HARRISON, N.J. – So much of the past two weeks lingered on concerns off the field for the New England Revolution. There were no alternatives in the matter, not with Kevin Alston diagnosed with leukemia recently and with the tragic events that unfolded at the Boston Marathon a week ago.
Life superseded sport. Revolution players went about their proscribed tasks as best they could, but there was nothing normal about the situations they faced. Instead of worrying primarily about assignments or tactics, the Revs found themselves focused on the health and the safety of their teammates, their extended families, their friends and their city.
The noticeable absences of Alston (though he traveled to Red Bull Arena to watch his teammates on Saturday night) and Matt Reis (forced away from the field last week after his father-in-law sustained serious injuries to his legs and his ribs during the explosions) from the training field drove home the fraught nature of the situation. Soccer provided both a diversion and a temporary escape, but the magnitude of the events left little room anything else.
In the midst of the upheaval, the Revs traveled to the New York metropolitan area on Friday for Saturday night's match against New York. It wasn't a typical excursion. They traveled by bus instead of by train as a necessary concession to the travel restrictions out of the Boston area. Several members of the delegation watched local and national law enforcement apprehend suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev from New Jersey that night.
The end of the manhunt offered a resolution of sorts, but it did not erase the emotional toll incurred or the evident desire from everyone involved with both clubs to display their common bonds the following evening. The fissures between Boston and New York dissipated to create heartening scenes of unity prior to the match.
Supporters from both teams congregated and mingled prior to the match. They marched in unison into the arena, chanting for their country and wielding banners and flags. The message – New York stands with Boston as Boston stands strongly in the face of tragedy – proved as unmistakeable as the familiar chords of The Standells' "Dirty Water" when the Boston anthem reverberated around Red Bull Arena prior to the match.
For the next 90 minutes, the two sides separated temporarily once more to establish their own sense of normalcy. The contingent of traveling fans from the Midnight Riders and the Rebellion climbed high into the upper deck to voice their vociferous support for the visitors. The home supporters repaired to the South Ward to urge their side to its eventual 4-1 victory on the night.
“First of all, the fans were fantastic, New York fans and New England fans,” Revolution defender A.J. Soares said. “New England fans really showed up today. It was great to have them here for us. It wasn't our best performance, but it felt good to have such a big group of guys behind us. Hopefully, we can bounce back.”
If the response from everyone involved provides any sort of indication, then the revival – on the field and off – should come sooner rather than later.
Five Points – Week 8
1. Salvation for Seattle as Obafemi Martins delivers: It took far, far too long, but the Sounders finally have their first win of the season. The Nigerian international striker gritted through a right leg tendon injury to notch his first MLS goal in Seattle's 1-0 victory at Colorado on Saturday. He will need to pitch in more goals – particularly with Eddie Johnson's current hamstring woes – in order to help Seattle climb the Western Conference table.
2. Same old, same old for Landon Donovan?: That storyline emerged in the wake of his counter-fueled, pace-driven contributions to the Galaxy's 2-0 win over Sporting Kansas City on Saturday night. It is probably a bit premature to hurl such lofty expectations his way this early (and Sporting would certainly note the influence of Marcelo Sarvas' unpunished handling offense in the buildup to the opener), but he has settled back into the side well. The scary part for opposing sides around the league? Donovan still has more to give as he continues to strive for his best form.
3. Jack McInerney extends D.C. United winless streak to five matches: Ben Olsen's side fell to its third home defeat in a row -- it had one all of last season -- after McInerney scored twice to hand the Union a 3-2 victory at RFK Stadium. Credit McInerney for doing his bit in front of goal, but D.C. can only blame itself for a poor start to the game and its continued inability to produce the performances required to secure points.
“The way we started the game is just unacceptable,” Olsen told MLSsoccer.com after his side's fourth straight defeat. “It’s very alarming that we started the way we started in the situation we’re in right now. That’s very alarming.”
4. San Jose takes a bold step off the field… : In the wake of an unseemly physical altercation in Portland last weekend, the Earthquakes took significant action. Club officials rebuked the 1906 Ultras for their alleged role in a confrontation against a scarf-waving motorist prior to the match. The Ultras received a travel ban, an indefinite spell on probation, a ban on controlled smoke activities and a warning about their use of profane language, according to a club statement. The fan group pledged their full cooperation with authorities and said they would remove any members found to be involved in the incident, according to a statement posted on the Ultras' website.
Give credit to the Earthquakes for acting swiftly in a difficult situation. It isn't easy or simple to cope with the alleged misdeed of hardcore fans. Those supporters play a vital role in building and maintaining the club. Some teams would have shirked responsibility. San Jose did not. Now it is up to all involved to ensure that the focus quickly returns to the primary task of backing the Supporters' Shield holders.
5. … and remains up to its old tricks on it: And those chastened fans once again found reason to celebrate in the late stages of a match on Sunday night. Adam Jahn lashed home to complete a scramble inside the penalty area in the 92nd minute to lift the Earthquakes to a 1-1 draw with Portland at Buck Shaw Stadium. Jahn's equalizer represented the least the home side deserved on a night where they enjoyed the better of the chances and saw a valid penalty shout on Nana Attakora turned down in the buildup to Jahn's tying goal.