New England Soccer Today

Technically Speaking: Revolution vs. Philadelphia

Lee Nguyen scored his first goal of the season against the Union on Saturday. (Photo: Chris Aduama/

Lee Nguyen scored his first goal of the season against the Union on Saturday. (Photo: Chris Aduama/

In an emotionally-charged game played under nearly ideal conditions, the New England Revolution beat the Philadelphia Union cleanly, 2-0, on Saturday night.

The Revs had the better of the game after the first seven minutes, scoring two sweet and well-deserved goals in the second half. On all tactical fronts – ball possession, defense, and goalkeeping – the Revs’ game was improved over last week’s effort vs New York. I was particularly impressed with Bobby Shuttleworth’s authoritative sorties out of the goal, for several critical saves. It was also exciting to see the Revs winning balls aggressively in midfield, especially in the second half, and engaging in effective wing play. And I was pleased to see Kalifa Cissé keep his defensive position better (though I think he still needs to focus on maintaining the appropriate triangle of center backs and defensive midfielder). These efforts had a lot to do with the final score.

Rick Sewall

Rick Sewall

I was initially dubious about the starting lineup. Evidently, Jay Heaps decided to go with youth over experience, perhaps a good idea, considering they play again this coming Thursday on the west coast. Nonetheless, the fact that Clyde Simms, Andy Dorman, and Darrius Barnes saw no action at all (I gather Juan Toja is injured) surprised me a bit. Who can argue with winning, though?

I would love to hear the Union’s opinions of playing on the Gillette surface after playing on natural grass last weekend vs DC United, and regularly playing on a nice natural grass surface at home.

In tennis it takes a thorough knowledge of the grip, the backswing, the stroke, the follow-through, the foot positioning, and overall body behavior to hit a stroke properly. Even for advanced players, tennis coaching focuses on technique as much as tactics. Same with the golf swing and golf coaching: it is concentration on precise technique that will allow the golfer to drive the ball straight down the fairway. Without constant reinforcement of technical knowledge and awareness, both tennis and golf practitioners will clearly lack the needed concentration for a successful outcome.

The same is true of the soccer power kick. Talented players like Lee Nguyen and Kelyn Rowe are finding ways to get a clear shot on goal –a difficult enough task in itself. But their execution of the power kicking technique leaves a lot to be desired, making it very difficult for them to concentrate when shooting and resulting in their missing the target far too often. The same can be said for the team more generally. Perhaps the most obvious sign of this lack of concentration is when players pull their heads up too soon after contact with the ball, making it impossible for them to follow through appropriately. The attached picture shows Hubert Vogelsinger, Austrian national team player and American technical instructor par excellence, demonstrating the power kick follow-through. Enhanced technical knowledge results in greater confidence when shooting and an increase in team shots on frame and in goal total. Good shooting wins games.

Now the Revs have to worry about Portland. A win or even a tie there would be a feather in their cap.



  1. Demetrios Tsillas

    April 29, 2013 at 8:05 am

    I think it’s pretty clear with this game that Toja and Nguyen do not complement each other and should not be on the field at the same time. Nguyen was at his best, using the speedy Rowe/Guy/Fagundez/Sene to repeatedly get behind the Union defenders. None of this back and forth tiki-tak with Toja. It just didn’t work.

  2. rick sewall

    April 29, 2013 at 11:29 am

    This reminds me of the 1970 world cup, where Rivera and Mazzola, arguably the two best players on the Italian team, could not play together at the same time. They ended up splitting halves. It used to drive my Italian friends nuts.

    Although the Revs situation is not the same it seems like the best position for both is offensive midfield, with Nguyen , up to now , being the more consistent. They are both skillful. It’s up to Heaps now to find out whether or not they can play together in a complementary way.

  3. bg

    April 29, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    Hi Rick,
    I have really enjoyed your analysis the last few weeks. It is such a great addtion to the analysis on the site. To me, the major difference this week versus past weeks was width. Heaps may not have put out a lineup with his “strongest” side but he did put a lineup in Guy and Fagundez that used the width of the field quite a bit more effectively. This really opened the middle of the pitch as you also alluded to with your comment on wing play. I would also really like to see Caldwell given a run out in the same lineup replacing Rowe or Nguyen. He is such an intriguing creative-type player to me. ( I will also plead bias, I like that he is homegrown and there is the added element that after the home opener we saw him at dinner and he took the time to meet and shake my 5 year old son’s hand while surrounded by his family and friends).

  4. Robert

    April 30, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    I agree with playing Caldwell. I thought that he showed pretty well after the first two games; to me, he added another creative element to the offense which helped open passing lanes, and he wasn’t too bad defensively. Perhaps, though, he will not see much playing time until the roster opens up. What I mean is that Caldwell’s skill set could make Toja expendable once the Summer transfer window opens. If Toja and Nguyen can’t play together then one has to go. Lee is locked on the left side and Heaps has been trying to get Toja going by moving him around. I like Toja, but perhaps it would be better to deal him. The return Of Sene will further complicate things for Toja, especially with Sene’s ability to also play a wide, left midfield position if necessary. It appears that Heaps may have a nice problem when everyone is healthy; too much talent? Hopefully.

  5. rick sewall

    April 30, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    I do not yet have a clear mental image of Caldwell’s style of play, but after these two comments I will watch him very closely.

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