New England Soccer Today

Five Questions: Revolution vs. Impact

Revolution midfielder Ryan Guy will be counted upon to help steer the Revolution attack back in the right direction on Sunday. (Photo: Kari Heistad/

Mistakes. They happen to all of us.

Whether it’s asking for mustard instead of mayo (yuck!), dialing a wrong number (oops!), or simply locking yourself out of your car on prom night ($#@%!), the fact is none of us has made it through life without a few mental errors. After all, to err is human.

But for the Revolution, mistakes haven’t been easy to cope with. Last week, it was a botched throw-in that led to their demise. Two weeks ago, it was poor anticipation inside the defending third. Ten days before that, it was a shove inside the area and shoddy set piece defending.

Jay Heaps is right: mistakes are costing his club. Big time. But every team makes mistakes.

And the difference between contender and pretender is overcoming those mistakes. Good teams overcome them. The rest get gutted by them.

Why? Because good teams do well enough with their chances to sweep the errors under the rug. Not so good teams? Well, not so much.

Mistakes happen. And because of that, the Revolution have to be sharper in every respect to  avoid the scenarios seen in the last few weeks.

Now, onto the questions. Forgive me if there are any mistakes.

1. What’s it going to take to re-ignite the offense? In a word: patience. During their five-game slide, the attack has tried to do too much with the ball. Whether it’s the killer 40-yard pass, the wild, long-distance shot, or the rapid-fire combinations, the Revolution are trying to find chances with a flourish. Funk that. The Revolution aren’t Barcelona or Manchester United. So, it stands to reason that they shouldn’t try to play like them. At least not yet. Instead, they should simply revert to what worked prior to the streak: building from the back, getting wide and getting the midfielders and forwards on the same page. Simple concepts. And they’re concepts that the Revolution have to embrace again to get the wheels back on the attack.

2. Is a Benny Feilhaber-Clyde Simms pairing the right one? Another thing that’s hurt the Revolution during their skid is the lack of firepower in the midfield. Taken separately, Feilhaber and Simms are two players that needed to rise to the occasion with Shalrie Joseph gone. But putting them together inside of the midfield hasn’t done much for the rest of the offense. And it’s easy to see why. Feilhaber is at his best in the hole, as a swashbuckling playmaker. Simms is a compliment to a strong and scrappy midfield partner (see: Shalrie Joseph) who’s at his best when providing cover in the rear. Put them together, and you get a combination that isn’t getting the job done. Yes, they’re holding possession. But the passing? Not great. Connecting with the forwards? Not exceptional. Linking the defense and attack? Not often enough. Granted, Feilhaber and Simms may be the best the Revolution have for their central midfield right now. In the meantime, it may be time to start considering alternatives.

3. Which Lee Nguyen will show up? If there’s one player who’s fallen off the radar recently, it’s the waiver wire wonder himself. And it’s not hard to see why. Sporting K.C. chopped down Nguyen twice in two weeks. In Philadelphia, the Union defense essentially erased him from the picture by cutting off his space. Clearly, the word on neutralizing Nguyen is making the rounds. To counter that, Nguyen needs to keep it simple: short passes, judicious runs and giving it a go in or around the area. But he also has to do more. He needs to start stretching the field. Instead of cutting inside and exploring his options, he has to hug the touchline. He has to start drawing the defense to him instead of the other way around. He’s dynamic enough to do it. It’s just a matter of him recognizing – then applying – the idea during gametime.

4. What does Saer Sene need to do to get his 10th – and maybe even 11th – goal of the season? It’s probably easier to answer this question by starting off with what he has to stop doing. That is, stop taking circus shots. Stop taking 27 extra touches inside the area. Stop trying to shoot with his right foot. Stop playing with a mental governor. Now that we’ve dispensed with that, Sene has to reclaim his confidence in the attacking third. He needs to push forward without thought or meditation. He needs to turn on the technique and speed. And, of course, he needs to improve his accuracy. Of course, all of this is easier said than done. But it’s time to start turning words into actions.

5. Can Jay Heaps turn this thing around? The playoff ship may have set sail, but that doesn’t mean the season’s dead. By no means. At last check, there’s still 12 games left on the schedule. Note: 12 games is plenty of time to reinforce – and reintroduce – some of the habits Heaps preached during the offseason. Yes, attacking should remain at the forefront. But there are more areas for improvement. Countering the the physical approaches squads like K.C., Columbus and Toronto bring is a start. Nothing more frustrating than falling for the same old trick time and time. Another area? Yep – those pesky set pieces. And it’s likely an in-season acquisition may be needed to fix it.  One more? Sticking with a consistent lineup. Yes, shuffling the lineup is an interesting way of finding out new strengths and different approaches. But it’s also showcasing weaknesses, especially with a number of players featuring outside of their regular roles. Given that, it’s clear the Revolution won’t find their way unless individual players are comfortable in their customary spots.

Leave a Reply