New England Soccer Today

Five Things We Learned: Revolution at Real Salt Lake

The Revolution didn’t look the part of a team at the end of an eight-day, three-game stretch on Saturday. But at the end of 90 minutes, New England succumbed to Real Salt Lake 2-1 at Rio Tinto Stadium.

Although Blake Brettschneider’s 22nd minute goal put the Revs up early, Alvaro Saborio crashed the party with a pair of goals before the hour. Afer the hour, however, all hell broke loose. Will Johnson and Fernando Cardenas were issued reds. Benny Feilhaber was tripped up on the doorstep. Then, Matt Reis made a heady save off his noggin to keep his club within striking distance.

But when it was all said and done, the Revs watched another opportunity fall into the ditch. And for the third straight road game, the Revs couldn’t close a one-goal gap.

So what else did we learn from Saturday’s matchup?

Although the Revs may have lost, a lot of positives can be drawn from Saturday’s game. For starters, there was Blake Brettschneider’s impressive form. After failing to see the field since First Kick, the second-year pro didn’t miss a beat. Heck, he looked even better than he did at San Jose. And, of course, his 22nd rocket into the upper 90 all but reinforced that idea. Another positive? Unlike last week’s game at New York, the Revolution didn’t play terrified right out of the chute. Sure, Fabian Espindola may have breached the backline early. But at no point did the Revolution seem afraid of the stage. In fact, it was by sheer determination alone, against one of the most talented teams in MLS, that they were in position to pull it even.

Even with a number of positives to be drawn, the set pieces remain a certifiable disaster. For the fourth time in their last five, the Revolution conceded a goal from a dead ball situation. On Saturday, it was a Javier Morales free kick that curled toward the back post where Saborio, who’s mark was shorn milliseconds earlier, headed it through. Forget who should have picked up Saborio (OK, it was John Lozano – at least that’s the way it appeared on replay). The most troubling aspect of the problems that are plaguing the Revs on defensive set pieces is discipline. Stay in front of your mark. Beat him to the ball. It’s elementary. And then there’s the matter of attacking set pieces. All you need to know is that Lee Nguyen become the fourth different player to get an audition for dead ball specialist. And that’s all I have to say about that.

Contrary to what MLS and its new Professional Referee Organization would have you believe, the officiating has been awful this season. There’s little debate that the most thankless job in sports is that of the official. No matter how accurately a given game is called, there’s always a critic – and one who has half a mind to let the referee know. Nevertheless, what we saw on Saturday night was one of the worst examples of officiating seen this season. Will Johnson’s challenge of Clyde Simms may have been reckless, sure. And the referee was ready to award him a justified yellow. But the assistant referee got in the ear of David Gantar and he instead flashed a red. Then, of course, was the red awarded to Cardenas in the 81st minute. Forget the fact that the only contact that the midfielder made with Olave was with the inside of his leg – which was being taken out from under him by the center back. It’s one thing to call a foul, even if that would’ve still been incorrect. But to award a red for a player who actually suffered the foul? If MLS is serious about retroactively dishing out suspensions and fines, then the converse should be true when a player is unjustly booked.

At this point in the season, John Lozano does not look ready to take the CB spot from Stephen McCarthy. After missing seven games due to injury, Lozano looked rusty, to say the least. Although he looked ready to thwart Espindola early, he soon faded, which led to A.J. Soares having to shoulder more of the load and Kevin Alston having to help out centrally. Granted, it was just one game – and one game against one of the most dynamic attacks in the league. But you have to wonder whether Lozano – who never seemed to get on the same page with Soares – simply needs more minutes, or whether McCarth, the center back in training, is the better option alongside Soares.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Benny Feilhaber needs to start trusting his teammates and stop trying to do it all himself. For the third straight game, Feilhaber seemed all to happy to take as many touches as he could before he was separated from the ball. And while there’s no question that he could be a game-changer, Heaps and the rest of the coaching staff need to impress upon the midfielder that this is no longer 2011. The talent around him is better this season. This is not the same team that won only five games last season. And he needs to recognize that. It’s been said before, but it bears mentioning again: the only thing that’s keeping Benny Feilhaber from becoming one of the elite midfielders in MLS is the man in the mirror.


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