Five predictions for 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.

[inline_node:23827]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.)