We Moved! Like Two Weeks Ago…

For any of you who were following along here, we have officially moved.

Finally.

This blog was started so that I would have archived articles to transfer over when I went live on SBNation.com. Well, we officially did that last week!

So from now on, look for us over at www.thebentmusket.com. Thanks for tuning in!

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Revolution Dismiss Joseph and Alston From Camp

First of all, let me say that it’s good to be back.

My laptop is fully functional and behaving in a predictable manner, and I even found time to re-optimize my phone so that it works as originally intended. All in all, it was a pretty good weekend in technology for me.

A lot has happened since the last time I wrote, so I won’t bother trying to recap all of it. Instead, let’s focus on the here and now:

Various team and media sources have reported that captain Shalrie Joseph and all-star defender Kevin Alston were sent back to Boston from Orlando for “disciplinary reasons.”

The team won’t comment further, but obviously the speculation machine has been operating at full capacity.

After last season’s suspension for failing the league’s substance policy (read: he was apparently busted for marijuana), the announcement that Shalrie was being booted from camp for breaking the rules has every heckler from here to LA cracking weed jokes. Known MLS twitter comedian @ZombieJaqua even started using #ShalrieSentHome to keep the joke running (his first one was the best, though: “Shalrie Joseph sent home from Revs training camp already? Too much “puff puff” not enough “pass” to satisfy coaching staff apparently.”)

It turns out that we can’t claim something so high-profile as being busted for smoking illegal substances, because Shalrie himself cleared up the confusion via twitter. Through his account, @ShalrieJoseph21, he said: “All day at the movies hanging with @D_Barnes25 n @Kalston30 just got busted waiting for da second movie, so we had to buy new tixs.”

Really?

It hasn’t been confirmed (or denied) by the team that this is the actual reason for his and Alston’s dismissal, but at this point it’s the only plausible explanation we have. This raises obvious questions, not the least of which being: “why didn’t Darrius Barnes get in trouble as well?”

One also has to wonder if this is something that really warrants a dismissal from camp. Even if the team wanted to keep this internal, their absence from the training center was always going to be noticed by someone and then reported, and now the organization’s silence is allowing the peanut gallery all the free space it needs to fill with meaningless conjecture and possibly-insulting foolishness. Does punishing two grown men for trying to sneak into a movie seem worth the possible backlash?

That said, this is a massive gaffe from Shalrie and not the sort of behavior the Revs are looking for out of their captain. The team is coming off of an abysmal year and describing the squad as “in flux” would be far too kind. Let’s not forget that, until the final few weeks of the season, Shalrie himself wasn’t exactly having a banner year either.

Plus, not to beat a dead horse, but this looks especially suspect after last season’s suspension. Joseph is a 32-year old man and entering his ninth year in the league – he needs to be better than this. There has to be some kind of situational/contextual awareness. Alston’s mistake can be explained away as immaturity, but Shalrie should be one of the leaders showing him that such actions are not the way to conduct yourself as a professional, not functioning as an active participant.

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And Then My Laptop Died

I suppose I owe all twelve of my loyal readers an explanation for my recent lack of activity.

I’m in the process of finalizing my migration over to SBNation.com. This particular URL was always just a placeholder until that whole deal was finished, but it has taken a little longer than expected. The good news on that front is that the necessary paperwork has been signed and we’re now in the process of moving! The bad news is that I still have no idea exactly when that will be finished.

Unfortunately, I have worse news. My laptop (a beautiful HP Envy14 that was just purchased at the end of September) has already had an apparent hardware failure. I blame this on my own inability to protect it from external threats and also my blatant disregard for strange error messages and possible warnings of corrupted files, but either way it will be out of commission for probably the better part of a week. In that time I won’t be able to write, and I’ll probably have limited access to email and news sources. So you will have to go without my brilliance for an even greater stretch of time.

I’ll be sure to start a support group for all of you.

- Steve

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Revolution Sign A Frenchman

I was fully prepared this morning to put together a scathing litany decrying the lack of offseason activity in Foxboro. I was tired of reading about other teams making trades, signing players and discussing possible picks, and I was going to let everyone know how I felt.

Then the Revs announced the signing of French defender Didier Domi and totally stole my thunder.

Domi is a left back who will “add leadership and composure to our backline,” according to Director of Player Personnel Mike Burns. He’s played throughout Europe during a fourteen or fifteen-year career, starting out at Paris Saint-Germain and making stops at Newcastle United, Leeds United, Espanyol and Olympiacos.

Newcastle United being my favorite club in Europe, I had the opportunity to poll several Magpie fans for their memories of Domi. Most remembered his goal against Sunderland in the ‘99/’00 season (not surprisingly), but it would appear that the manner of his exit is a bit hazy.

@NUFCThreatLevel: He was a great Left Back…went a bit mental and thought his religion demanded he move back to France. If I remember correctly.

@MarcSDuffy: I had high hopes for Domi at NUFC. Made a great start too but never kicked on.

@JoshuaHeppell: I remember his goal vs the M*ckems. Legend. Shame he turned into a prick.

@JamesFoth: he was a greedy little bastard, turned up at Leeds a few years ago.

None of this says much about how he will do in New England. Plenty of players have been spoiled or erratic in their youth only to become grounded and mature professionals later in their careers. Furthermore, I’ve only been able to confirm that Domi departed Tyneside on sour terms, not that it was due to any wrong he committed.

Beyond that, it would appear that he had a bit of ability about him during his time there, and that was also on display in Paris, Barcelona and Piraeus. This addition looks to be a good one from any point of view. Domi will give us an experienced option at left-back and perhaps serve as a mentor for the emergence of Seth Sinovic, along with the experience that Burns is hoping for.

The next big moves will probably be made on Thursday in the SuperDraft. Especially considering this pickup, I’m expecting the Revs to go with a forward. Will Bruin and Corey Hertzog would both be welcome additions to the forward line, and are likely to be the best strikers available when New England picks.

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Long Absence

Hey guys, sorry for the long hiatus but it’s been a roller-coaster couple of weeks.

First, the Christmas holiday obviously cut into my ability to write. It was a good one spent with family and friends, and as has been the case since back when I was in college, I was awash with a feeling of homesickness once I returned to my dingy little Brighton apartment and monotonous job the following week. So my inspiration waned, and then that weekend was the New Year.

I went home again, and thus didn’t have the time to write…again. Then I came back to Massachusetts ready to break through the wall and get back into the rhythm of things! Instead, I came down with the flu, which I’m still fighting right now.

In the meantime, I was supposed to participate as the Revs representation in the SBNation mock SuperDraft, which didn’t happen due to severe flu symptoms. The draft did go on without me, though, and you can find the results here.

So I want to apologize for my slovenly work rate in the last few weeks, and I promise that starting this weekend I’ll be back on the horse. I hope everyone reading had a great holiday, and may the new year be better than the last.

- S

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Friday Link-Up

Merry Christmas Eve, everyone! Here are your Friday happenings with the Revs and the world of soccer:

The Revolution have signed Re-Entry Draft pick Ryan Cochrane to the roster. Step one of improving the league’s worst defense is complete. Meanwhile, it’s looking increasingly likely that Fred will leave MLS. [Official Revolution Blog]

Meanwhile, New England has also locked up Matt Reis to a new contract. He holds just about every goalkeeping record in franchise history, and keeping him healthy and between the sticks will be incredibly reassuring going forward. [revolutionsoccer.net]

Arch Bell reports that Nottingham Forest has confirmed the signing of Robbie Findley to a 2 ½ year contract. As terrible as Findley was in the national team and the World Cup, he always seemed to score against the Revs, so this is actually good news in Foxboro. [Yanks Abroad]

Jason Davis analyzes what Findley’s move could mean in terms of the perception of Americans abroad. [Match Fit USA]

Juan Carlos Osorio appears to be rejoining the head coaching ranks in MLS. The former Chicago Fire and New York Red Bulls manager is to be named the man in charge at Chivas USA, according to Drew Epperley. [WVHooligan]

It would appear that FC Barcelona will be playing a preseason tour in the USA next year. Unfortunately, they won’t be landing in New England. [Boston.com]

One of my personal favorite blogs is starting on the rocky but rewarding road to legitimacy – Elliot is announcing that Futfanatico is available on Kindle via subscription. [Futfanatico]

J.R. Eskilson presents an interesting opinion regarding Teal Bunbury’s choice to play for the USA over Canada. Does it really benefit us over the long run? [Goal.com]

Ives Galarcep is reporting that former Revolution assistant Paul Mariner is rumored to be on the shortlist for the vacant managerial position in Toronto. Mariner stepped down as manager of Plymouth Argyle in May when they were relegated to English League One, but he stayed on as a coach at the cash-strapped club. [Soccer By Ives]

Sean and Brian made a Revolution Christmas list. It’s a little longer than most of us would hope…but I’m not sure I agree with the complaint against the uniforms. I liked this year’s kits. [New England Soccer Today]

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Conspicuous Absences: No Revs in the January Camp

Bob Bradley revealed his 24-man squad for the US Men’s National Team January Camp today, and the usual criticisms and concerns are being thrown around. Some people forget (and some remember a little too well) that this is meant to be a camp for young, mostly domestic-based players to get their feet wet with the national team and learn the ins and outs of international training and competition.

Among the aspiring internationals are ex-Rev midfielder and MLS Cup champion (with Colorado) Jeff Larentowicz, as well as Boston College product Alejandro Bedoya. The seemingly-universal “notable exception” to the group is Bobby Convey, who may be missing out because despite his long exile from the squad, he remains a known quantity. To me, however, there is a more notable exception.

Not a single Revolution player has been invited.

Last year Kevin Alston and Jeff Larentowicz (then still a Rev, though soon to be traded) represented New England at the camp, and after a stellar rookie season Darrius Barnes was touted as a possible surprise call. Back in 2008, the Revs sent three players to camp in Taylor Twellman, Pat Noonan and Michael Parkhurst. This year? Nothing.

(UPDATE: Lizz Summers in the Communications Department informed me that Kevin Alston is rehabbing his hammy and Darrius Barnes is recovering from offseason surgery. I had known but forgot about Barnes’ injury but thought that Alston had rehabbed sufficiently to be included. My apologies.)

It really shouldn’t come as a surprise considering how poorly the Revolution played this past season, but it still rankles a bit. I had at least expected a call for Alston, who despite a down year plagued with injuries remains one of the better future options at right back for the national team. Normally this could be chalked up to the relative weakness of the MLS talent pool, but this camp is about blooding MLS players!

Perhaps this speaks more to the effectiveness of the Revolution’s academy and draft strategy. Juan Agudelo features, and is a product of the Red Bull Academy. Teal Bunbury has, like Agudelo, already received his first full cap and was a first-round selection in the 2010 SuperDraft. In fact, I’d like to do a little comparison.

Here’s a list of 2009 and 2010 SuperDraft selections/academy graduates who were invited to camp: Juan Agudelo, Teal Bunbury, Zach Loyd, Omar Gonzalez, Sean Johnson, AJ DeLaGarza, Tim Ream, Eric Alexander, and Sam Cronin.

And now, a list of the Revolution’s 2009 and 2010 SuperDraft selections and academy graduates: Kevin Alston, Ryan Maxwell, Andrei Gotsmanov, Dado Hamzagić, Chris Salvaggione, Darrius Barnes, Tyrel Lacey, Zack Schilawski, Seth Sinovic, Zak Boggs, Jason Griffiths, Adam Welch, and Diego Fagundez. That’s thirteen players (seven from 2009, five from 2010 and one homegrown), none of whom made the roster for the January camp. In fact, most of the 2009 selections never even made the club roster.

Schilawski looks to be a good prospect, Sinovic showed some maturity beyond his years and Boggs/Griffiths both looked like fairly able players when not injured, but Adam Welch stayed in school to finish his degree and hasn’t been heard from since. Fagundez, at just fifteen and newly-signed a month or two ago, hasn’t made an appearance for the first team yet.

The successes of players like Taylor Twellman, Shalrie Joseph, Michael Parkhurst, Jeff Larentowicz, and more recently Kevin Alston, Darrius Barnes and Zack Schilawski have led MLS pundits and Revolution fans to label New England as a club that drafts well. On the other hand, the SuperDraft is one of the most popular ways to bring through MLS talent, especially young American talent, and the Revolution are hardly the only club in the country who have done a good job exploiting that avenue.

If the 2009 draft is any indication, they really haven’t done enough. If not for the surprise success of Darrius Barnes, that draft would be a total bust.

Furthermore, in a season that saw several MLS clubs sign multiple academy prospects and actually see considerable success with a few (Andy Najar and Bill Hamid come to mind), the Revolution’s youth system appears to be lagging behind as well. New England has signed just one academy player – just one – who is fifteen years old and unlikely to be a contributor until at least the 2012 season, if even then.

Roster expansion and the return of the Reserve League could prop these numbers but it remains apparent that the front office is not doing nearly enough to draft and/or develop quality young talent. Truthfully, being snubbed for the January camp is just another, more obvious indicator of an increasingly apparent problem within the organization.

The question then becomes: “what can be done about it?” Unfortunately, the answer in the short-term is “nothing.” The current Revolution youth academy class seems to have been groomed to produce better collegiate players that can be tracked through their school career and signed later. I’m a huge opponent of this philosophy. The college game is far too different from the next level to benefit prospective professional players unless it’s only for a season or two. These academy prospects need to be developed through the system, signed into the league and given the opportunity to develop in a professional environment.

Instead, it appears most players will be following the Scott Caldwell route. Caldwell, the hero of Akron’s triumph in the College Cup final this year, has told Jeff Lemieux that he plans to stay in college and finish out his four years before considering a return to the Revolution as a professional. Reinforcing this philosophy is U18 standout Cole DeNormandie’s recent commitment to the University of Cincinnati, although it’s debatable whether or not Cole was on the radar to become a first-team signing.

I did an (unpublished) interview with Karl Edmonds, the former Director of Youth Development for the Revs, some months back and it seemed to me that the academy folks and the senior team front office had little communication in terms of who was valued as a prospect and who the first-team coaches had their eyes on. Karl was incredibly accommodating and seemed to have a lot invested in his role, but it was the subjects he was unable to talk much about that said the most in that interview.

I’m hoping that I can snag an interview with the current director, Bryan Scales, to see if the disconnect has been patched up or if, since Fagundez’s signing and the major influx of homegrown acquisitions toward the end of the season, the youth coaches have any clearer an idea on the academy’s future prospects. For the time being, though, the Revolution’s conspicuous absence from the January camp should serve as a major warning flag for an organization in grave danger of being left behind in MLS’s most recent youth movements.

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