FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- It was difficult to escape the air of uncertainty swirling around Gillette Stadium following the Revolution’s 3-0 loss to Columbus in its home finale.
With the team anchored to the bottom of the standings and changes sure to unfold in the offseason, the most pressing issue remains which players -- and coaches -- had applauded the home crowd for the final time in Revolution blue.
Of particular concern is the status of longtime manager Steve Nicol, who’s contract is set to expire in the winter. Although the Revolution brass has been mum on the manger’s future, Nicol briefly touched upon his desire to remain with the Revolution beyond 2011.
“I certainly hope so,” said Nicol, who will wrap up his 10th season guiding New England on Saturday. “I have no idea (if I’ll be here next year).”
While Nicol may indeed be unsure about his future in Foxboro, another important piece of the Revolution puzzle was surprisingly optimistic about his own return.
Team captain Shalrie Joseph, one of the team’s longest-tenured players, had previously expressed doubts about re-signing with the club at various points this season. But on Saturday night, the skipper, who has spent the entirety of his nine-year career in New England, channeled his longtime manager when the topic of his future was raised.
“I hope so,” Joseph said. “I love being here. I love the fans (and) I love playing here.”
Despite the fact that he had told The Boston Globe last week that he “(doesn’t) want to be back if Stevie (Nicol) isn’t coming back” the skipper’s position may have been softened by the 16,285 fans that turned out for the last-place team’s home finale.
“The fans came out in so many numbers tonight and (even though) it was little bit cold, they still came out to cheer and show their appreciation,” Joseph said. “That's what makes it fun playing here. Even though we don't have our own (soccer specific) stadium, they still come out all the way to Foxboro and support us and I think that's why I love playing here.”
Whether Saturday’s fan support sways the skipper to stay will likely remain a question well into the winter. But, Joseph isn’t the only player who may have already played in front of the Foxboro faithful for the final time.
Fourth-year midfielder/defender Chris Tierney is another player whose status for 2012 is uncertain. After signing with the club in 2008, the Wellesley, Mass. native remained one the club’s most reliable players this year, picking up two goals and four assists in 26 games this season.
Of course, whether that translates into another contract remains to be seen. But, if the decision was up to the versatile veteran alone, he would certainly welcome any opportunity to continue playing in his backyard.
“I’m a hometown kid and this is the club that I want to be at,” Tierney said. “I can’t see myself wearing any other jersey. As long as I can be a part of this club and help this club, I’ll be here.”
Who else will remain in a Revolution uniform is a question only the front office can answer. In the interim, Joseph expects the impending offseason to be an eventful one.
“It's going to be an interesting offseason,” Joseph said. “We'll see what happens."
Brian O'Connell is covering the Revolution for ESPNBoston.com. He is the co-founder of New England Soccer Today (www.nesoccertoday.com), which covers professional soccer within New England. He can be reached at BOConnell21@aol.com.