New England Soccer Today

Technically Speaking: Revolution at Sounders

Revolution center back Jose Goncalves (left)  had his hands full with Steve Zakuani (right) on Saturday. (Photo: Mike Russell/

Revolution center back Jose Goncalves (left) had his hands full with Steve Zakuani (right) on Saturday. (Photo: Mike Russell/

Yesterday, on a beautiful sunny afternoon, playing on a high-quality ‘field turf’ pitch before a packed Seattle crowd, the Revs were thoroughly outgunned by the Sounders. The game ended in a 0-0 tie, thanks to some never-say-die play by the Revs and a strong performance by Revs goalie Bobby Shuttleworth. It must have been a bitter pill for the Sounders to swallow.

Last week in this column I quarreled with the Revs’ long-ball strategy and only sporadic attempt to hold on to a possession style of play. The same criticism can clearly be leveled this week, with final stats revealing a 68.5% : 31.5% ratio for possession, in favor of Seattle. Toward the end of the first half, color analyst Jeff Causey remarked that the Revs “need to try to keep possession in the middle third.” He took the words right out of my mouth. The Revs’ default mode should be to move the ball under control from the back to midfield, except on occasions when severe offensive pressure makes the long ball “on.” The same approach should apply from midfield to the attacking third. At that point it will become a question of finishing – a topic for future discussion.

Last week, I particularly recommended that the Revs should widen the field by stationing wing players right on the sideline, backs to the line, even with the ball – rather than pinching in and making runs in front of it. This week, right back Deandre Yedlin, a 19-year-old with a high-rise orange hairdo, provided an object lesson for just how transformative good sideline positioning can be. Unfortunately, he was playing for the wrong team. He motored up and down the field and did plenty on defense, but the minute his team got the ball, he cut wide to the sideline, even with the ball, and waited for the pass. More often than not, it came, because he made such an obvious target out there. With the ball at his feet, he stood out as a play-maker, making dozens of first and second-touch passes and moving the ball up the field by combining creatively with his teammates. A good chunk of the Sounders’ 68.5% possession can be credited directly to him.

When the Revs don’t simply kick the ball as far as they can, they have difficulty advancing it under control because they hold it too long, drawing immediate defensive pressure, or they slow the attack down by fruitless dribbling. I took a stab at counting the number of successful first-time passes made by the Revs in the first half and came up with 10, give or take a few. Former Rev Shalrie Joseph practically tripled this total by himself.

Bottom line: It is tough to win games relying on good goalkeeping and a stout defense.

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