New England Soccer Today

Five Things We Learned: Revolution vs. Union

Veteran center back Darrius Barnes filled in admirably for an injured A.J. Soares during Saturday’s clash against the Union. (Photo: Kari Heistad)

Fate, cruel fate.

For the tenth straight game, the Revolution walked off the field without a win. Ten games. Zero wins. And no shot at the postseason.

Bundle all the “ifs” and “buts” you want, the fact is that the Revolution have been downright visionary in the way they’ve avoided the win column for the last eight weeks.

One week, it’s succumbing to the worst team in the league. Days later, it’s mustering only a single goal against the worst defense in the league.

There were rays of hope, of course. The brightest one being the 0-0 draw in Kansas City – a game in which the plucky Revolution nearly toppled one the strongest clubs in the conference.

But it wasn’t long before they were back on the losing track. First there was the backbreaking 2-1 loss at PPL Park. Then, a pair of 1-0 losses ensued before a snooze-inducing showing in Chi-town.  Clearly, the Revolution weren’t getting any closer to a win.

And when they weren’t leaving chances on the table, they were handing them out like Halloween candy, as evidenced by conceding seven goals in two games –  including three to the goal-shy Chivas USA.

Just when you think it couldn’t look worse, Saturday’s game happened. Ninety minutes of bad passing, zero tempo and flat football. On normal nights, a team usually loses when it plays that poorly. But by the grace of Matt Reis, the Revolution miraculously avoided the loss.

Some may call the shortcomings and poor showings a byproduct of bad luck. And that may be true. It may be true that the breaks simply aren’t falling for them. It’s not something that’s terribly uncommon. Sometimes, the difference is between winning and losing is getting the benefit of a lucky break.

Then again, it could be something more. It could very well be that an ill-timed trade, sporadic losses of form, and general inconsistency have all conspired to keep the Revolution from overcoming the hump.

Maybe it isn’t fate. Maybe it’s just reality. And right now, the reality is that Revolution have simply been outsmarted, outworked and outgunned since their last win on Jul. 8.

1. Matt Reis is right: it looked a lot like 2011 out there on Saturday. The direct stuff, the inability to set any semblance of tempo and the over-reliance on the lucky break: all hallmarks of the 2011 Revolution. And yet, even though Jay Heaps has preached the importance of the passing it around and cycling it from one edge to another, his club has reverted back to the same impatient and unrefined form seen last season. Why is this happening? It may sound elementary, but it looks very much like the symptoms of a struggling side that’s forgotten how to win. So instead of staying within itself, they panic. They launch the ball over and over hoping for a lucky break. They cross their fingers that they can win a few second balls. They fire ambitious shots. In other words, they’re re-learning the same habits that doomed them to a franchise-worst five win season.

2. Juan Toja can’t suit up soon enough. Speaking of blind hope, it’s clear by now that the Revolution have no one in the midfield to help connect the defense to the attack. No one. Clyde Simms did an admirable job earlier this season, but has since seen his form fade without having Shalrie Joseph alongside him. Heaps tried to utilize Benny Feilhaber as a defensive cog, but with scant success. By now, it’s clear that the Revolution’s best hope at reclaiming what’s theirs in the midfield is the arrival of Toja. And if it’s not? Well, it could be a long march to the season finale.

3. Clyde Simms is showing more and more why D.C. United cut him loose during the offseason. It wasn’t all that long ago that Simms was earning the praises of the coaching staff and supporters alike. And with good reason. Partnered up with Shalrie Joseph, Simms looked like the perfect counterbalance to the Grenadian midfielder. But now that Joseph’s on the left coast, Simms has shown why D.C. declined to bring him back. At his best, the veteran midfielder has is a role player who performs well when he’s partnered with a strong central midfielder – particularly one who’s willing to shoulder the burden of feeding the attack. But without one, Simms has been little more than a fifth defender who occasionally gets forward.

4. Matt Reis reminded us how valuable he is to this struggling team. After watching his net get torched during the last two games, the 15-year veteran showed us why he’s still one of the most valuable pieces on the Revolution roster. While the midfield was busy turning over the ball and allowing the likes of Antoine Hoppenot, Michael Farfan and Freddy Adu to skip and whistle into the defending third, Reis was there to make a number of critical saves. More than that, he helped keep the makeshift backline on the same page by chatting up his defenders and making good decisions when the ball came his way. It was a game in which Reis needed to be at his best – and that’s exactly what he was on Saturday.

5. The Revolution may not win another game in 2012. With Saer Sene out for the remainder of the season, and Jerry Bengtson gone for at least one game, the goals will only get harder to come by. And if nobody’s scoring the goals, how do the Revolution expect to win? Yes, they’ll certainly be better once Toja’s on the field. At least in theory. And yes, any team is capable of winning on any given night, especially in parity-happy MLS. But, given the countless times the Revolution have coughed up points since early-July, is there any reason to believe that this team has another win in them before they cross the finish line?

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