Friday, April 25, 2008

From the Stands: Khano Smiths A Victory Out of Scrap Metal

After a long hiatus mainly due to some personal issues From the Stands returns, readers rejoice!

Last night I was speaking to Sean prior the FC Dallas match, made a bit of a throw away prediction by saying don’t sweat it keep the faith the reserves will beat Dallas tonight. He laughed me off, but I just said you never know when a gritty team plays a more talented team what will happen. I brought up the recent Bruins vs Canadiens series and got the typical boo hockey response, but it did hold true. With many of the Revs players scrapping for a position on the team they came out hustling against the more talented Dallas squad. With Wells back in the lineup and Flood once again getting a start in the center of the midfield the work rate wouldn’t take a dip with Nyassi and Larentowicz missing through injury.

The game itself was played with lots of physicality with guys like Ricardinho appearing to be stabbed and shot every few moments as he was consistently rolling around on the ground writhing in pain. When Igwe was finally booked in the 93 minute, it was the first time Ricardinho might have been warranted in acting hurt. There were plenty of other interesting subplots that developed Hilgenbrinck trying to keep up with the much fresher and faster Oduro late in the match, which I though he did a good job controlling the speed. There were things like Mansally ending up dropping into the midfield to lend support and collect the ball as the Revs were in a 4-4-2 instead of the normal 3-5-2. The Revs attacked from time to time and had maybe the best 3 chances of the match. The first was when Mansally crossed to the back post for an onrushing Wells Thompson who only managed to look up from the ground and see his lunging header flash outside the post. Then there was Jay Heaps getting set up right near the penalty spot after a nice low hard cross by Gary Flood. Except Heaps did everything he could to impersonate Kanu by popping the shot over the crossbar on his side footed redirection. The other golden chance was finally converted for the only goal of the game. Surprisingly it came off the right foot, yes I said right foot, of Khano Smith. After getting held back on the left wing, Khano used the play on advantage to swing the defender aside, use his speed to cut inside to the top of the box and then unleashed a well placed shot into the bottom corner of the net past a statuesque Dario Sala. This goal held up despite a late surge by Dallas that included Drew Moor forcing Reis into a good reaction/positioning save off a late corner. All in all about all you could expect out of a team missing so many key players.

Match Ratings:
Reis: 8 - Made the key saves when necessary and managed to give Cooper a good shove on the offsides.

Hilgenbrinck: 6 - Steady defensively and didn’t make too many mistakes.

Heaps: 6 - Didn’t make many mistakes communicated well with Parkhurst and marked Cooper well on the set pieces despite the height difference. Should have given the Revs the lead with that sitter.

Parkhurst: 7 – Did very well patrolling the whole field, most notably stripping Cooper cleanly on the left sideline.

Igwe: 7 – Very physical and showed good patience, made the one mistake with the late tackle on Ricardinho, wonder if it was a message for all the diving?

Smith: 7 (MotM) – Yes he’s man of the match simply because of the goal, but its what we have come to expect from Kenny. Long runs from midfield that lead to goals (see Real Salt Lake), if only he could do that more often.

Joseph: 7 – Very solid in the middle defended and attack well and controlled the game with his distribution, typical game for the deputy Captain.

Flood: 7 – Did all you could expect out of him and probably should have earned an assist after setting up Heaps right on the doorstep.

Thompson: 7 – Made his signature speedy runs down the wing, and got into good position for the header. His set pieces were actually better than I remembered him doing before.

Cristman: 6 – Not his best game, didn’t move all that well without the ball and hardly got into a dangerous position and was rightly subbed out for Dube.

Mansally: 7 – Moved well without the ball, drew defenders away from the box by moving around to pick up the ball in different locations. Set up Wells with that very nice cross at the back post.

Dube: 6 – Didn’t have much to do in the first few minutes, then Kenny scored and Dube shifted his attention to defending. Good showing from the young player in limited minutes.

Depleted Revs Dispatch Dallas

Missing six regular starters, Revolution coach Steve Nicol shuffled his lineup and changed to a 4-4-2 formation to take on unbeaten FC Dallas and with less than 20 minutes remaining, Khano Smith finally opened the scoring to send the Revs on their way to a surprising 1-0 victory at Pizza Hut Park while handing Dallas their first loss of the season.

The Revs looked the better team for much of the match, with Dallas struggling to create any real chances. In the 72nd minute Smith gave the Revolution the lead, getting the ball on the left flank and cutting inside towards the top of the box before unleashing a right footed shot. Smith's shot lacked power, but was well placed into the lower right corner, out of the reach of goalkeeper Dario Sala for his first goal of the season...

Read the rest at Soccer New England.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Lineup Shuffling in Dallas

The New England Revolution will take on FC Dallas Thursday without 6 regular starters. Long term injuries to Taylor Twellman and Steve Ralston were added to a few weeks ago by an injury to Chris Albright and this week Sainey Nyassi and Jeff Larentowicz joined the list.


Mauricio Castro, who picked up a red card last weekend, will also be out due to suspension. With so many players missing, the Revs will face an uphill battle at Pizza Hut Park where they face the lone remaining unbeaten team in MLS.


The Revs have started the season with a 2-2-1 record, but have suffered from untimely ejections and injuries. Dallas, on the other hand, has started the season 2-0-2 and could have a perfect record if not for late goals it allowed in its two draws...

Read the rest at Soccer New England.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Revs Seeing Red; Earn Draw With 10 Men

For the second time this season the New England Revolution found themselves down a goal early only to make matters worse by losing a player to ejection soon after. This time, however, they had no one to blame but themselves as Mauricio Castro earned himself a clear red card. Fortunately for the Revs, Jeff Larentowicz was able to convert on a dangerous free kick 10 minutes later and Matt Reis made some huge saves to help the Revs leave New York with a 1-1 draw.

Castro was ejected in the 47th minute for a ridiculous kick to Kevin Goldthwaite's groin after being fouled hard. The Honduran, who had failed to make much of an impact on the match, left the Revolution in a tough hole, already down a goal and now down a man. Goldthwaite also received a yellow card on the play.

Eight minutes later, Adam Cristman earned a very dangerous free kick after he was taken down right at the top of the box by Carlos Mendes. Larentowicz took the free kick and powered it around a seven-man wall and into the lower right corner of the net to tie the score, 1-1...

Read the rest at Soccer New England.

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Looking to Rebound in New York

Coming off a tough 1-0 loss at home to the Colorado Rapids, the New England Revolution will look to get back in the win column Saturday when they travel to New York to face the Red Bulls.

The Revs have started off the season with a record of 2-2 including impressive victories against Houston and Kansas City, but both times the wins were followed with a loss. The Red Bulls, who have played two less games and are currently 1-1 started the season with a win over Columbus before falling 2-0 in Dallas last weekend after giving up a goal less than a minute into the match.

While the Revs lineup features many changes from the side the Red Bulls faced last year, the Red Bulls starting 11 will likely have only one player unfamiliar to New England. Nineteen-year-old Rookie Luke Sassano is expected to start on the right side of the midfield after an impressive preseason earned him starts in each of New York's first two matches...

Read the rest at Soccer New England.

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Franchino to Galaxy for second round Superdraft pick

Former Revolution Captain Joe Franchino has been sent to the Los Angeles Galaxy for a 2009 second round Superdraft pick. The defender appeared in 162 matches with the Revs, but only saw action once this season late into stoppage time after missing most of last year with an injury.

Full story at RevolutionSoccer.net

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Colorado Gets First Win in Foxboro Since '02

FOXBORO, Mass. – Against a Fernando Clavijo lineup that seemed content to pack it in defensively and leave Foxboro with a draw, the New England Revolution surrendered a second-half goal on a poorly defended free kick and fell to Colorado, 1-0, Saturday night.

The Rapids’ Nick LaBrocca scored off a Jose Burciaga Jr. free kick in the 68th minute to give Colorado its first win at Gillette Stadium since 2002. Burciaga took a free kick from near the corner flag and LaBrocca rose above Adam Cristman, who seemed to have lost his mark, and headed a shot past Matt Reis at the near post for his first career goal.

The Revs, according to coach Steve Nicol, might have been fatigued.

"I guess tonight the new guys found out what the MLS is all about: three games in a week, play away on Wednesday, travel all day on Thursday and then you have to go again on Saturday," Nicol said. "It's not easy, that was a real problem for us. We didn't have that zip that we've had. We still didn't deserve to lose the game. The only way they were going to win the game was on a set piece, albeit a free kick that shouldn't have been a free kick. We had some half chances and could've scored, but we certainly didn't deserve to lose the game."

Read the rest at Soccer New England.

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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Colorado Has Gillette Problems

The Revolution have never had much luck against the Colorado Rapids in the Denver altitude over the years, but in Foxboro the story has been quite different. The Revs have only lost once at home to the Rapids since Gillette Stadium opened, and that loss came nearly six years ago.

Fortunately for New England, who just finished up a two-game road trip with mixed results, Gillette Stadium plays host to this Saturday's match-up between two of Major League Soccer's original teams.

Both teams started off the season with impressive victories. For the Revs, a 3-0 win in a rematch of last year's MLS Cup had the team already looking like a contender. The Rapids started off their season with a dominating 4-0 victory over the Los Angeles Galaxy. But most recently, both teams have traveled to Kansas City with different results. For the Rapids a 3-2 loss against the Wizards last Saturday was a disappointing follow-up to their performance against the Galaxy. The Revs, meanwhile, came away from Kansas City with a 3-1 victory to rebound from a 4-0 loss in Chicago the week before....

Read the rest at Soccer New England

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Fernandez leads Revs Reserves to 2-2 draw

It wasn't just the first team that recovered from a poor performance in Chicago. The short-handed reserve squad tied Kansas City 2-2 this morning after falling 3-0 to the Fire last week. Newcomer Argenis Fernandez, who arrived in Kansas City yesterday after finally clearing up visa issues, scored the game tying goal in the 30th minute and then added another in the 69th minute before the Wizards scored a late equalizer. Zimbabwean Striker Kheli Dube assisted the Costa Rican on both of his goals. Recently signed Matt Britner went the full 90 minutes as did Joe Franchino, who recently recovered from an injury.

The Revs line-up was as follows:
Doug Warren, Rob Valentino, Sam Brill, Matthew Britner, Joe Germanese*, Joe Franchino, Argenis Fernandez, Brandon Tyler, Chase Hilgenbrinck, Guy Kpene* (Spencer Wadsworth 61), Kheli Dube

Substitutes not used: Brad Knighton (GK)

*Guest (unsigned) player

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Gambians Come Through for Revs

Nineteen-year-old Gambians Sainey Nyassi and Kenny Mansally each scored in the first half to lead the Revolution to a 3-1 victory on the road in Kansas City on Wednesday night.

The Wizards’ Jack Jewsbury recorded an early own goal and then scored the equalizer on a penalty kick before the Gambians put the Revs back in the lead for good.

New England took the lead in the 12th minute when Tyson Wahl’s attempt to clear a Mauricio Castro free kick was sent back across the box. The ball deflected off Jewsbury and went into the net past KC goalkeeper Kevin Hartman for an own goal and a 1-0 Revs’ lead.

But for the second consecutive game the Revs had a penalty kick called against them when Nyassi tackled Kurt Morsink late at the top of the box in the 27th minute. Referee Terry Vaughn immediately pointed to the spot and Jewsbury took the kick and buried it past Matt Reis to tie the match at 1-1....

Read the rest at Soccer New England

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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Revs sign defender Britner to developmental contract

According to a Revolution press release, third round draft pick and Brown University alumnus Matthew Britner has just been signed by the Revolution and will wear #28:
The New England Revolution today announced that defender Matthew Britner has signed a Major League Soccer contract to play for the Revs. Per team and league policies, terms of the contract were not released. Britner, a native of Canada, will also occupy one of the team’s eight international roster spots and will also fill one of the team’s 10 developmental roster slots.

If you missed it, check out my story on him recently published in the Sports Review.

Chance to Rebound in KC

Coming off a very disappointing outing in Chicago where they gave up a goal four minutes in, had Jeff Larentowicz ejected in the 7th minute, and eventually fell 4-0 to the Fire, the New England Revolution will be looking for a better result in Kansas City.

With the Wizards having a perfect 2-0 record to start the season, the task won't be very easy.

Still without Taylor Twellman and Steve Ralston due to long term injuries, head coach Steve Nicol will have to further reshape his lineup without Jeff Larentowicz and possibly Chris Albright, who is suffering from a bruised ankle bone. If the Revs are to come out with a result, they will again need to hope for the spark from their young players that was key to their season opening victory against Houston, but lacking in the poor performance in Chicago...

Read the rest at Soccer New England

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Monday, April 7, 2008

A Canadian Revolution

He hasn't signed yet, but here is a recent piece I did on Revolution draftee Matt Britner.

In the third round of this year’s MLS Superdraft, the New England Revolution selected Brown University defender Matthew Britner. Britner, who helped lead Brown to a 15-2-1 record in his final season, joins former Brown teammate Jeff Larentowicz on the Revs where he will compete for a spot in a well established backline. The Nova Scotia native graduated from Brown in December and now sets his sights on making it in Major League Soccer.

“I loved every minute down at Brown,” said Britner. “It was a great four years and it was definitely a good learning and a good development program that has had past success with putting players [in MLS]. I think it has proven it can do that, so for me it was the best of both academic and athletic endeavors at Brown. I think it’s given a pretty good shot to make it to the next level here.”...

Read the rest at the Sports Review

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Friday, April 4, 2008

Revs Burnt by Fire

Referee Baldomero Toledo made two very questionable calls, first just seven minutes in when he gave Chicago a man advantage after ejecting Jeff Larentowicz and then in the 36th minute, when he awarded the Fire a questionable penalty kick to put the game out of reach in an eventual 4-0 Chicago rout Thursday night.

Chicago took the early initiative with Chad Barrett giving the team the lead less than four minutes in, but the Revolution never even had the chance to recover before they found themselves down a man. The Revs still looked strong despite the disadvantage but a defensive miscue saw the team fall further behind, and then Toledo's penalty call helped the Fire put the game out of reach.

The Revs were already without two key players in Taylor Twellman and Steve Ralston and Larentowicz's ejection left them with yet another hole to fill in central midfield. Coach Steve Nicol first opted to make no changes, going with a 3-4-2 formation, then substituted in defensive midfielder Gary Flood for Khano Smith and moved Mauricio Castro out to the left wing. With his defense in shambles, Nicol finally opted to give Chase Hilgenbrinck his debut in place of Kenny Mansally and switched to a 4-4-1 formation in the 39th minute after the Fire scored their fourth goal...

Read the rest at Soccer New England

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From the Stands: Lets Be Frank Revs Lose

Following on the heels of the Revs opening match 3-0 win over reigning champs the Houston Dynamo, there was all the reason to expect a good performance. With mostly the same lineup available from the opening match at least after the Ralston was taken out by Stuart Holden, there was every reason to believe the Revs could get something out of the match in Chicago last night. With Khano Smith returning from national team duty, Steve Nicol decided to attempt my suggestion and move Mauricio Castro into the center therefore keeping his favored 3-5-2 formation. With the back line and front line staying much the same, the Revs were showing their willingness to attack without Twellman and Ralston.

The Revs managed to have the nightmare start you dread on the road, after just 3 minutes the Revs defense became totally discombobulated and left Justin Mapp wide open on the wing so he was able to easily center it to Chad Barrett for a simple tap in. Just a few moments after that Jeff Larentowicz slid in to try and knock a loose ball onto a teammate. After connecting the the ball, Brandon Prideaux arrived late and hit Larentowicz's still extended foot. Baldemero Toledo showed no hesitation, sprinting towards Larentowicz with his hand reaching for his back pocket and showing red. Despite Tommy Smyth and Glen Davis attempting to justify the red, I find it hard to believe that the tackle deserved anything more than a yellow. However, this was just the start of the night for Toledo taking the spotlight away from the actual match. In the 37th minute, Justin Mapp had gotten behind Albright and Nyassi again and was dribbling into the penalty box as Nyassi recovered and caught up from behind. During Nyassi's pursuit he may have gotten the slightest of touches on Mapp but Mapp tumbled to the ground and Toledo again had no hesitation stealing the spotlight pointing to the penalty spot. Blanco was able to step up and bury the penalty to the upper right corner to make it 3-0.

This was following Tomasz Frankowski scoring his first of the match 15 minutes earlier. This one was a bit tougher to blame on Toledo with the Revs back line deserving the ire of the fans. With Chris Albright and Michael Parkhurst both having a touch on the ball inside the penalty spot before Frankowski was able to get a toe on it and roll it across the line for the 2-0 lead. He then followed up the Blanco PK 2 minutes later to put the final dagger in the hearts of the Revs, blasting a Chad Barrett centering feed into the top of the net. That concluded all the scoring on the day, but there were plenty of opportunities missed by the Revolution.

With the abundance of free kicks and corner kicks the Revs earned even a man down, it showed that they were still pushing forward trying to equalize early in the match despite bringing on Gary Flood for Khano Smith after the Larentowicz ejection. From one of the corners the ball fell to Kenny Mansally at the edge of the box but he blasted well over. For the second time in 2 matches Adam Cristman was stoned on a clear breakaway by the keeper showing once again why the Revs will be much better in 6-8 weeks when that is Twellman on those one v one matchups.

The effort was there all night with the 10 players all over the pitch, and switching formations (4-4-1 with the addition of Hilgenbrinck after the score got out of hand) throughout the match. So the players showed a bit of pride and determination in the second half but they could not over come the Toledo led Fire. Did they play well enough to win? I don't think so. The first goal was surely in no way caused by Toledo, but after that and then Toledo stepping into the prime time, this game was over before it started.

Match Ratings:
Reis (5) - Really thought his long balls into the wind were not so great, kept getting too much air and letting the ball get blown backwards gifting away possession. Hard to fault him on any of the goals except maybe Frankowski's first, but did make the clutch save off the shot that was deflected by Parkhurst.
Albright (4) - Could not handle Mapp on the left wing all match and when he had the chance in the box after the free kick just gifted the Fire a goal kick, did look a bit better in the 4 man back line, but that might have been the Fire slowing down a bit.
Parkhurst (4) - Might have been his worst match in a long time, was taking bad routes on the defender on Frankowski's goal got beat on the through ball then didn't clear it when he had the chance.
Heaps (5) - Did alright playing on the wrong side again, tried a few clever chips to the front men and defended when needed.
Joseph (6) - Was all over the midfield after Larentowicz went out, didn't have much help with Flood behind him, so was really usually found defended by 2 or 3 Fire players.
Larentowicz (N/A) - The red card was bogus, and then he got to take a shower, not much you could say, other than keep your studs down.
Smith (N/A) - Didn't even get a chance tonight being subbed out for super Gary Flood moments after Larentowicz was dismissed.
Nyassi (5) - Showed flashes offensive brilliance just as I began pleading to cut inside on Segares who was way overplaying his right foot run to the corner flag, he started using that. If he keeps that up the wing will open up again. Hard to fault him on the PK for just being faster than Mapp, but did lose Mapp originally.
Castro (4) - Didn't really make his mark on the wing again, and they only had possession a few moments with him in the middle. His corners were getting tossed around by the wind, but still were put in dangerous positions.
Cristman (4) - Blew the break away and then didn't really do much to keep the ball either. Eventually replaced by Dube as a late sub.
Mansally (4) - Showed he isn't all finesse and pace, was very physical with the defenders, should have done better with the ball of the corner, and was subbed out as the game got out of hand to bring in a fourth defender.

Subs:
Flood (3) - Was invisible all game (not what you need down a man) the sole highlight was him tracking back off a cleared corner to slow down Blanco.
Hilgenbrinck (5) - Stepped in well in his first match, saved another goal and looked capable linking up with Castro.
Dube (N/A) - Gave Cristman a breather once this was all over.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Revs Head to Chicago Minus Key Starters

The New England Revolution are headed to the Windy City without Taylor Twellman and Steve Ralston, the two players on the current roster who have had the most success against the Fire.

Injuries to the Revs all-time leading scorer and assister leave the team without two players who have contributed a combined 17 goals and 10 assists in past meetings between the two teams. Steve Nicol will be forced to make some adjustments to the lineup and the team will likely have to rely even more on the youth that helped lead the team to a dominating 3-0 victory against Houston on Saturday.

The Revs will be aided by the return of Khano Smith from International duty with Bermuda. And it seems he will likely slot back into his spot in left midfield with Honduran Mauricio Castro moving into the middle to fill in for Ralston. Of course Nicol has the players to switch to a 4-4-2 formation with 19-year-old Amaechi Igwe or newcomer Chase Hilgenbrinck starting at left back, but that seems unlikely given the Revs success on Saturday in a 3-5-2. Again the Revs will look to Kenny Mansally and Adam Cristman to take over the scoring duties in Twellman's absence....

Read the rest at Soccer New England

Predicted line-up:
-------Mansally--Cristman
Smith------Castro--------Nyassi
---Larentowicz-Joseph
--Heaps-Parkhurst-Albright
-------------Reis

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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

From the Stands: Early Injury Bug


So the calendar has just hit April and already I am reading about Twellman being out for at least a month and a half and Ralston out at least 3 weeks. At first I thought, it was an April Fool's joke, but alas it wasn't just a horribly mean gag played on me. Eventually I got around to thinking about this and the result may not be all that bad. Yes a knee injury is never what you want to hear for a professional athlete like Twellman' torn meniscus. However, if he manages to get through the surgery and is able to make a full recovery by mid-May, he would miss approximately 8 games, however, they would all be early season MLS regular season matches. The joy of the MLS season, as long as you aren't hoping for the Supporter's Shield, an early season tough run would not hurt the Revs too much. It might have been nice to see Mansally and Twellman build up a relationship, but it will benefit the entire strike force in the long run. Having Fernandez, Dube, Mansally and Cristman all battling it out for 2 spots up top should lead to some interesting competition in training which should just improve them all even more.

The Ralston shoulder injury in a way could have a very similar effect, it might force Nicol to see how Castro looks in the center which is where I thought he would be the most dangerous. With Khano coming back from national team duty it would make perfect sense to slot him on the left and move Castro to the center. After Nicol has admitted speaking to the Honduran national team manager, this does seem a possible move. Castro might benefit having the pace of Smith and Nyassi on the wings, and Joseph and Larentowicz protecting his back side. With all those options, Castro trying a few of those sneaky passes or ball tricks in the middle would not be as fatal as if it gets stolen on the wing.

I hate to try and find a silver lining in any injury, we all understand in the short term having Twellman and Ralston would be very good for our squad, but it is a long season. Having them come back in a few weeks fully healthy while the new players get integrated into the squad so quickly will only help as the SuperLiga, the Olympics, World Cup Qualifying, the Champion's League, US Open Cup or the MLS Playoffs gear up later in the season. Injuries are a big part of any campaign, it will be interesting to see how the Revs cope so early in the season, but more importantly it will be interesting to see how the time will be utilized by young players and players returning to the lineup like a Joe Franchino.

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Twellman and Ralston Injury Updates

It appears the injury that scratched Taylor Twellman from the Revolution starting line-up 15 minutes before the game on Saturday was actually pretty serious. According to a press release today, Twellman apparently suffered a tear of his medial meniscus in training and will have arthroscopic surgery on his right knee on Wednesday. His recovery time is expected to be at least 6 weeks, but will be better known after the surgery.

What training session this injury occurred in is unclear. On Saturday, Adam Cristman, who filled in for Twellman against Houston, stated he had been playing with the first team at the Revs final training session on the Friday before the match because of Twellman’s injury. The extent of the injury at the time must have been unclear if the team had still thought he’d be ready to go up until near kick off.

Ralston, who suffered a dislocated left shoulder in the match, will undergo tests on Thursday to determine the extent of the injury. He had said on Saturday that he hoped to be back in 3 weeks.

With both out at least for the near future, Steve Nicol will have some more line-up changes to make. Khano Smith should return to the Revs after helping Bermuda on Sunday successfully make it to stage 2 of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying. He may return to his spot on the left wing with Honduran Mauricio Castro slotting into the middle. If the Revs stick with a 3-5-2 this is probably the most likely scenario, though a 4-4-2 on the road is a possibility, if unlikely due to the Revs success against Houston.

As for Twellman’s spot, Cristman and Kenny Mansally filled in very well on Saturday and will likely retain their places in the line-up on Thursday. However, with Costa Rican Argenis Fernandez arriving, and Zimbabwean Kheli Dube making his debut last weekend, if either starter fails to produce, there will certainly be some competition for their spots.

Frank Dell'Apa of the Boston Globe had more on the possible line-up changes, including this quote from Nicol:

"There is no point in making major changes," Nicol said. "We'll take our time in making a decision.

"We want to make as few changes as we can. Going 4-4-2 means a lot of changes, so it depends if we want to make a lot of changes or a few. I've never seen Castro play [in central midfield], but the Honduras manager says he can play there, so it's an option."

For the full story from the Globe, click here.

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Colorado’s Terry Cooke narrowly beats out Nyassi for Player of the Week

Terry Cooke scored and got credit for two assists, but did his performance really outshine that of 19-year-old Sainey Nyassi? With 23 of 36 selected voters actually exercising their vote before the deadline, Cooke finished 1st with 10 votes, Nyassi 2nd with 8 votes, Columbus’s Adam Moffat and Colorado’s Christian Gomez finished tied for third with two votes apiece, and Cuauhtemoc Blanco rounded out the field with a single vote.

If you’d like to know how everyone voted, check here:

North American Soccer Reporters: How We Voted

To me Nyassi’s performance was more deserving of the award. Yes, Cooke scored a nice goal, but any professional soccer player should be able to find the back of the net with acres of space in the box and a goalkeeper recovering from the previous shot. His first assist was an impressive one, splitting the defense and sending Omar Cummings through on goal. But those watching the Revolution dismantle the Dynamo also saw a very similar and just as impressive pass from Nyassi to set up Kenny Mansally for what could have been his first goal. His shot did get saved, but the rebound fell to Steve Ralston for an easy tap-in to open the scoring. The Revs got the goal, but Nyassi didn’t get credit for the assist.

Then there was Cooke’s second assist. Sure he switched the ball across to field to Colin Clark, but the goal was entirely Clark’s creation. Clark did all the work to beat Abel Xavier, avoid a second Galaxy defender and slot the ball past Galaxy ‘keeper Steve Cronin. This is not to take away from Cooke’s performance; he had a good game and made a solid case to be Player of the Week.

What should have put Nyassi ahead was his two way play. Two way play was also the argument made by a few journalists for the Crew’s Adam Moffat, who may have been my second choice. Nyassi was everywhere all match, giving Chris Albright a pretty easy night in his Revolution debut. The Gambian U-20 International cleared a ball off the line, blocked another shot, and tracked backed to strip the ball away from Dwayne De Rosario on what looked to be a break-away. That’s not to mention the countless interceptions he had that came not just from his superior speed, but his impressive ability to read the game.

One of those, of course, led to his impressive goal deep into stoppage time, in which he intercepted the ball at midfield and charged all the way into the box, with some scissor moves on the way, before hammering a shot past Canadian International ‘keeper Pat Onstad. That goal, which looks likely win goal of the week, can be seen here:

Nyassi’s First Goal - To vote go here.

Not even mentioned is the competition the two were facing. Cooke was going up against the Los Angeles Galaxy, who happened to allow more goals than any other team last season. Nyassi was up against a Houston defense that allowed by far the fewest goals of any team in 2007, less than half of the Galaxy’s total of 48. Houston’s left back and captain, Wade Barrett, played so well last season he recently earned a call-up to the US National Team. This was who Nyassi had to go at when attacking up the right flank. Cooke was up against Michael Gavin, a rookie who wasn’t taken until the Supplemental Draft.

If voting based on stats alone, Cooke wins, but while they are important, it should be about more than that.

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