New England Soccer Today

Five Things We Learned: Revolution at D.C. United

Revolution midfielder Lee Nguyen is one of the reasons why the Revolution were able to bottle United speedster Andy Najar on Saturday. (Photo: Chris Aduama/

For the second time this season, the Revolution came up a goal short to D.C. in Saturday’s 3-2 loss at RFK Stadium.

Once again, the Revolution were burned by the defensive set piece. And once again, a second half United strike doomed them. But this time around, the Revolution gave D.C. a run for its money thanks two a pair of goals from Saer Sene and A.J. Soares in the 48th and 50th minutes to temporarily level it.

In short, it was a classic clash of conference foes, and the only thing that kept it from ending as a 3-3 draw was the strength of Bill Hamid’s fingers in the 89th minute.

So what else can we take from Saturday’s showdown in D.C.?

1. Positioning on set pieces is one thing, but during the first two D.C. goals, the Revolution simply fell asleep. How else do you explain Brandon McDonald’s 15th minute goal? The free kick comes from 50 yards away. The ball casually falls to McDonald. And what is A.J. Soares doing? The same thing Shalrie Joseph is doing: Ball watching. It’s one thing to get outsmarted or tangled up on a set piece. It’s another thing entirely when the mental sharpness just isn’t there. Both Soares and Joseph are in favorable positions to either outmuscle or intercept the Branko Boskovic delivery. But they were too slow to react. Fast forward to Dejan Jakovic’s stoppage time goal before the interval. This time, it’s an indifferent Kevin Alston who allows Dwayne DeRosario to head Boskovic’s corner right at Reis. But the ball bounces off of Reis, then ricochets off Benny Feilhaber’s shin before Jakovic slides it through. I’m not sure what the Revs were thinking about during those sequences, but I can tell you one thing: they  sure weren’t thinking about defending.

2. For all the blame that falls on the backline on this season’s set piece disasters, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Matt Reis isn’t innocent, either. Back to the McDonald goal. How on earth is Reis that far out of position on goal from a 50-yard free kick? We’re not talking about a snap header from close range. Or a free kick that suddenly rises over a wall without a flinch from the keeper. It’s a ball lofted from distance that a sneaky McDonald mildly deflects six feet away from the keeper. While Soares may deserve criticism for the lax challenge, Reis, for his part, didn’t anticipate it particularly well.

3. Lee Nguyen continues to quietly fortify the defense. While Nguyen’s offensive exploits have been well-chronicled, it’s his form in transition that may be equally, if not, more valuable. For all intents and purposes, Andy Najar should have feasted on the right wing with Chris Tierney at left back. He should have brought the silverware, the napkins, and the bib. It was a mismatch in the classic sense. But with Nguyen dropping back to help out, Najar was largely limited for much of the night. And with D.C.’s attack utilizing the right for much of the night, Nguyen was called upon often to help contain it.

4. The Revolution need Clyde Simms needs to get healthy as soon as possible. Last week, the Revolution nearly earned a win without Clyde Simms available. But against D.C.’s opportunistic attack, the Revolution absolutely needed the cerebral Simms to solidify the rear. In the early going, D.C. took advantage by ramming it right down the Revolution’s throat and taking possession early. Although he may not have been able to do much on the first goal, an argument could be made that he would have cleaned up the mess on the Jakovic goal. And it’s possible that he could have short-circuited the sequence that led to Maicon Santos’ game-winner. Of course, this is all armchair analyzing. But few would argue that the Revolution’s chances of getting a result Saturday weren’t bolstered by Simms’ absence.

5. Benny Feilhaber can be a great player if he can continue the attacking form shown at RFK. Feilhaber is a great player who’s proved he can perform on the brightest stages. Gold Cup, Confederations Cup, World Cup…name the high-profile proceeding, and if he’s on the field, well, he usually rises to the occasion. I say all that to say this: Benny Feilhaber isn’t himself when he’s frustrated. He isn’t the playmaker who pierces defenses with intelligent passes. He isn’t the attacking threat that puts fear into opposing defenders. But on Saturday, we saw a trailer for the real Benny. We saw the Benny that can split a defense with a pinpoint pass through two defenders. We saw a player who refrained from dribbling into trouble. We saw a player who saw the net and fired rather than taking another unnecessary touch. We saw a player who connected on 84% of his passes. Now, if that Benny Feilhaber emerges more often, then the Revolution attack could justifiably put a few opposing defenses on notice.


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