It just might have been the defining moment of Jay Heaps’ early coaching career: a 3-1 victory over the defending champs on their own soil. With the Revolution scoring early, the Galaxy were forced on their back heel for the duration to give New England its second straight win.
In the afterglow of the upset victory over the Galaxy, we analyze five things we learned from Saturday’s rain-soaked affair at The Home Depot Center.
1. Don’t look now, but the Revolution have officially bought into the Jay Heaps philosophy. It’s true. Just look at the way each of the eleven played. Roles were understood. The gameplan was executed. Check out a replay and watch how Lee Nguyen tracks back to help out Chris Tierney. See how Clyde Simms gets into the thick of the action inside his own box and helps Stephen McCarthy neutralize Edson Buddle. And check out a few encouraging sequences where a host of Revolution players clamp down on Buddle and Robbie Keane. Yes, the Galaxy may have played stretches of poor soccer Saturday night. And yes, the Galaxy played without Landon Donovan and Omar Gonzalez. But the bigger story is how the Revolution eleven carried out the gameplan the way the Heaps drew it up.
2. Jay Heaps may have played under Steve Nicol, but fortunately for the Revolution, Heaps does not coach like Nicol. With all due respect to the former gaffer, last year’s 4-5-1 – the road version – was all about loss prevention rather than getting the win. And nothing more. This year, under Heaps, the 4-5-1 was utilized for – get this – getting three points. On the road. In the rain. And against the defending champions. Who’da thunk it, right? With three attack-minded midfielders – not including Joseph – the Revolution sent numbers forward, played inspired soccer, and most importantly, played for the win. And even with a three-goal lead, Heaps refused to give into the temptation of defensive subs. Instead, he sent in Fernando Cardenas. It was classic Heapsian philosophy: even with a lead late against an attack-minded team, you still have to go for the jugular.
3. Possession is overrated. Just ask the Revs. It’s been one of the most emphasized – if not THE most emphasized – talking point surrounding the rebuilding Revolution. Last year, Stevie Nicol went on about it. Shalrie Joseph talked about it as well. Heck, anyone with a mike or voice recorder in front of them was sure to preach it. But for all the talk about how this team needs to be better in the possession department, take a minute to digest this stat: the ownership stat tipped to 65% in the Galaxy’s favor at the end of the first half. Yet, which team had the two-goal lead? Possession is nice, but Saturday night’s game proved that it isn’t about holding the ball – it’s about what you do with it when you have it.
4. When Benny Feilhaber returns to health, Jay Heaps has a tough decision to make. Who knew that the first starting XI controversy would unfold so soon? Ever since Feilhaber was sidelined, Ryan Guy, Kelyn Rowe and Lee Nguyen have all played particularly well, whether it be in the 4-4-2 or the 4-5-1. And although the wins have been encouraging and the offensive has been remarkable without Feilhaber on the field, there’s very little doubt that Heaps won’t hesitate to reintroduce his playmaker back into the starting XI once healthy. So who gets sent back to the bench? Well, if everyone stays healthy, it may be Guy who gets dropped from the lineup. Either way you slice it, though, Heaps is in an enviable position: not having enough starting spots for his talented players.
5. Lee Nguyen may have been the best offseason addition, but signing Clyde Simms has proven to be the smartest decision the team made during the winter. Let’s face it: when the Whitecaps waived Nguyen a week before the season opener, it made complete sense for the Revolution to pick him up. After all, technically-talented 25-year-olds don’t grow on trees. But the addition of Simms – a less-heralded talent – was sheer brilliance. Not only does his presence allow Joseph to focus on his own responsibilities (rather than trying to do it all once), but he understands – and executes – the role of defensive midfielder to perfection. Whether it cleaning up inside the area, pushing up with space ahead of him, or simply slowing down the tempo, the seven-year veteran has given the Revolution the stability in the central midfield it’s lacked since Jeff Larentowicz was traded to Colorado prior to the 2010 season.