Five predictions for 2010

Jeff Lemieux gives his five predictions for the Revolution in 2010

A couple of days ago, I said that the time for
predictions and prognostications was over. I said that with the 2010
season upon us, it was high time to stop guessing and actually see what
happens on the field.

Well, here’s the truth of the matter. I lied.

There’s still a few days left before the Revolution kicks off its
2010 schedule against the LA Galaxy, and that means there’s still a few
days left to make predictions. So that’s exactly what I’m going to do
right now.

For better or worse, here are five predictions for the New England
Revolution in 2010.

1. Steve Nicol will become the
third head coach in MLS history to earn 100 career regular-season
victories.
Admittedly, I’m starting off with a complete gimme
here, just to assure myself of getting at least one of these right.
Nicol enters Saturday night’s season opener against the LA Galaxy on 98
career wins, meaning he’ll need to win just two games this year to crack
the century mark. I think it’s a pretty safe bet to assume that’s going
to happen.

As of right now, Nicol trails only Seattle Sounders FC’s Sigi Schmid
(125) and current U.S. National Team Head Coach Bob Bradley (124) on the
all-time wins list. While it certainly won’t happen this year -
especially considering Schmid will continue racking up the victories, as
well - it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Nicol will
eventually become the league’s all-time wins leader.

(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.)

2. The Revolution’s rookie class will be one of the best in
Major League Soccer this season.
It seems like this is the case
virtually every year, as Nicol has forged a reputation as one of the
league’s shrewdest evaluators of young talent. Last year, it was Kevin
Alston
and Darrius Barnes. This year, Zack
Schilawski
, Seth Sinovic and Zak
Boggs
are poised to make an instant impact.

It will be difficult to compete with Philadelphia’s stellar inaugural
draft class - that’s what happens when you have three of the top
seven selections - but Schilawski, Sinovic and Boggs have all shown the
ability to compete at the professional level this preseason. Schilawski
exploded onto the scene with four goals in five exhibition matches, and
while it will be essentially impossible to continue his recent
goal-a-game pace, his workmanlike attitude and soccer smarts will serve
him well in MLS. Sinovic has been steady at left back - even earning a
few starts in the preseason - and has shown an exciting propensity for
getting forward down the flank. Boggs has been Mr. Versatile, coming out
of college as a goal-scoring forward but also showing the ability to
play on the wings and even in the back if necessary.

Even without two additional draft picks - Jason Griffiths
and Adam Welch, who will have their chance to impress
after they graduate from school later this spring - the Revolution’s
2010 rookie class is looking like a keeper.

3. The Revolution will score more than 33 goals this season.
It was a frustrating year on the attacking end of the field for the
Revs in 2009, as they scored just 33 goals in 30 games en route to
setting a club-record low in the goal-scoring department. The attack was
admirably led by makeshift forward Shalrie Joseph
(eight goals, eight assists) and second-year striker Kheli Dube
(eight goals), but the Revs admittedly needed more help in the final
third with the club’s all-time leadng scorer, Taylor Twellman,
sidelined for most of the year.

But there is good news as we enter a new season. The club has not
signed what fans would call a “big-name” forward, but a deeper look
reveals reason for hope in the attack.

The Revs haven’t had a double-digit goal-scorer since Taylor
Twellman
scored 16 times in 2007, and that could very well be
the case again this season. But the club has a wealth of players who
have the potential to score 5-7 goals, and that balance will be the key
in the Revolution raising its scoring total from one year ago.

Dube and Joseph have already proven they can score, while Schilawski
and Edgaras Jankauskas certainly have the potential to
find the back of the net on a semi-regular basis. Meanwhile, Kenny
Mansally
has shown a goal-scorer’s touch this preseason. Add
in the occasional strike from players like Sainey Nyassi
and Nico Colaluca and the goals should come this year.

Oh yeah, there’s also that Twellman guy, which leads me to my next
prediction …

4. Taylor Twellman will play again this year for the
Revolution.
It’s been a long, frustrating recovery for the
Revolution’s all-time leading goal-scorer, who suffered a serious neck
injury late in the 2008 season and struggled with concussion symptoms as
he tried to return last year. He appeared in just two games in 2009 -
both substitute appearances - but did manage to score his 100th and
101st career goals.

While the medical staff and Twellman are taking his current recovery
day-by-day, there are promising signs pointing to his return this
season. His activities have steadily increased in recent weeks, and he’s
had no setbacks as he’s begun picking up the pace of his running and
kicking the ball.

Twellman recently said that he’s ahead of schedule in his recovery,
although there still seems to be no telling when that schedule puts him
back on the field in a regular-season game. Even so, considering his
naturally competitive nature, I find it hard to believe that he won’t be
on the field sometime during the 2010 season.

5. The Revs will reach the MLS Cup Playoffs for the ninth
straight season.
It’s easy enough to discount the Revolution’s
playoff aspirations in 2010 by looking at the list of departed players
this offseason - Jay Heaps, Steve Ralston,
Jeff Larentowicz, Chris Albright and Wells
Thompson
- all of whom played a role in the club’s recent
success.

But solely focusing on the players who are no longer here ignores the
basic fact that a new crop of players have joined the Revs to create a
new team identity. Cory Gibbs and Preston Burpo
were brought in with an offseason trade. Schilawski, Sinovic and Boggs
were selected in the SuperDraft. And Senegalese midfielder Joseph
Niouky
was signed and has shown promise in his short preseason
stint.

Of course, the main reason I can’t pick against the Revs to make the
playoffs is Steve Nicol. As evidenced by what appeared
to be minor miracle work in years past, the man just knows how to win.
With the veteran Scot at the helm, I’m confident the Revolution will
rack up the necessary points to secure a postseason berth.

(Side prediction: The Revs will finally play someone other than the
Chicago Fire in the 2010 postseason.)