The New England Revolution have the longest active streak for consecutive playoff appearance, going to the postseason eight straight times.
A number of other teams look more attractive than New England, but Head Coach Steve Nicol continues to get the best out of his squad. The team is still looking for its first MLS Cup championship, even though they’ve reached the finals four times.
The one constant in the lineup since 2003 has been MVP candidate Shalrie Joseph.
He started ever since his rookie season and is an absolute force. He is (in)famous for his strong, physical, and tenacious defense.
He is also equally as valuable in the offense. In 2009 he tied for the team lead in goals (eight) and led the team in assists (eight). Both tallies were also career highs.
Joseph is good in the air, challenges hard, and is a sharp passer. He’s a great two-way midfielder and is one of the best players in the league. His presence is what keeps the Revolution going.
The Revolution also have a strong defense.
Last season saw the emergence of rookie defenders Darrius Barnes and Kevin Alston.
Barnes, a center back, started and played every minute of every league game. Alston, a right fullback, is a speedster that can make runs up the flank. He was impressive enough his rookie year that he was even called into the US National Team’s training camp.
They will be joined by veteran and US International Cory Gibbs, acquired in a trade with the Colorado Rapids.
The center back has had a multitude of injury problems in the past, but if he can stay on the field he brings invaluable experience and would further stabilize the Revolution backline.
Usually the Revolution’s goal is manned by two-time MLS Goalkeeper of the Year award finalist Matt Reis. He is one of the league’s elite goalkeepers but will miss a good amount of the season recovering from shoulder surgery.
In his place is a good fill-in. In the same trade that brought the Revolution Gibbs, they also acquired veteran Preston Burpo.
Burpo has started for Chivas USA and Colorado and has a career 1.43 goals against average. He is certainly capable of manning the fort until Reis returns.
Where the Revolution will struggle this year is scoring goals. In 2009 only one team (New York Red Bulls- 21) scored fewer goals than New England (33).
Forward Kheli Dube was the man that tied Joseph for the team lead in goals. Dube was the runner-up for the 2008 Rookie of the Year award and had an even better sophomore season, including registering his first career hat trick. He will need to score on a more consistent rate.
The wings will be manned by two youngsters with significant speed, Kenny Mansally and Sainey Nyassi. Their pace could cause trouble for opposing defense and the Revolution need them to step up even more and create opportunities, even if all they do is get teams to focus on them which would create more space for Joseph.
What would immensely help the Revolution is the return of forward Taylor Twellman.
Since 2001, Twellman has made 174 league appearances for New England and has scored 101 goals. He also has made 29 appearances with the US National Team, scoring six times.
However a neck injury and a serious concussion have derailed Twellman’s extremely promising career.
There is no timetable on his return, if he comes back at all, but there is hope and he would be a huge boost to the Revs’ attack.
He is one of the most-prolific goal scorers in league history and being on the field with playmaker Joseph would be a lot for teams to handle.
New England also drafted Zack Schilawski to help the scoring-deficient team. Playing for Wake Forest, a haven for future professional soccer talent, Schilawski scored 40 goals and added 20 assists in 99 games for the Demon Deacons.
He has had a good preseason and the Revs hope he can help right away.
The Revolution won’t play many pretty games, and no one expects a whole lot from them. They will grind it out though, and they always find a way to make it work and win games.
It would be tough to bet against them doing the same in 2010.
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