I wrote the following for the March issue of Soccer New England. It appeared on one side of the debate page. The topic was: Will the Revolution live up to expectations this season? No - Emlyn Lewis A wise man once said that happiness was life, minus expectations. Strange then, that the Revolution seem so happy with their current roster, loaded as it is with talent. Perhaps it’s oxymoronic to suggest that the better you’re doing the worse off you are, but it is impossible to deny that the great weight of expectation now lies on Fernando Clavijo and his team. Widely tipped to win MLS Cup and dominate the league after a massive infusion of talent in the off-season, anything less than the Cup will be considered failure for the Revs. Will they live up to the hype? In a word, no. And it’s not fair to expect them to. Talent and expectation seldom combine to produce results. Look at the Red Sox with Manny Ramirez and Pedro Martinez and Nomar Garciaparra. They are perennial also-rans, despite, or perhaps because of the expectation. The same might be said of the NFL’s St. Louis Rams, who failed to vanquish the clearly inferior Patriots in this year’s Superbowl. The problem is that expectation usually breeds extraneous pressure. It brings forces to bear on a situation that have little to do with the situation itself. Like trying to run with the ball before receiving the pass, the weight of expectation can cause a team to second guess itself before it’s even had the chance to play the game. We’re already seeing fans express dismay over pre-season losses, most notably to the Portuguese U-20 National Team, a game that, by most reports, the Revs completely dominated. Forget the argument that pre-season is the time for a coach to disregard results and focus on experimentation, evaluation and fitness conditioning. If a team isn’t allowed to find their level against superior competition, they put themselves at risk of plateauing early. Playing superior competition means losing. In the past, the Revolution have shown themselves to be a franchise that doesn’t cope well with losses. Is there a newfound resilience this year? Maybe. There certainly is an array of new personalities in the locker room. But surely coming into the season as a title favorite will add unhealthy pressure to the new mix, making the task at hand that much more difficult than it already is. MLS Cup Champions are usually surprise packages. Take San Jose’s Cup win last year, or Chicago’s inaugural win. Both teams entered the season as darkhorse candidates for greatness, but strong drafts, astute coaching and strong teamwork brought them success. In part those teams were able to achieve what they achieved because they were allowed to focus on the job at hand, rather than worrying about results they hadn’t yet earned. The Revolution’s new players will obviously make them a more formidable force in the league. It is a given that talent goes a long way toward winning games, but Mamadou Diallo, Jim Rooney, Steve Ralston…these guys are strong personalities. Melding them into a cohesive unit is by far a bigger job than getting them to play good soccer. What will win games for the Revolution is to turn their massive individual talent into a united, collective force. Egos will have to be set aside. Sacrifices will have to be made. Similarly the Revolution’s ardent supporters will need to set aside their own individual agendas, forgetting the disappointments of the past, forgiving the inevitable mistakes and let downs of the season yet to come. Teams don’t win without support. Everyone in Revolution management is laying their cards on the table. They are saying that anything less than an MLS Cup is unacceptable this year. “If we don’t win,” they say, “we have no one to blame but ourselves.” And that much is true. But, then again, it’s always true in professional soccer. Make no mistake. The Revolution are capable of winning it all this go round. The talent and the will are clearly there. But for the Revolution faithful to enter the season expecting any more than they’ve received in the past is pure hubris. Now, more than ever, fans and players alike need to wait and let results speak for themselves, to shrug off expectation and deny that the Cup is there for the taking. In the end, it is only by confounding the expectations that you are ever able to rise above them.