CHESTER PA - JULY 31: Defender Danny Califf #4 of the Philadelphia Union battles midfielder Marko Perovic #29 of the New England Revolution during a game at PPL Park on July 31 2010 in Chester Pennsylvania. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
Steve Stoehr, of SB Nation's New England Revolution blog The Bent Musket, and I exchanged five questions a piece ahead of today's Philadelphia Union-Revolution match at Gillette Stadium.
tBG: The Union chose to pass on the opportunity to acquire USMNT attacking midfield Benny Feilhaber. Instead, the Revolution were able to bring him into their squad. How has the move worked out for New England?
TBM: Benny kind of walked into a no-win situation. I don't see him as the type of player who can fill a Messianic role at the MLS level, and in New England that's exactly what he was expected to do. Overall, his acquisition has been a win for the Revolution, although it would be nice to have more production than just four assists (three in league play) out of him by now. The unfortunate truth is that, as good as he is, the parts around him generally don't give him the chance to shine and thus he hasn't looked to be quite as much of a blockbuster as he probably should be. I would still pick him in that allocation draft, though, any day of the week.
tBG: There was a whole mess that was the result of the Revolution releasing their 2010 MVP in the middle of the season, which TBM covered (including an interview). What happened with and how has it affected the Revs?
TBM: There are two sides to this story. There's the Revolution side, where they maintain a staid public stance that Marko Perovic asked for his contract option to be declined and the team obliged, despite wanting to keep him. Marko, however, contends there was more to it. Through the conversations I had with him, it looks to me like he was promised a raise in this next contract year, either when he was originally signed or after his MVP season. However, when he underwent knee surgery, New England refused to meet that valuation and wanted to re-sign him for a year at the old rate, which was quite unsatisfactory in Marko's opinion. He sees it as the team reneging on a done deal, while the team is doing their usual dance and saying very little.
It's tough to determine who to believe, but the Revs have set precedents when it comes to mistreating players and being unashamedly stingy with contracts. Either way, it hasn't done a whole lot to the team in terms of this season, but it puts them back quite a few steps for next season. Perovic's production and dangerous attacking ability was a huge lift for this team and he will be very tough to replace. Frankly, he's one of the few really successful signings this particular player acquisition regime has had in half a decade.
tBG: The Revs will be playing without Sharlie Joseph or Ryan Cochran. How will the team respond without two of its stalwarts? Who will play instead of them?
TBM: The response will likely be spirited and physical play to make up for the loss of class in Shalrie's absence. Cochrane's absence should be dealt with rather easily, as Franco Coria should slot in next to A.J. Soares with little or no drop in quality. Shalrie will hopefully be replaced for a full 90 by Ousmane Dabo, but in reality we're probably looking at a midfield three with Phelan, McCarthy and Feilhaber, which generally means a lot of "full-blooded" challenges, a lot of giveaways, and a lot of frustration for Benny and the Revolution forwards.
tBG: What's the current status of The Fort vs The FO? The Sons of Ben took a great interest in it all.
TBM: At this point, I'm not sure. The FO seems to be constantly harping on one point and don't believe they did anything wrong, leaving The Fort to sit and stew in their anger. I don't see this being an effective tactic. I have a feeling something will happen on Sunday - I doubt it will be anything violent or truly problematic, but the supporters' groups will likely let their frustrations show.
tBG: What's missing from the Revs offense that has left it so under-powered, with only 16 goals in 18 games?
TBM: What isn't? Taylor Twellman said in his retirement press conference that he longed to be on the field, because he could see the team was missing a goalscorer. I would contend that a true, proven goalscorer is only one of the concerns. Steve Nicol has been harping on an inability to keep possession this season and I think he's closer to the truth. The problem is not only that the Revs can't hold possession, but they have no idea what to do when they have it. Even worse, the players off the ball don't move. There is no dynamism in the Revolution attack; the forwards and wingers don't make well-timed runs, the midfielders rarely show themselves as passing outlets when a player is under pressure, and too often the Revs get into the final third and have no idea how to create a chance. All of these factors are contributing to an anemic offense and I honestly don't know that any one thing or player can fix it.