Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Nicol's End and Shake Up in New England

A month ago I wrote an article on why it would be best if Steve Nicol left New England. The plan was to publish it into the off-season and have the conversations that came with it then. Yesterday, I deleted that article because the Revolution beat me to it. Rightfully so. It was time for Steve Nicol to leave the club he lead for an MLS record ten years.

The Revolution have languished in mediocrity since the mid-2000's where they had to so much success. Nicol lead the team to MLS Cup finals appearances in 2002 and 2005-2007. The Cup eluded them though and with the departures of major players like Clint Dempsey, Taylor Twellman and Steve Ralston they were unable to keep up their status as an elite team.

In the past two years the team has slumped to embarrassing records of 9-16-5 in 2010 and 5-16-13 in 2011. If ever there was a time for change it is now. Now let me be clear, while Nicol does take his share of the responsibility for the frustrating results, much of the blame lies in the Revolution front office and ownership support.

For years Nicol has only been given the barest of financial support and tasked to perform. A difficult task for anyone and Steve Nicol navigated it better than most. Still, it's a shame that he wasn't given more with which to work because when given the resources, Nicol has proven that he's more than capable of leading a team to success. The departure between Nicol and the Kraft family was stated as "mutually decided to part ways"; I say it's about time and that Coach Nicol's loyalty to the Kraft family which under-supported him for so long was unjustified.

Further changes are necessary for New England to grow and adapt with MLS. The Kraft family will have to start supporting their team with the right finances to improve facilities and attain new players of higher value to the team. Shalrie Joseph is aging and Matt Reis is battling shoulder injuries which are said to be healed but Reis is not a young man. Benny Feilhaber looks to be the teams future star but he'll need help and Diego Fagundez is not ready. New players, a new look and a reshuffling of front office and media staff would be necessary to change the team's impression on the league. The current front office has a reputation as being difficult to work with and with a reshuffled staff, a new impression can be made.

Attitude is something that trickles down from the top. If (and that's a big if) the ownership group wishes to continue and not be left behind in the MLS 2.0 revolution (ahem), then they'll need to go all out and show their dedication to a team that has been allowed to languish in obscurity. Bottom line: change was necessary and it's a good thing.

Nicol will land on his feet. He is proven and capable. Given the accolades he possess and some time off, it's unlikely he'll be allowed to remain unemployed for long. There are plenty of places where he might end up. In all likely hood we'll see Nicol at the helm of another team sooner rather than later.

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