Almost four months ago, just before the season opener against the LA Galaxy, I attempted to pull off my best Nostradamus impression and put together a list of five predictions for the 2010 campaign. To be sure, the probability of my prognostications varied in range from “complete lock” to “optimistic” and “hopeful,” but I would argue this is the case most any time a sportswriter attempts to predict something which quite simply can’t be predicted.
In late May, I checked up on my predictions to see how I’d done through the first 10 games of the season. I wasn’t way off with anything, but it’s safe to say no one will be coming to me for lottery numbers any time soon.
At the time, I promised I would revisit my predictions at the midway point of the 2010 schedule to see if we were any closer to confirming my beliefs. Wouldn’t you know, this past weekend’s 2-0 win over the LA Galaxy was the 15th regular-season game for the Revs, so here we are. By the way, how happy was I that the Revs pulled out a fantastic win over the league-leading Galaxy? This piece wouldn’t have been nearly as fun following up a loss …
1. Steve Nicol will become the third head coach in MLS history to earn 100 career regular-season victories. (Side prediction: Nicol will reach the 100-win plateau by the end of April. That gives him road games against LA, D.C. and San Jose and home dates with Toronto and Colorado to pick up the necessary victories.)
PROGRESS REPORT: Nicol earned his 100th career victory on April 10, leading the Revs to a 4-1 victory over Toronto FC.
ANALYSIS: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you’d have been hard-pressed to find anyone who would’ve bet against the Revs picking up two wins in the first five games of the season. I didn’t exactly go out on a limb by leading off with this one, and I’m not exactly proud of myself for giving myself a “gimme” right off the bat, but I had to make absolutely sure I got at least one right. You can’t fault me for making sure I had a safety net.
However, at the time of my last update in late May, Nicol was surprisingly still stuck on 100 wins after the Revs had gone winless in seven games following the 4-1 win over Toronto. At that time, I made yet another prediction that Nicol would get his 101st victory at home against the New York Red Bulls on May 29. Sure enough, a late Zack Schilawski header lifted the Revs to a 3-2 victory in that match and Nicol got back on the board with win number 101.
Beyond that, there’s really not much else to say with this one. I made a tame prediction and it unsurprisingly came to fruition. Moving on …
2. The Revolution’s rookie class will be one of the best in Major League Soccer this season.
PROGRESS REPORT: Zack Schilawski (five goals), Zak Boggs (two goals) and Seth Sinovic (12 starts) have all played considerable roles in the first half of the season. Jason Griffiths has started the Revolution’s last two matches in central midfield after signing in late June.
ANALYSIS: I’ll grant you that this one’s a pretty subjective prediction to judge, so it’s difficult to say with 100 percent accuracy whether I’m correct or not. And I’m the first to admit that while I keep a close eye on the rest of the league throughout the season, I haven’t spent nearly as much time watching other rookies around MLS as I have the four currently playing in Foxborough.
However, I think it’d be tough to argue against Schilawski, Boggs, Sinovic and Griffiths being one of the top rookie classes based solely on the critical roles they play within the team. I don’t know if any other club has put more faith in its 2010 rookie class than New England.
At the midway point of his rookie season, Schilawski is the Revolution’s leading scorer (five goals) and is on pace to hit double digits in the goal department. Not bad for a kid who just one year ago was busy preparing for his senior year at Wake Forest. He’s cooled off a bit with regards to scoring - registering one goal in the last nine games – but he’s still tied with top overall pick Danny Mwanga for the league lead among rookies, which on its own merit must keep him in the discussion for rookie of the year. With his brand of hustle and hard work, combined with his finishing ability, Schilawski has become an instant fan favorite.
Zak Boggs will forever remember his first professional start, and not just because it was his first professional start. In front of a large group of friends and family members, the West Virginia native scored two goals and so nearly helped the Revs earn a hard-fought draw at Columbus Crew Stadium. He’s been limited by a concussion in recent weeks, but his start on the left wing against Chicago in late June proved that Nicol still has supreme confidence in the second-round draft pick.
Left back Seth Sinovic hasn’t received quite as much fanfare as his goal-scoring counterparts, but his contributions on the Revolution’s backline cannot be overlooked. After earning a roster spot with a string of impressive performances in preseason, Sinovic has started 12 of the Revolution’s first 15 games of the season and he’s helped shut down some of the top players in the league. As he continues to get more and more comfortable with the professional game, we may well see Sinovic continue as a fixture in the left side of defense.
The recent signing of Jason Griffiths brought the Revolution’s rookie count from the 2010 SuperDraft up to four. While it’s difficult to judge Griffiths’ contributions considering he just signed a few weeks ago, the fact that Nicol immediately inserted him into the starting lineup says a lot about the 23-year-old Englishman. Unfortunately, Griffiths appeared to suffer a hamstring strain in last weekend’s victory over the Galaxy and that could keep him out of action for a while.
3. The Revolution will score more than 33 goals this season.
PROGRESS REPORT: The Revs have scored 15 goals through 15 games, putting them on pace for 30 goals this season.
ANALYSIS: Once again, the math (which assumes the Revolution will continue on the same pace for the rest of the season) is not on my side here. Yet stubbornly, I still believe the Revs will score more than 33 goals and in the process not set a new club record for fewest goals in a season. Here’s why.
Marko Perovic’s 67th-minute goal against the Galaxy put an end to the Revolution’s 347-minute scoreless streak, which was one of the longest in the league this season. If the Revs just went through a drought like that and are still on pace for 30 goals, I have to assume they’ll up the ante a bit in the second half of the season. I can’t see this team going through another scoreless streak quite like that (spanning almost four full games).
Add in the imminent return of playmaking midfielder Steve Ralston, plus the fact that Nicol has made it clear the Revs are looking for help in the attacking third of the field, and I’d expect goals on a more consistent basis for the remainder of the campaign.
4. Taylor Twellman will play again this year for the Revolution.
PROGRESS REPORT: Twellman was added to the season-ending injury list on June 23, ending his chances of playing again this season.
ANALYSIS: Halfway through the season and we can already confirm that I won’t go 5-for-5, as Twellman suffered a setback in his road to recovery and has subsequently been sidelined for the rest of the season. So there you go – I was wrong on this one.
I know many out there thought it was a long shot for Twellman to return this season, but I can tell you that anyone who watched Twellman training through preseason and into May would’ve likely been standing right alongside me in my prediction. As he ramped up his training from calisthenics work to jogging, to sprinting, to passing drills, possession drills and even finishing drills, Twellman undoubtedly had the look of a soccer player who was going to play this season. Those of us who got to see Twellman every day didn’t just hope he was going to play this season, we legitimately thought he was going to play this season. And he thought that, as well.
Of course, the nature of Twellman’s injury meant the possibility of a setback was always looming. One day after training, with apparently no previous signs it would happen, Twellman began experiencing some of the old symptoms once again. As such, his 2010 return came to an end.
If I could’ve gotten just one of these five predictions right, this would’ve been the one I would’ve picked, because we all know how badly Twellman wants to be back on the field. Unfortunately, it’s not going to happen this year.
5. The Revs will reach the MLS Cup Playoffs for the ninth straight season (Side prediction: The Revs will finally play someone other than the Chicago Fire in the 2010 postseason.)
PROGRESS REPORT: At 4-9-2 (14 pts.), the Revs currently occupy fifth place in the Eastern Conference and are tied for 12th in the overall league standings. They are currently out of a playoff spot.
ANALYSIS: I’ll freely admit that this prediction would’ve been tough to defend had the Revs not pulled out a massive win over the league-leading Galaxy this past weekend. And yes, even with that win it’s going to take a very impressive run through the second half of the season for the Revs to get back into contention. But that win over the Galaxy just makes you wonder, doesn’t it?
Critics might say the Galaxy was without Landon Donovan and Omar Gonzalez (both valid points) and they were tired after a midweek Open Cup game in Seattle and a long cross-country trip. I can’ t argue with that, but this Galaxy team did just fine without Donovan and Edson Buddle for five games while they were with the U.S. National Team for the World Cup. The fact is, the Revs put in a solid performance against a very good team and proved they can play with anyone on any given night.
As it stands right now, the Revs are eight points out of the final playoff spot, trailing four teams who are all on 22 points and have all played one fewer game than the Revs. Is it an uphill climb? Absolutely. But it’s doable, especially if the Revs can find a bit more of whatever it was they had on Saturday night against LA.
Oh yeah, and as I’ve said before, I refuse to believe a Steve Nicol-coached team will miss the playoffs until I see it happen.
CONCLUSION: So at the halfway point of the season, we’ve confirmed that one of my predictions was accurate and one was not … leaving three still to be determined. We likely won’t know exactly how accurate I was until the end of the season, but I’ll check in again two-thirds of the way through the schedule (after the Kansas City match on Aug. 21) to get one final check-up.
In the meantime, let me know on which points you agree or disagree. Some of you may feel the Revs won’t reach the 33-goal mark and won’t make the playoffs, and I wholeheartedly respect those predictions - but as an eternal optimist, I’m sticking to my guns.