New England Soccer Today

Five Things We Learned: Revolution at Fire

Revolution center half Clyde Simms was his usual consistent self in Saturday's 1-0 win. (Photo: Kari Heistad/CapturedImages.biz)

Revolution center half Clyde Simms was his usual consistent self in Saturday’s 1-0 win. (Photo: Kari Heistad/CapturedImages.biz)

It wasn’t an episode of Revolution. Or Chicago Fire, for that matter. But for Jay Heaps’ side, Saturday’s night’s 1-0 win at Toyota Park couldn’t have been scripted any better.

It started with number one pick Andrew Farrell showing the speed and smarts of a polished veteran. Not too far from Farrell, Jose Goncalves brought some much-needed brawn to the defense.

In the middle, Kalifa Cisse and Clyde Simms strengthened the Revolution’s form, winning second balls and linking with the wingers. Lee Nguyen, deployed on the right, habitually tested the Fire defense, while Juan Toja tore into the attacking third, often with reckless abandon.

Matt Reis made a circus save on Dilly Duka’s blast, then smothered another opportunity late. And, to cap it all off, Jerry Bengtson, the man whose shoulders carried so much of the attacking burden, scored the game-winner just after the hour.

If it was drama you wanted, Saturday night in Bridgeview didn’t fail to deliver. And wouldn’t you know it? Once the credits rolled, the Revolution emerged with an elusive road victory.

1. If you want to see pretty goals, do yourself a favor: don’t watch Jerry Bengtson. Let’s be honest: the Honduran International is not a goal artist.  He isn’t going to dribble through 17 defenders and slip it into the back of the net, all casual and all. Nor is he going score from distance, at least very often. Bengtson is a poacher, and he does what poachers do best: feast on the scraps. Saturday night’s strike – if you want to call it that – was little more than putting his noggin in the way of Kelyn Rowe’s cross. Now, all this is not to take anything away from Bengtson. There is something to be said for a player who puts himself in the right spots to score. And Bengtson has proven he can do just that. Ugly goals? Sure. But an ugly goal counts for just as much as an MLS Goal of the Week candidate.

2. Kalifa Cisse shed his preseason alter-ego and came to play. It’s hard to argue that the former Bristol City ballwinner looked like a seasoned pro during the preseason. While fitness may have been the primary objective for the six-pack of preseason contests, Cisse seemed content to let his teammates hoof it over his head and play direct. Concerning? To some, it was. But Cisse certainly stepped up on Saturday, and nearly scored inside of six minutes. His confidence on the ball was evident, he won a slew of second balls, and helped provide cover in the rear. In other words, he did exactly was he was brought in to do.

3. Whatever Juan Toja was doing Saturday, he should keep doing it. Yes, it was an interesting spot that Heaps put his mercurial midfielder (thank you for that, Arlo White) into. Acting as a “false 9” behind Bengtson, Toja did a whole lot of freelancing, bouncing from wing to wing, pushing forward, dropping back, hawking popcorn in the stands, and applying high pressure. He pestered the Fire back four, won some key challenges in the midfield, and nearly stumbled into what could’ve been the ugliest goal in MLS of the season (so far) in the 57th minute. In a sense, it was almost easier to define what he wasn’t doing on Saturday. Sure, he may not be ready to go a full 90 just yet. But darn, it was an entertaining 78 minutes from the Colombian midfielder.

4. If success is the best revenge, then Kelyn Rowe got his in short order. What happened in the 55th and 62nd minutes is just one reason why soccer is such a great sport. Moments after coming on for Donnie Smith, Rowe got obliterated by Jeff Larentowicz on a hard challenge that warranted a yellow from Hilario Grajeda. So how does Rowe respond? Crowbar to the shin, a la Tonya Harding? Rat poison? No, even better. In the 62nd minute, he brings down a terrible Larentowicz clearance, sends it to Toja, yells back at Toja for the ball, gets it, then sends it far post to Bengtson, who scores the game-winner. Somewhere, the soccer gods were smiling.

5. For once, the Revolution decided that they were going to dish out the punishment. Last year, the Revs were too easily thrown off by teams that employed judicious fouling. It was a shrewd tactic: the Revs weren’t very big in the midfield, their gameplan was easily thrown off by constant stoppages, and their form on set pieces was atrocious. So Heaps brought in strong, physical players like Cisse, Goncalves and Farrell to compliment others like Soares and Toja to establish some semblance of strength. With all five on the field, New England assumed a grittier appearance and, not unexpectedly, outfouled the Fire 21-13. And you know what? Many weren’t reckless or reactionary. The best part: they only earned one caution, and it came from, of all people, Diego Fagundez. Heaps was obviously pleased with the win, but he also had to be happy to watch his side doing some of the shoving, for once.

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5 Comments

  1. Chris B

    March 11, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    This was a good game. Just when I thought we weren’t creating enough quality chances to score, we grab a goal. The ability to score (on the road no less) against the run of play is what gets teams into the playoffs. I hope we see the Revs start to dominate games, but I’ll take these results, especially on the road.

    I wonder what Heaps is gonna with Rowe? I guess the obvious thing to do is start him especially if he overcomes whatever injury held him out of the starting lineup on Saturday, but maybe he’s best used a super sub (especially against Chicago, it seems!)

  2. Brian O'Connell

    March 11, 2013 at 4:19 pm

    Hey Chris, depending upon his health, I think Rowe could the start on the right, and Nguyen goes back to the left in Philly. Smith struggled alot on Saturday, and Nguyen wasn’t his usual self out on the right.

  3. BG

    March 11, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    Great takes on the game Brian! It is nice to start the season with a win and there were some definite positives to take away as you so nicely outline. I think there were some strong moments from toja but I am still not quite convinced but i seem to be in the monority he faded in and out of the game a bit more than I would have liked to see. He, like last year, seems lacking in fitness and still needs a bit more sharpness, hopefully a few more games will improve that! I was a huge fan of goncalcves, I think his presence gave soares a lot of confidence to be more aggressive and it is going to be a nice partnership. On point 5, yes most definitely! The revs seemed to bead opting a stoke-esque style of play, it was effective albeit not always pretty. It is going to be very interesting to see how they evolve, will they stick with this, will they possess or attack? It is going to be fun to see how they progress! Any thoughts?

    • Brian O'Connell

      March 11, 2013 at 11:37 pm

      Thanks for the kudos, BG! I think you’ll see Heaps tailor the approach week-to-week in the first few weeks, as he sees what works (Soares and Goncalves manning the center of the defense) and what isn’t working so well (Smith on the left, Nguyen on the right). Plus, I would have to think things will change when Sene returns, Tierney’s healthy, and Bengtson gets called for WCQ. To piggyback on your point about Toja – I think he’s their biggest wildcard. He’s obviously a skilled player, but is he going to be able to deliver, or stay healthy, on a consistent basis? That could also alter what Heaps wants to do with this team week-to-week. Ultimately, though, I think Heaps wants a possession-style approach, playing it from the back, short, crisp passes (a la the sensational six-pass sequence in the 56th minute).

  4. KidKalik

    March 13, 2013 at 9:04 am

    Anyone have insight into why McCarthy did not travel?

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