Prior to the start of the 2010 season – after all of the preseason stories had been covered but before the regular season games had kicked off – I was brainstorming blog ideas which could simultaneously provide some light entertainment and spur interaction with Revolution fans. No more player profiles, no more preseason recaps. I needed something different.
Then, a light bulb went off. I had the perfect idea.
“I’ll make some predictions for the season,” I thought, excitedly. “Then at the end of the year, I’ll go back and see how many I got right. I can even ask the fans to make their own predictions. This’ll be fun!”
And at the time, it was fun. I firmly believed I was predicting the future. But blinded by my infinite wisdom, I overlooked one remarkably important factor in this plan: It’s only fun to recap your predictions if they’re correct.
Hence, what I’m about to do is not going to be fun. At least not for me (it might be a riot for you).
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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).
RESULT: Nicol earned his 100th career victory on April 10, leading the Revs to a 4-1 victory over Toronto FC.
ANALYSIS: Success! I correctly predicted that during the span of a 30-game season, one of the most successful head coaches in MLS history would win, at the very least, two games! Clear evidence of my genius!
Alright, so this was perhaps the least daring prediction in the history of predictions. With 98 career victories under his belt entering the 2010 season, everyone knew Nicol would reach triple digits this year. It was just a matter of time.
But hey, at least I did say Nicol would grab his 100th win before the end of April, which he did. That’s something, I guess. Plus, as I stated very clearly from the outset, I made this prediction to ensure I got at least one out of five correct. It was my safety net. As it turns out, a very necessary safety net.
2. The Revolution’s rookie class will be one of the best in Major League Soccer this season.
RESULT: Zack Schilawski (25 appearances, 15 starts, five goals) and Seth Sinovic (20 appearances, 18 starts) both started the season opener against the LA Galaxy and parlayed their early success into contributing roles throughout the season. Zak Boggs (nine appearances, four starts, two goals) had worked his way into the starting lineup before a concussion derailed his season in late June. Jason Griffiths (10 appearances, four starts) proved himself a solid option in central midfield after joining the team midway through the season.
ANALYSIS: As I’ve said all along, this one’s a bit of a toss-up because it’s ultimately subjective. Some of you would argue that this prediction was correct (probably based largely on statistics), while others would deny the validity (probably based largely on the Revs missing the playoffs).
I see the merit in both arguments, but from my perspective, I got this one right. I’ll tell you why, player-by-player.
Critics will point to the fact that all five of Zack Schilawski’s regular-season goals were scored before June – and three of them came in an 11-minute span in one game – and that’s true. But it doesn’t change the fact that the 23-year-old was a contributor this season. He finished second on the team in goals, while he also added another strike in the group stage of SuperLiga and notched an assist against Morelia in the SuperLiga final. But even beyond statistics, Schilawski’s relentless work ethic provided a consistent spark, and I honestly believe he’s one to watch for the future.
While Schilawski was pegged with great expectations as a first-round draft pick, Seth Sinovic was a bit less heralded as an outside back coming out of Creighton. But the rookie showed confidence from the outset and developed tremendously throughout the year under the guidance of Nicol, who saw enough from Sinovic to name him in his starting lineup 18 times during the regular season. Sinovic is still progressing, to be sure, but to ignore his contributions this year would be an injustice.
It’s tough to completely analyze Zak Boggs’ rookie season because the second-round selection missed the entire second half of the year with concussion symptoms. Of course, everyone will remember his scintillating debut start when he scored a pair of goals at Crew Stadium in the Revolution’s heart-breaking 3-2 loss to the Crew, providing a glimpse of what he can do. We surely would’ve seen more out of Boggs had he been able to play, but Revs fans will look forward to hopefully having that chance next season.
Third-round pick Jason Griffiths remained in school to continue toward his degree at Kentucky before joining the Revs in June, but despite his late start – and a series of hamstring injuries – the young Englishman showed enough grit to push his way into the starting lineup for the final two games of the season. Overall, he made 10 league appearances.
I know the main argument against my contention is that the Revs were forced to use their rookie class more than other clubs simply because they didn’t have a wealth of other options. The argument has validity, but I don’t think it overshadows the basic fact that the Revolution received a great deal of contributions from this crop of rookies.
Plus, I really need a second check-mark, because here’s where it gets bad.
3. The Revolution will score more than 33 goals this season.
RESULT: The Revs scored 32 goals, establishing a new club-record low for goals in a season.
ANALYSIS: This one’s pretty straightforward. I said the Revs would score more than 33 goals, which was essentially a different way of saying they’d score more goals than they did in 2009. The Revs came up one short of the 33-goal mark – confirmed by a shutout loss to the Red Bulls in the season finale – and that means a big red X for me.
It would be easy to try to explain away the lack of goals to the absences of Edgaras Jankauskas and Taylor Twellman, both of whom were expected to play a major role in the attack but neither of whom started a game this season. That clearly played a factor, but it wasn’t the only factor.
In my opinion, what doomed the Revolution in this department was the club’s lack of form on the road. The Revs scored 21 goals in their 15 home games, which actually put them in the middle of the pack (tied for ninth) in terms of home goal-scoring. If they could’ve replicated that form on the road, they would’ve been just fine.
However, the Revolution managed just 11 goals on the road, tied for 14th in the 16-team league. Eight shutouts away from home means I get a big goose egg for this prediction.
4. Taylor Twellman will play again this year for the Revolution.
RESULT: Twellman was added to the season-ending injury list on June 23 and did not make an appearance in 2010.
ANALYSIS: There’s not much to say on this one that hasn’t already been said.
Of course, I wanted to believe in my heart that Twellman would return to the field this season because everyone wanted him to return to the field. He’s always been one of the league’s hardest working players, he’s consistently given everything he has for this organization, and no one wanted Twellman back on the field more than Twellman himself.
Beyond that, he looked well on his way to a full recovery as he ramped up his workouts through the early part of the season. After starting slow and staying limited to fitness, he gradually progressed to passing drills, possession games and even finishing. When I spoke with him for a sit-down interview in early May, he was optimistic about his recovery.
But the unpredictable nature of his head injury reemerged and ended his season, without much warning, just like that. In the aftermath, Twellman has said repeatedly that he’ll sit down with Revolution personnel and the doctors this offseason to determine what’s best for his future.
I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. If I could’ve gotten just one of these five predictions correct, I would’ve chosen this one. This is the one everyone wanted to see.
Unfortunately – for everyone involved – my prediction was incorrect, meaning I’m hanging at 50 percent heading into my final prediction.
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.)
RESULT: With a league record of 9-16-5 (32 pts.), the Revolution finished sixth in the Eastern Conference and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2001.
ANALYSIS: Let’s be honest – did you think I was going to predict the Revs weren’t going to make the playoffs? At the start of every season, everyone has hope that this will be their team’s year. If you don’t, then what’s the point?
I didn’t think I was exactly sticking my neck out there with this one. The Revs had made the playoffs for eight straight years, after all, and it seemed like a universal impossibility that a side led by Steve Nicol could miss out on the postseason. Guess there’s a first time for everything.
Like Nicol, I’ll make no excuses. When the Revs’ gaffer was asked about this season, he responded by saying, quite simply, that his team wasn’t good enough.
Of course, after struggling this season, the Revs will now look to improve during the offseason and come back stronger next year. And that’s exactly what I’ll do. Because you know I haven’t learned my lesson. I’ll inevitably make more predictions ahead of the 2011 season. Hopefully they’ll be better.
FINAL TALLY: 2-out-of-5.