New England Soccer Today

Under Construction

Kelyn Rowe (left) launches a free kick during the Revolution Mar. 3 preseason match against Los Angeles (Photo: Joshua Pearson).

If there was any thought that Jay Heaps would turn the Revolution into a team on the rise overnight, the last 180 minutes proved that the “under construction” sign isn’t ready to be taken down.

Not after 90 minutes of disjointed soccer in San Jose last week, and certainly not after 90 more in Kansas City on Saturday –even if the latter may have been partially attributable to a questionable red card to Stephen McCarthy in the 14th minute.

During Saturday’s 3-0 loss, the Revolution stepped on the gas early, thanks to a Benny Feilhaber shot that leaned away from the near post in the third minute. And perhaps, with a little long-deserved luck on St. Patrick’s Day, it looked like the Revolution could do some damage.

But with a patchwork back four featuring a midfielder (McCarthy) in the center and another on the left (Chris Tierney), the Revolution had to resort to manhandling to contain K.C.’s vaunted attack. First it was Kevin Alston for, in American football parlance, pass interference when he inadvertently brought down C.J. Sapong near the D while the striker was hunting down a Graham Zusi ball in the 11th minute.

Three minutes later, it was Sapong once again. In another episode of fouling over fundamentals, McCarthy jostled with Sapong in the attacking third at the 14 minute mark. Whether or not the action deserved a red card, it was obvious that McCarthy couldn’t contain Sapong without employing a little bit of extracurricular activity. And he and his teammates paid for it – dearly.

From there, it was elementary. An already overmatched Revolution down a man, on the road, pitted against a hungry, full-strength Sporting K.C for 75 minutes? It didn’t take much imagination to picture what would happen next.

Fortunate to escape the first 27 minutes unharmed, the defense predictibly collapsed shortly before the half hour mark. And it wasn’t pretty. Despite lying on his back as a pass from Kamara came his way, Zusi scrambled to lean up and slot through a quality shot as two Revolution defenders were slow to respond.

More sloppy play ensued in after the half hour mark when Zusi sprang Roger Espinoza, whoe went alone on Reis before the keeper was forced to make a sensational diving save to keep the K.C. lead at one. Crisis averted – at least temporarily.

But the moment was short-lived. Three minutes later, former Revolution left Seth Sinovic sent a cross into the box that Reis punched away before it fell toward Kamara. Reis stopped the striker’s point blank effort, but Kamara collected his own rebound and poked the back of the net to make it 2-0 before the half.

In the 47th minute, Sapong finally found his reward when he took a Sinovic pass inside the box and buried it to put the exclamation point on the match. Whatever Heaps said at half time, it didn’t work.

To their credit, the Revolution, despite their poor defensive showing, didn’t stop trying to pull one back. Alston nearly set up Ryan Guy for tally in the 56th minute that Jimmy Nielson stopped. In fact, Nielson needed to make six saves (even though most were mild) to keep the Revolution off the board.

So where do the Revolution go from Saturday night’s loss?

For one, Shalrie Joseph has to dust-off the early season cobwebs and start playing to the level he’s capable of. In the last two games, we’ve witnessed the skipper infuse combination of poor passing, sloppy defense, and mental miscues into his game. For the Revolution to succeed, Joseph has to put a stop to the lackadaisical play.

Another area that has to start stepping it up is the attack. Lee Nguyen and Ryan Guy added bite to the attack undermanned, but Saer Sene, Fernando Cardenas and Blake Brettschneider have done little to warrant having their names included on the starting XI every week. The addition of Jose Moreno – once he arrives – should improve cause up top.

Last, but certainly not least, it all goes back to the defense. Alston has continued his mercurial form, while Stephen McCarthy has no choice but to learn on the job. Soares hasn’t shown enough of his early-2011 form, and Tierney often gets exposed at left back. The D should improve once John Lozano and Darrius Barnes return to health and Flo Lechner arrives, but it’s quite possible that it may take more than improved play to fortify the rear.

There’s a saying that Rome wasn’t built in a day. And to that effect, it may take many more days to rebuild the Revolution.


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