Revs in '07/Palencia on MLS

To be honest, I had trouble figuring out the order of that headline; it was only because this is a Revs site that I went the way I did...'cause I want to lead with what Juan Francisco Palencia said about MLS.

For the record, that comes from a Matchnight interview with New England Revolution assistant coach, Steve Mariner - an item worth reading in full. The part about what Palencia said ties into David Beckham's arrival in MLS and the point centers on what European old-timers can expect in MLS. So, take it away, Paco:

"...I disagree with those who say it's an elephant cemetery, because that's where I would've buried myself. But I'm in great shape physically, because that's how you have to be there, above all else; and mentally, because you have to think much faster there than here. It's harder to keep the ball at your feet; they pressure you very quickly."

This adds up well if you think about the traditional attributes of the American player - a high-effort, low-to-medium skill type. But, yeah, we love our fitness; it's almost a fetish on the national team. To return the conversation to Beckham, further down in the interview Mariner does some jawing about the Spanish game, notably the pace of it; he's guessing the transition will be a tough one for Beckham. I tend to agree, but would also play up the physical side of MLS. While the English game, with which Becks is amply familiar, has its rough side as well, at least the refs provide some cover for the players, right? In other words, I bet Beckham will handle the speed just fine, but I can't speak to how well he'll deal with cheap, hard fouls that go unpunished.

Turning to now to what Mariner has to say about the Revs' 2007....

It's kind of interesting, to be honest, though mainly from the perspective that he's speaking more as a "proud papa" than a dispassionate observer; for that, look no further than his comments on Taylor Twellman and Pat Noonan's partnership. Don't get me wrong: I love both players, but Noonan, in particular, has an injury monkey I'm not sure he'll ever shake.

But the meatiest part of the Revs chat comes with this reply:

"JIM (Interviewer): Switching subjects, but still thinking about playing with the ball, with Pepe Cancela gone and Dempsey gone and your passing on the young kid Colaluca in the draft, who do you see as being the player who makes the pass to the player who makes the play for this year's Revolution?"

"PAUL [Mariner]: Obviously the jury is out on the draft, we feel that we had a good draft, we still feel that we're very strong in central midfield, we've got Shalrie, until the window closes, we've got Andy Dorman who makes fantastic runs, I think Danny Hernandez, who hasn't been as fit as he would like and we would like, hurt his ankle badly and took a long time to come back after that, we feel that Danny Hernandez is a fantastic player. Not only is he a leader on the field but he commands so much time on the ball, he always selects the right passes, doesn't give the ball away. We've got Jeff coming in there, Jeff Larentowicz and we've got Joe Franchino that we can play in there, so we have options and we've drafted a young man from Wake Forest, Ryan Solle, who very rarely gives the ball away, albeit at college level, he's always in good spots, he's a similar player to Michael Parkhurst as far as the brain is concerned, so we're not concerned about that area. Obviously injuries will determine whether that is true or false but at the present moment, we're happy."

So what's the take-away from that. To begin, I like that he's as high on Hernandez as I am, though, as with Noonan, I'd admit his injury issues haven't been insignificant either; still, I'm pretty high on Danny's eye for a pass, if not the proverbial "killer ball." There's also the bit about Shalrie Joseph - notably the somewhat cryptic phase "until the window closes" to decipher. With January almost gone, you'd have to assume it's the summer transfer window (right?). So, I'd take that to mean Joseph ought to be around for a bit (again, right?).

But the crucial part is the kind of player the Revolution likes. It's the player that "rarely gives the ball away" they admire. While that's got it's upside, it also speaks to a "safety first" mentality, an anxiousness about trying something too bold. With all due respect to the Revs staff, they did cultivate Clint Dempsey and gave him ample space to experiment while he was part of that team. Still, the rest of the team reveals shortage of that kind of player - and there's also Jose Cancela's departure to consider; it was clear the staff never quite trusted him.

Anyway, I'm just saying...and it makes me a little nervous. As well as Steve Nicol and Mariner have done, the one thing they haven't done is put this team over the top.

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