Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Brink

As we see it now, on July 24th, The Revolution sit atop the MLS table, and in the semi-finals of both the US Open Cup and Super Liga. In a month they begin CONCACAF Champions League play in a qualifier against Joe Public FC (T&T). Are the Revs on the brink of something extraordinary, or will we be left empty handed yet again?

I understand that the Revolution put an end to their woeful ways last season when they finally broke through, and won the USOC. However, 4 MLS Cup losses, and a number of disappointing international performances have Revolution fans a bit humble, if not cautious. As it stands today the team is in a position to do something no MLS side has ever done, win a treble, with even the possibility of a seemingly impossible quadruple.

There have been 8 Double winners. DC ('96, '97 and '99), Chicaco ('98, '03), LA ('02, '05) and Kansas City once in 2003. DC came the closest to winning the treble in 1997, but lost in the USOC final to Dallas. Without getting too nostalgic over the history of MLS sides I feel it necessary only to put this into context.

Of course this is a case of putting the cart before the horse here, however. The Revs still have a lot to do in all of these competitions. They play Atlante FC (Mexico) next Wednesday in the semifinal of Superliga. They are going to have to finish out this competition without star defender Michael Parkhurst, who is on call for the Olympic team, and likely without star striker Taylor Twellman, who has yet to come back from a series of injuries this season. Couple that with recent injuries to Mauricio Castro, Jeff Larentowicz, scary concussion suffered by Pat Phelan and the shock retirement of Chase Hilgenbrink and the Revs are left a bit short handed heading into the most congested part of their schedule.

Beginning with the Atlante game, the Revs have the potential to play 11 matches in 39 days, including Semifinals and Finals in both Superliga and USOC, and the qualifiers against Joe Public FC for the CCL. In that time the Revs also have critical league matches at home against both Chicago and DC, and away matches against DC and second place Columbus. While most teams in the league have failed to gain much ground on the Revs since their break for Superliga, the lead for the Supporters Shield is hardly comfortable.

There are also scheduling issues with the USOC. They are scheduled now to play Chivas in league play on August 11th @ home. Then the very next day they are scheduled to play their USOC semifinal against DC @ RFK. The USOC Final is scheduled for Sunday August 24th. The previous day New England will have been @ Toronto, and then two days later (26th) will be traveling to T&T for their opening leg qualifier verse Joe Public.

With media members and fans touting the depth of this team for the last few weeks, there will be a sure test of depth from now until September 6th. They do have over a week off to rest right now, but their days off will be few and far between come next Wednesday. The month of August will likely tell us where this team stands in all competitions. Of course the USOC and Superliga will have been completed by then, but the league and Champions League will still be in full swing.

I did waiver for the last few days over writing this type of post. However, I think it as good a time as any to look forward for the rest of the season. This is the only prolonged break that the team will have until the end of the season. With August being the most congested, and at the same time most critical, month of the season it is prudent for us to understand just what this team can accomplish. More important than thinking about what the team can accomplish, is to realistically look at how they are going to have to go about it. There is a real shot for this team to make history, but there is also the likely-hood that they could end up empty handed at the end of the season. Things don't have to be that absolute however. If the team were to win one or two trophies this season it would still be looked at as a successful campaign. Some may set their expectations a bit high right now, but they have to sit back and realize what this team has to go through to get there.

Possible games against Mexico's two best teams, or even the possibility of playing the team which has beaten the Revs in each of the last two MLS Cup Finals. A match at RFK in the USOC semifinal, which is never easy. Three critical league matches verse DC, one against Chicaco, and home/away matches verse second place Columbus. They must also go out to San Jose, and up to Toronto, which are too away venues that are very difficult to play in. Joe Public FC may not seem like a tough squad on it's face, but given the time they have to play the games, it could spell real trouble for the Revs Champions League endeavor.

Cherish the time now Revs fans, as the team is sitting in a situation that we could only dream of. Remember our past, but do not fear it. Competitions are there for our taking, but do not have an excess of expectations. It is O.K to expect the best out of your team, but realize just how hard it is for teams to do just what the Revs could possibly do this season. No matter the results, it is clear that this team has a very interesting road ahead of itself. These next few weeks are going to be an extremely fun and interesting time to be a Revs fan. Let us all hope for the best. Let us all dream of Glory.

Glory Glory Revolution!

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