New England Soccer Today

Five Things We Learned: Revolution vs. Galaxy

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Juan Agudelo (center) fights for the ball with A.J. De La Garza closing in during the first half of Sunday’s 5-0 Revolution win over the Galaxy. (Photo: Chris Aduama/aduama.com)

Anyone else still need to pick their jaw back up after watching Sunday’s rout?

No worries if you do. After all, it’s not everyday that the winners of the last two Anschutz Trophies get a five spot hung on them. And the fact that the Revolution, a team that seemed destined for failure earlier this spring, did the honors placed it in another realm entirely. A realm in which Landon Donovan couldn’t finish, but Chad Barrett could. A realm in which Jay Heaps couldn’t complain about the officiating. A realm in which it seemed possible that Jose Goncalves could hear color and Stephen McCarthy could see sound.

It wasn’t just a game – it was an experience. An experience that, believe it or not, didn’t require the ingestion or inhalation of hallucinogens and/or hard narcotics.

And that’s what made it so hard to wrap your brain around. That it was actually real. The five goals, the clean sheet, the look of disgust on Landon Donovan’s mug, the season-high 19,120 fans – you didn’t need to climb through a magic rabbit hole to witness it. It was all real. As real as this.

Sure, the first half wasn’t exactly a fairy tale. Aside from the Diego Fagundez feed on Saer Sene’s goal, it was a lot of the same possession woes, poor passes and awkward touches that dogged the club during early spring.

But the second half? A masterpiece worthy of a velvet rope. The Revolution played with flair, creativity, passion, awareness and some other fun adjectives Arlo White may have invoked during the broadcast. Even the missed opportunities (e.g. the Juan Agudelo pass Lee Nguyen dummied for Sene in the 53rd minute) were something to behold. It was 45 minutes of scintillating soccer.

How long will this last? It’s hard to say. Right now, the Revolution are the toast of the town. The Kate Middleton of MLS, if you will. And with good reason. They toppled Houston and Los Angeles in just over a two-week span. Their two best attackers are both under 21. Their defense is turning off the lights on a regular basis. Their head coach isn’t afraid to unleash an attacking sub or three while his club is ahead. It’s hard not to like what this club is doing right now.

It’s one thing to watch a team come into its own. It’s another to watch them do it by dropping the hammer on the defending champions. And that’s exactly what the Revolution did on Sunday – believe it or not.

Here at Five Things, we never try to allure you with magic tricks, or entice you with optical illusions. So without further ado, here’s a small collection of lessons we took from Sunday’s rout. 

1. We may not have to worry about whether Juan Agudelo and Diego Fagundez will have to shoulder the load in the final third, after all. If there was one underlying concern about the attacking going into Sunday’s clash, it was whether they were becoming too reliant on their youngest talents. Fagundez had reeled off goals in the last three games, Agudelo two in the last two. Combined, they accounted for the club’s last five scores, while the likes of Lee Nguyen and Saer Sene struggled to find the scoresheet. Well, any notion that the attack was predicated upon the goalscoring success of Fagundez and Agudelo were put to rest against the Galaxy, who were victimized by five different goalscorers. True, one of those goals was scored by the flashy Fagundez, who also managed to the table for Sene and Nguyen. While Agudelo didn’t collect a goal or assist of his own, Heaps gushed about his performance. Yes, both positively affected the outcome, but to see Sene, Nguyen, Kelyn Rowe and Chad Barrett all tally proved that the attack isn’t predicated upon two players.

2. If Saer Sene consistently gets the kind of service Fagundez provided him in the 33rd minute, another double-digit goal campaign isn’t completely out of the question. Heaps called the pass Fagundez threaded to Sene “one of the best touches of the game.” Any arguments? Last year, Sene put up an 11-goal campaign thanks to service from Lee Nguyen and Chris Tierney, both of whom did well to get the ball to the tall Frenchman. But one of  Sene’s weaknesses is his ability – or more accurately, inability – to dribble through defenders. It is not pretty, my friends. With Fagundez on the  field, Sene might not be as tempted to try to weave his 6-3 frame through traffic. Instead, he might just make the simple run and allow the ball to come to him, a strategy that should make Sene even more lethal. True, a third of the season is already behind us, but with 21 games remaining, a healthy Sene could rake this summer and into the late-season stretch.

3. The absence of Kalifa Cisse from Sunday’s starting XI speaks volumes about the seasoned European’s standing. Pop quizYou have an imposing center half that you spent a fortune on during the offseason to acquire, and you can only use him for one regular season game. What do you do? You pick a tough opponent, right ? Say an opponent like the back-to-back champs? That would probably make a lot of sense. And yet, a presumably healthy Cisse not only didn’t start, but didn’t even come on as a substitute. As if that didn’t drive home the point enough, a rookie – albeit a talented one – got the start instead. A rookie over a player less than a year removed from a starting gig in the Championship. Yep, that happened. Now, Cisse hasn’t had the season many expected from him so far, and some of that can be attributable to injuries. But the fact that he was on the gameday 18 and didn’t see a single minute of action against one of the best midfields in the league just goes to show how far his stock has plummeted.

4. Jay Heaps may have no qualms tweaking his lineup on a weekly basis, but it’s hard to fathom one better than the one he penciled in against the Galaxy. There hasn’t been a ton of criticism surround the Revolution of late, and that’s not entirely unexpected given their recent form. But if there has been one point of contention, it’s Heaps’ propensity to tweak the lineup from week to week which, the theory goes, doesn’t allow players to get comfortable in their roles. Although the back four have remained relatively unchanged since April, everything in front of them has been moved and rearranged based upon the opponent. Granted, injuries and suspensions may have also played a part in this. But if the 11 players who started in Saturday’s game can stay healthy, Heaps may want to leave the lineup alone in the coming weeks. Just a suggestion.

5.  The Revolution’s May 25 Toronto FC game may have been billed as a “trap game,” but thanks to Sunday’s rout, this weekend’s clash against D.C. is a TRAP GAME (!!!) Prior to the Toronto match, the Revolution had just come off a shocking upset of the Dynamo in Houston, and seemed destined for a dreadful loss against one of the worst teams in the league. After all, it was the kind of game the Revolution had made a habit of losing for the past, oh, four years or so. So when they beat Toronto 2-0, some of the reactions were nearly identical to the ones that followed the win in Houston. Now, riding the high of Sunday’s impressive result, the Revolution must bring themselves back to earth and focus on a D.C. United team that hasn’t won since winter. Yes, they may be 1-10-2, and coming to Foxborough for the final game of a lengthy homestand. But they pose just as great a danger, if not greater, than the one the Galaxy presented this past weekend. After all, you never know what you’ll get from a team in desperation mode. A team that just might play a little crazy.

3 Comments

  1. Ben Saufley

    June 4, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    But one of Sene’s weaknesses is his ability – or more accurately, inability – to dribble through defenders.

    I take issue with this. I think he often loses the ball when cornered or double-teamed (which itself is often). But one of the first things I noticed about Sène when he was in preseason with us last year was the way he (messily, sure) plowed through D while still somehow keeping the ball. I’m not sure that ability is there all the time, or that it’s come back fully since the injury. And I’m certain that I know him now more for his brilliant left foot (and terrible right) than for his ability to break through crowds. But I think that while often his style is strangely devoid of grace or style, I have seen him just power his way through defenses on a number of occasions.

    Just a small point. The rest of what you’re saying is very true. The Revs are slicing up defenses with these 1-2s and through passes these days, and that may often be a safer bet than trying to take on defenses head-first. But I’m just noticing how different your impression of him in that area is than the one I’ve gotten.

    Re: Cissé, it’s been my impression that lingering injuries have been a problem. Maybe they figured if Scotty was getting the job done, better not to risk it and have Kalifa in better shape for DC and/or USOC?

    And yes. I am terrified about the DC game. Especially after the most recent string, there is no game that we should win more than this home game vs DC. And so it’s the one that I am convinced will cause us the most problems.

  2. Brian O'Connell

    June 4, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    Hey Ben, strong points on all accounts, and I agree that Sene isn’t the most graceful dribbler (the anti-Diego, in that respect).

    But unless my memory is absolutely failing me, Sene really shied away from taking on defenders during the second half of 2012. He seemed alot bolder about challenging defenders early on last year, and I’ll admit, it didn’t always end badly. But as the season progressed, he seemed to get “figured out” by opposing defenses inside the 18, and as a result, he lost his confidence with the ball at his feet the closer he got to goal. I thought the wonderstrike in Philly on 7/29 was a prime example of this – a great shot, no doubt, but an extemely optimistic one from the outer edges of the final third.

    As for Cisse, I honestly don’t get what reason there would be hold him back from a game against LA if he’s healthy. If you’re paying him $400K+, why would you save him for USOC (no offense to USOC) or DC? Wouldn’t it be the other way around? Save him for LA, and keep him away from lower-stakes matchups? I think it’s telling that Scott Caldwell, who did not look great in the first half vs. LA, wasn’t subbed off at all.

    • Ben Saufley

      June 6, 2013 at 11:01 am

      I think you’re right that Sène backed off from taking people on as last year went on. But he *used* to do it! And somehow get away with it!

      I didn’t notice Caldwell being as bad as everyone’s said Sunday, but I was at the stadium and sometimes that gives you a different feel – we won, we won! But my suggestion was that Cissé was still recovering somewhat even if he wasn’t listed as injured – it seems like he’s been on and off with injury. We were winning (regardless of Caldwell’s performance I guess) and maybe Heaps didn’t want to risk Cissé re-aggravating the injury? But you’re right, LA does seem like if there’s any game to use him, it’s that one. (Well, except of course I’d love to save him for USOC – I’m just not sure the coaching staff thinks that way)

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