Revolution's dependency on Twellman proves fatal
WASHINGTON -- The New England Revolution came into Sunday's MLS Cup Final healthy, confident, in good form and it showed for 45 impressive minutes. They were another good half of soccer away from finally lifting the trophy they had come so close to three times before. However, Houston's championship spirit and New England's own inability to finish chances doomed Steve Nicol's men to another offseason of wondering what went wrong as the Revolution fell 2-1 to the Dynamo.
"We made chances throughout the game, but you have to take them," Nicol said. "They had two chances in the game and scored. We had numerous chances and no score."
Those missed chances, and the team's inability to find a second goal, served as the latest evidence of the increasingly visible reality that the Revs have become far too reliant on Taylor Twellman to provide the team's offensive production.
Twellman was extremely active in the first half on Sunday and his headed goal in the 20th minute broke down the Dynamo's vaunted defense, but when Twellman struggled to duplicate the feat in the second half, no other Revs player stepped up to pick up the slack.
That shouldn't come as a surprise because Twellman has spent the past two years being the team's only reliable goal-scoring threat in the playoffs. New England managed just three goals in four matches during these playoffs and all three came from Twellman. Nobody else found the net. Not Pat Noonan, not Steve Ralston, not Khano Smith or Wells Thompson.
|Franchise History Pro Sports|
Most championship appearances without a title (W-L)|
MLS -- Revolution 0-4
NFL -- Vikings, Bills 0-4 (Super Bowl era)
WNBA -- Liberty 0-4
NHL -- Blues 0-3
NBA -- Suns, Nets, Jazz 0-2
MLB -- Padres 0-2
-- Michael Jackson, ESPN Research
Last year was similar, with Twellman scoring three of the Revs four playoff goals. As good as it makes Twellman look to have scored six of the Revs seven playoff goals during the past two postseasons, it also leaves you wondering where his support is.
The Revs must have believed that Noonan could still be that player, be Robin to Twellman's Batman, when they signed him to a new contract this season. The oft-injured forward did manage to get healthy for the postseason but he did little during these playoffs to make you believe he can be the player to take some of the scoring burden off of Twellman.
Nicol has done well to draft new talent in Thompson and rookie forward Adam Cristman, but as much promise as those players showed, neither is close to being the type of impact player the Revs need. Thompson had little impact in the playoffs, while Cristman barely played in the postseason.
The funny thing is the Revs' only sub on Sunday was a player who earlier in the season looked like he might be that player. Andy Dorman played amazing soccer in the first half the season, scoring goals and dishing out assists as he soothed the pain of losing Clint Dempsey last season.
Unfortunately for the Revs, Dorman's star stopped shining by season's end as he wound up on the bench, barely used in the season's final weeks. Now, instead of talk of Dorman being the next Dempsey, Dorman has joined Bobby Boswell on the list of MLS players who have gone from hot commodities to disappointments.
It is very clear what New England needs to do this offseason. The Revs must sign a goal scorer to partner with Twellman, and we aren't talking about some bargain-bin forward either. New England has taken flack for not spending money on its team and the convenient excuse was always that Nicol's ability to find young talent made signing big-money talent less of a necessity.
Sunday's defeat put another dent in that excuse. The Revs don't really need much. They have a quality goalkeeper in Matt Reis, a central defense anchor in Michael Parkhurst, the league's best central midfielder in Shalrie Joseph and a proven playoff goal scorer in Twellman. That collection of talent has already shown that it is good enough to get New England to the MLS Cup final regularly, but the results in those finals have shown that there is a need for one more ingredient.
"We'll try and look for better players than we have," Nicol said. "And when we find them, we'll try to sign them."
New England has two things gathering dust at its team headquarters: its designated player slot as well as the place in its trophy case for MLS Cups. If New England wants to avoid any more season-ending disappointments, it may want to look into using that designated player slot on a forward who can finish chances like the ones the Revs missed on Sunday.
Ives Galarcep covers MLS for ESPNsoccernet. He is a writer and columnist for the Herald News (N.J.) and writes a blog, Soccer By Ives. He can be reached at Ivespn79@aol.com.