New England Soccer Today

Five Things We Learned: Revolution vs. FC Dallas

Ryan Guy battles George John for the ball in Saturday's clash between the Revolution and FC Dallas. (Photo: Kari Heistad/

Ryan Guy battles George John for the ball in Saturday’s clash between the Revolution and FC Dallas. (Photo: Kari Heistad/

It only stood to reason that on Easter weekend, the Revolution all too fittingly laid an egg.

For the third straight week, the Revolution searched high and low for a goal. They brought their pastel basket and searched from the run of play. They searched from the set piece. They searched from the turnover. And yet, by the time the referee chirped his whistle thrice, the basket remained empty.

Last week, the search was hindered by the wind. The week before that, slick and drizzly conditions. On Saturday, the conditions were as ideal as they get for an Easter egg hunt a soccer game in New England in late-March.

At some juncture, they’ll find a goal. They’ll find it, just like they found one in Chicago, where Jerry Bengtson grabbed one near the back post. Goals are going to be found, it’s just a matter of when and where.

Yes, of course, they don’t just show up. You have to keep looking. Sometimes, they’re hidden in set piece scrums. Other times, they’re buried beyond the 18. Once in awhile, they’re right in front of you and a giggle leaps off your tongue. Haha!

But right now, that is not the case. The Revolution must keep searching. They must keep looking, high and low, around the 18, and along each flank. They have to dig, and then dig a little deeper. After all, the Easter Bunny isn’t just going gently place a basket full of them near the technical area.

Obligatory Easter metaphors aside, it was a frustrating afternoon for the local XI with FC Dallas in town. So what did we learn from it?

1. The formation may have created a few chances, but it didn’t do them any favors. Give credit to Jay Heaps: the 4-5-1 (or 4-2-3-1), hadn’t exactly produced a surplus chances in the Revolution’s first three games. So the hosts came out in a 4-4-2 on Saturday, but with a few tweaks in the midfield and up top. In theory, it was an inspired decision. In reality, it was a rotten egg. The first half featured a series of sequences in which it appeared no one in Revolution uniform was on the same page. Juan Toja was passing it into a space where only a Dallas defender awaited. The same thing happened to Ryan Guy. And Lee Nguyen. While that was taking place, the Revolution’s first half possession rate dipped to 37.8 percent in front of the home crowd. The second half saw the formation finally come together, and chances were uncovered. But by then, the Revolution had expended a full 45 minutes figuring it out. Even if Blas Perez doesn’t score, it didn’t seem like the Revolution were going to come away with three points.

2. Bobby Shuttleworth doesn’t look like he’s in any hurry to inherit the first-choice keeper’s spot. Not long ago, it appeared that the apprentice was on the verge of taking his mentor’s role. A slew of strong performances down the stretch last season put Shuttleworth in a favorable position to take Matt Reis’ spot. But the Shuttleworth of late-2012 has gone missing.  Replacing him has been the Shuttleworth of the 2013 preseason, one who’s confidence comes and goes as it pleases. Early on in Saturday’s match, it looked like the Shuttleworth of last season re-emerged. But as the game carried on, the unsure and upstart version came back and made himself known. He was beat by Cooper in the second half, but was lucky the assistant referee bailed him out. The AR couldn’t save him in the 87th, though. While it’s unknown whether a healthy Reis would’ve made a difference, we do know that Shuttleworth didn’t do himself any favors on Saturday.

3. The Revolution can’t wait for Saer Sene to return. In the last 12 games going back to Sene’s ACL injury, the Revolution have been blanked six times, and in the other six, haven’t scored more than one goal. Yes, getting See on the pitch doesn’t assure the Revolution that the offense will awaken. There were plenty of times last year when Sene played and the attack stagnated. Times in which Sene’s shots were ending up a few rows deep in The Fort. Or came close to scraping the top of the post-modern lighthouse structure. But with him on the shelf, the Revolution are averaging a half a goal a game. The last MLS XI to earn a playoff berth with that exact scoring average? Answer: No one. Say what you will about some of his epic misses, but the offense isn’t the same without Sene.

4. Despite Jay Heaps’ “attack first” credo, an inefficient offense isn’t exactly a recent development. It’s true. In Heaps’ first season at the helm, the Revolution were kept off the board a franchise-record 12 times, despite firing a conference-high 178 shots on goal. Twelve times in a 34 tries. That’s more than a third of the time. In 38 total games, the team’s been blanked 15 times, and managed only one goal 10 times. In fact, their lack of firepower led them to a franchise-high 10-game winless streak last summer. Now, there is no doubt that Heaps wants to see more, and that he’s preaching it in practice and imploring his players to have at it. It isn’t a matter of effort. No one questions the effort. It’s there, and we can all see it. But it takes more than just effort. It requires execution, and when that doesn’t happen, it requires corrective measures. When Steve Nicol held the gaffer’s role, he had an attacking-minded lieutenant in Paul Mariner to guide the lads along. While the defending has improved under Heaps, it might not be the worst idea to bring on an assistant who understands the intricacies of goalscoring.

5. Diego Fagundez’s performance against FC Dallas should earn him a spot in the starting XI. Right now, Kelyn Rowe is decent MLS midfielder. Not a great one, but a decent one. He could become a great one, but right now, he’s still learning the nuances of the pro game. While he does, the original Revolution Homegrown Player should have his name penciled into the starting lineup every week. Even though he was assigned to the left, Fagundez played just as effectively has he’s shown on the right. He combined well with Bengtson and Toja, and gave the attack the unpredictability it desperately lacked in the last three games. Is he a finished product? No way. But right now, with Sene on the mend, Fagundez gives the Revolution their best shot if they plan on scoring more than once every four games.


Leave a Reply