Both Colorado and New England had to make adjustments in this game. Colorado was playing in their third game in seven days and missing key personnel. New England finally had most of this season's offensive contibutors on the field together. Given the endurance test the game represented, Colorado will likely be satisfied with the result while New England leaves singing like Mick Jagger again.
For the Rapids, the story seemed to be absences. Conor Casey did not make the trip. Omar Cummings joined him in Colorado after an ankle injury in the midweek win over Houston. Then, in the first half, Caleb Folan pulled up with a strained muscle. Seven days earlier the Rapids tied the Fire at home, then traveled to Houston where they pulled out a win, and the champs showed up in New England. They came in with a depleted attacking corps and for much of the match featured two attacking players that were projected to watch most games from the bench. That they held on for a 0-0 tie reveals some of the character that earned them a trophy to end their season in 2010.
The Revs arguably made progress in this game. They held the defending champs off the scoreboard for their first shut-out. They gave up three goals to Chivas USA last week, which is still Chivas' highest number of goals in a game this season, so the defense improved. With Coria out again and Reis returning, however, the defensive line still has not been an example of stability.
Nothing about the New England Revolution lineup has met any definition of stability this season. In his third game since signing with New England, Benny Fielhaber was pushed outside. His combination play was apparent in the second half AFTER he tucked into those inner channels. The Revs created chances and put up a tough fight. That gives me hope.
I hope that our defense will become the steady and consistent part of the Revolution game that fans and opponents can depend on. I hope that our offense will create goal scoring chances, probably more against weaker teams than against established teams. I would be satisfied with a season that built towards bigger achievements in the future. I fear, however, that inconsistency and injuries will relegate this roster to under-achiever status and another year out of the playoffs.
Forgive my pessimism. As an explanation, I grew up around Red Sox fans waiting over 70 years for a curse to be broken and the Celtics are on the ropes right now against the Miami Heat. New England sports fans, especially recently, know what it takes for a team to bring home a championship. No Boston area team can claim the hearts of many New England sports fans until it has proven triumphant over it's domain. It is all about championships. The Revolution have been literally one goal away from a championship season, but they have never broken through.
Luckily, the MLS season is still young. The playoffs offer any coherent team a chance to make a run at the cup. This New England team has talent and has demonstrated the ability to play great team defense. Time will tell whether they come together to accomplish great things. On Saturday they will face Vancouver at home. Vancouver plays San Jose Wednesday evening before their first ever visit to Gillette Stadium on Saturday the 14th of May.
(image courtesy of revolutionsoccer.net)