saturdays throughout the region. Fall River Rovers were only one of a number of clubs formed by these working class immigrants at this time. They were the areas most dominant team. Other teams in the city included the Fall River East Ends, Fall River Olympics and the Fall River Pan Americans. Teams from Boston, New Bedford and Providence were also competitive at this time.

Fall River, New Bedford, Providence...The Golden Triangle, or so it is refered to now. This area of the country was the original hotbed of soccer in this country. Leading up to the turn of the century, this area was football mad. During this time, American soccer began to become a bit more organized nationally. The formation of the American Cup, in 1885, paved the way for the first club national championships. The competition was created by the American Amateur Football Association (AAFA). The Fall River Rovers and Fall River East Ends each won two of these titles, and Pawtucket Free Wanderers, Pawtucket Olympics, and the Fall River Olympics each won 1 cup. This early dominance by the region put the Golden Triangle on the map of the soccer world in the U.S. and even overseas.

From there, the organized game quickly evolved. Although leagues came and went as quickly as the years turned over, it was evident that there was a growing interest for the game in the region. The Golden Triangle region would begin to really asserts its dominance in the sport as the 20th century came around. to be continued...

Much of what has been written here, has been written before, and researched by many others. We have taken elements and research from a number of places, and tried to make them a more New England centric, and condensed version for the fans to understand. If you wish to delve deeper into the rich history of the sport in this country, we suggest checking out David A. Litterer at the American Soccer History Archives. The information provided there is top notch, and very detailed. We are in no way trying to steal the research others have done, but rather trying to make it more accessible and condensed for the fans of this region. Litterer also partnered with a few other colleagues to produce a definitive guide to the history of the game in this country rightly called The Encyclopedia of American Soccer History. It really is a must read for those of you who want to know more about the great history of the game in this country.

Our purpose is to help soccer fans understand that they aren't alone, and that they aren't different. Too often in this country soccer fans are miscast as different, or foreign. The game in this country dates back long before basketball, or hockey, and the roots of American Football grow from the same tree as this great game of soccer. Even some soccer officials in this country think the game began in 1996, or others that think the history only dates back to the 1970's. When in reality, this country has been shaped by the game for a century and a half now.

In our next segment we look at the turn of the century, and the first truly professional leagues in this country. We will detail the importance of the Southeastern Region of New England, and especially the teams from Fall River, most notably the Fall River Marksmen. We hope to have the segment finished by this time next week, and will post it as soon as we have it finished.


Monday, June 8, 2009

Milestone Night: Heaps 300; Twellman 100; Reis 50

Eight years ago at this time it would have seemed almost inconceivable that the New England Revolution would become one of the leagues most dominant teams. Throughout the teams first five seasons there was little to get excited about on the field, and that quickly turned to apathy amongst fans.

Prior to the 2001 season the Revs made a move for local boy, and ex-rookie of the year winner, Jay Heaps. Heaps had spent the two seasons prior playing for Wortman and Ray Hudson in Miami, before he was traded to the Revs for Brian Dunseth. Heaps had compiled 73 games for the Fusion in those 2 short years, and was quickly making a name for himself as a good young defender in the league. Heaps had always showed promise, and was always considered one of American soccer's best athletes. A basketball player at Coach K's famous Duke program, Heaps had every right to be considered a great athlete.

The 2001 season was a disappointment, however. The team again failed to qualify for MLS Cup under Clavijo, and continued their less than mediocre perception within MLS. They did make it to the US Open Cup final, but were defeated by the LA Galaxy. That 2001 season would change everything, though. Heaps former club, the Miami Fusion, were in dire straights, and the league decided to contract them (as well as their cross state rivals Tampa Bay). With the contraction came a dispersal and allocation draft, and the beginning of a new era in New England. That off season they acquired Steve Ralston through the allocation draft, from Tampa Bay. They also drafted young Taylor Twellman, and Shalrie Joseph in the first and second rounds (respectively) of the 2002 MLS Superdraft. A year later, the team acquired Matt Reis for a draft pick from the LA Galaxy.

Fast forward to yesterday. Entering the game Heaps was sitting on 299 games played in MLS, Twellman was on 99 goals, and Reis had compiled 49 shutouts. The first milestone was assured before the game began, as it was not a question whether Nicol would select Heaps for the starting XI.

Heaps was not only selected by Nicol for the match (as expected), but was honored before the match by coach Nicol, and owner Bob Kraft. Nicol further honored the 32 year old defender by making him captain of the match. Heaps played maybe his best game of the season locking down the left side of the field, and netting what was ultimately the game winning goal in stoppage time of the first half. Heaps then quickly helped the Revs pull away from the game, when he worked hard in the left hand corner, won back a ball from a defender, then found Steve Ralston on the back post to make the game 2-0.

In true fashion, this Revs team reached milestones together, as a team whose core has been together since their sort of reincarnation following the 2001 season. Legendary striker Taylor Twellman quickly added a goal in the 57th minute, on a ball from Shalrie Joseph, to make it 100 goals in his MLS career. Twellman sprinted over to the bench and gave coaches Nicol and Mariner a huge as he celebrated his milestone goal. Twellman wasn't finished, and finished another chance when Steve Ralston slid a ball his way inside of 12 yards, where Twellman took a touch, and slid the ball under Red Bulls keeper Conway in the 64th minute.

At this point, the game had basically been decided. The Revs still had one more milestone to reach though. They needed to help their keeper tally his 50th shutout of his MLS career. When the final whistle blew, just a few minutes into stoppage time, Reis became the third member of the Revs on the night to reach an important milestone. His 50th shutout came on a night where he had to make just 3 saves, but the accomplishment is still incredible.

Heaps, Twellman and Reis all reached their milestones, as long time teammates Shalrie Joseph and Steve Ralston helped them as the 5 have done together for quite a long time. Though this group has yet to win an MLS Cup, it is clear that they love playing with and for one another. Together they have been one of the era's most dominant teams in MLS, and with them all back healthy now, hopefully they can continue that through this season. Though the Red Bulls looked like a disinterested team for much of the game last night, make no mistake that this collection of talent that the Revs have is one of a kind in MLS. Few teams have kept a core this strong together for as long as the Revs have, and they are a challenge for anyone they go up against.