Five Things We Learned: Revolution at Dynamo

Blake Brettschneider came in late for the Revolution on Saturday, but did little to point his team in the right direction. (Photo: Kari Heistad/CapturedImages.biz)

By now, it’s clear that the Revolution have quite a few areas to address this winter.

For starters, they’ve got to find a set piece specialist. It probably wouldn’t hurt them to sign a veteran center back, either. They can probably stand pat up top – maybe add some depth. The midfield – well, where do we begin?

Needless to say, it’s going to be another busy offseason for Jay Heaps and Mike Burns.

Granted, the duo made improvements last winter. They did. They brought in Saer Sene, who scored 11 goals. The addition of Clyde Simms bolstered the midfield. Lee Nguyen’s signing sharped the attack. Jose Moreno was brought in and…well, let’s not go there.

While the the roster renovation project may have yielded a stronger gameday 18, the fact is that the Revolution are still missing a game-changer. And that much was evident on Saturday.

In their search for paydirt, the ideas grew stale by halftime. The runs weren’t sharp. The passing was atrocious. And the few chances they did manage were promptly smashed on the floor. Blame it on the rain, blame it on the litany of injuries, or on Houston’s inherent home field advantage. Take your pick. Obviously, none of these factors seemed to help the Revolution on Saturday.

However, the 2-0 loss underscored a major disadvantage that the Revolution have carried all season: they simply don’t have a player who can be counted upon to win them a game. Not a single one.

Looking at a scoreless game going into the final 15 minutes, the Dynamo could still count upon a player like Brad Davis to rescue them. It was just a matter of time and opportunity. And when those two elements came together, he placed a perfect pass through to Ricardo Clark for the eventual game-winner.

The Revolution? Well, let’s just say they don’t have a player like that on their roster. Now, Juan Toja could be that kind of player. He very well could be. At the same time, it probably wouldn’t hurt Heaps or Burns to start honing in on a player who, like Davis, the Revolution can rely on to at least give them a fighting chance when the chips are down.

So that’s one issue that made itself obvious on Saturday night. Here are five others:

1. The Revolution may have lost 2-0, but they only have the Dynamo to thank for avoiding the temptation to straight up pants them on Saturday. Is there any question the first half belonged entirely to the Dynamo? Let’s check the stats from the first 45, just to be sure. On the possession scale, Houston’s rate was 68.2%. Passing accuracy? 79%, while the Revolution’s was a paltry 57%. Open play crosses? Houston collected 15 of them, as opposed to only five for their guests. It may have taken a 93rd minute Boniek Garcia goal to put it out of reach, but the first half showed the Revolution weren’t going anywhere to begin with on Saturday.

2. If Jay Heaps wants to contend next year, he can’t afford to be patient. And what that means is that he probably won’t have enough patience to keep Dimitry Imbongo around for next year. There may come a day when Imbongo pans out to be a legitimate top-tier MLS striker. Or, at very least, a decent supporting striker. That day may or may not coincide with the advent of pig flight. But who knows, right? In the meantime, Saturday was anything but an encouraging performance for Imbongo. When he wasn’t jawing and elbowing Corey Ashe or Bobby Boswell, he was whiffing badly on his shots. Badly as in BADLY. OK, so it might be unrealistic to expect the high-numbered to score at will and play with the resolve of a seasoned veteran. However, if he doesn’t shape up soon, Imbongo may be given a one-way ticket back to Europe this winter.

3. All you need to know about the Revolution’s confidence right now is that the final third has become an absolute wasteland again. When the Revolution finally snapped their lengthy winless streak with a 2-0 win over the Crew on Sept. 5, it looked like a corner had been turned. Yes, the Revolution could score. They could bury their chances. The goal didn’t look the size of a mouse hole anymore. Well, nearly four weeks later, it appears that the opposing goal is shrinking again. After all, how else do you explain it? How else do you explain the wild shots, the wayward crosses, or the flailing attempts to even put the ball in the general direction of the net? Sene’s absence obviously isn’t helping. Even so, the Revolution have got to shake off whatever collective complex they’re carrying if they don’t want to suffer through another quiet night at the office.

4. If the Revolution want to keep attacking through Oct. 27, then they’ve got to remove Benny Feilhaber from the defensive midfielder spot. In theory, dropping Feilhaber behind Simms or Toja makes sense. After all, it’s been a season to forget for Feilhaber, who’s done little outside of perfecting his “I’ve been fouled” face. So naturally, it would seem that an assignment away from the “DIY” nature of the attacking midfieder’s spot could cure what ails him. Um, not so much. Maybe Feilhaber does, in fact, have a bit more edge to battle for balls than Simms. Makes sense. However, if the gameplan week every week is to score goals, then why is their best creator stuck cleaning up the messes in the rear?

5. The Revolution should do all they can to compel Juan Toja to do the exact opposite of whatever he did – or didn’t do – during the summer when the topic of offseason conditioning comes up. There’s no denying Toja’s got talent. We know this. We know this because he earned All-Star nods in both of his previous two MLS campaigns. We know this because he played in UEFA Champions League competition which, at last check, is not a tournament for slouches. But, goodness, what on earth did he do in between jobs? He arrived in Foxboro on Sept. 10, and even now, he’s still looking gassed in the waning minutes – even though he’s come off the bench in each of his three games. OK, so maybe we’re not all created equal when it comes to match fitness. That’s a given. But for someone who’s paid pretty well to play at a high level, it’s a little disconcerting that Toja’s still fading early.  And the Revolution should make a note of that before he heads back home for the offseason.

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About Brian O'Connell

Brian O'Connell serves as editor and staff writer at New England Soccer Today. He's also the Revolution beat writer for ESPNBoston.com, and is Officer at Large for the North American Soccer Reporters. He regularly contributes to The Associated Press, and has been featured on MLSSoccer.com & RevsNet.com. Follow him on Twitter: @BrianOConnell21 or contact him via e-mail at BOConnell21@aol.com