Revolution head coach Steve Nicol entered the All-Star break with his team on a four game unbeaten streak in the league and significant momentum heading into the second half of the season.
The one drawback, though, is that he will return from the break without his most influential player, Clint Dempsey. The former Furman midfielder has garnered rave reviews during his rookie campaign. Dempsey broke his jaw in an accidental collision with Chicago's C.J. Brown on July 14. Dempsey played through the pain against Rochester in the U.S. Open Cup but was forced to the sidelines after X-rays confirmed the nature of his injury. He will miss four-to-six weeks, but he is able to train in non-contact situations.
Dempsey had earned a spot on the Eastern Conference All-Star team for his play. He traveled to Washington, D.C., but he did not participate in the match. His manager has expressed sympathy for his plight.
"[Clint's] disappointed," said Nicol. "He deserves to be there. He should have been straight in the team. I'm disappointed for him as well."
Nicol had three members of his side playing in the match. Revolution striker Pat Noonan was selected as a reserve for the game, while Eastern Conference head coach Peter Nowak added Shalrie Joseph and Steve Ralston after a spate of withdrawals through injuries and transfers.
Nicol, the former Liverpool star, believes that those players should have been originally selected as All-Star reserves.
"I think everyone included is good enough to be there in the first place," said Nicol. "They deserve to be there."
The Revolution manager admits that the break will be helpful for his side as they look recover from an injury crisis that has robbed them of as many as seven starters at one time or another this season while allowing some of his stars a chance in the national spotlight.
"The break is useful," said Nicol. "The All-Star Game is fun for everybody. It's nice to get a bit of recognition for your players, and they'll enjoy it."
Instead of participating in the festivities, Nicol will turn his attention to solving the Revolution's problem of further injecting itself into the playoff picture.
"That's the $6 million question," said Nicol. "It is a combination of everyone stepping it up a pace and finding a way to win games. In our last match [against San Jose, a 2-2 draw], we played well, but didn't win the game."
Nicol believes that his side is close to that final step, but he believes the frustration of lost points has not taken a significant toll on his charges.
"I see everyone frustrated that we haven't made that final step as of yet, but I don't see guys cracking up under the pressure," said Nicol.
Nicol outlined the second half of the season in simple terms.
"It's time for players to stand up and be counted," said Nicol.
Kyle McCarthy is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.