New England Soccer Today

Five Things We Learned: Revolution at Rapids

Stephen McCarthy and the Revolution defense must be at their best in Colorado on Wednesday. (Photo: Kari Heistad/

Stephen McCarthy had to leave prematurely after suffering an injury in the 55th minute of Wednesday’s 2-1 loss at Colorado. (Photo: Kari Heistad/

Things that have happened since the Revolution won a game in the state of Colorado, which last occurred on Jun. 15, 2002:

-Taylor Twellman scores 91 of his 101 career goals

-Jay Heaps goes on to play 218 of his 243 career games with the Revolution (second all-time to Shalrie Joseph, who has played in 261).

-Diego Fagundez tells an elementary school teacher that he’s not going to college, but rather, will play professional soccer

-Revolution play in four MLS Cup finals

-cmgi Field changes its name to Gillette Stadium

-Nine new clubs are added to MLS, with a tenth in the wings

-Clint Dempsey is drafted, plays in New England before going on to play for Fulham, then Tottenham.

-Slyde the Fox gets, um, meaner

-Steve Ralston plays in four MLS Cups, then coaches in two more as Dominic Kinnear’s assistant in Houston

-MLS revamps its playoff system at least 967 times

Things that might happen before the Revolution win another game in Colorado:

-Flying cars


-Diego Fagundez gets capped with the senior U.S. Men’s National Team

-Revolution play in four more MLS Cup finals, and fall short four more times

-Revolution construct a soccer specific stadium and are renamed Boston FC

-MLS reaches the number of clubs that the NASL maxed out at (24)

-Clint Dempsey returns to Foxboro to close out his playing career

-Slyde the Fox is replaced by an actual fox-like cyborg

-Steve Ralston wins an MLS Cup…finally

-MLS finally gives in to the cries for promotion/relegation (we kid, we kid)

No kidding around for this week’s five observations on Wednesday’s Revolution-Rapids match.

1. The biggest thing that Juan Toja’s inconsistent play takes away from the Revolution is his set piece abilities. OK,  it might be easy to say that hours after he scores his first goal of the year in league action from a free kick. But it’s easy to forget that Toja’s 15th minute blast wasn’t the first time he’s scored on a free kick. During the Revolution’s not-so-memorable (re: unwatchable, literally) 3-1 Open Cup quarterfinal loss to D.C. on Jun. 26, Toja found the lone goal of the game when he fired a shot that banged the bar, then bounced off the back of Joe Willis in the 53rd minute. Since the start of the season, scenes of Lee Nguyen’s near misses have etched themselves into our minds. And a mind is a precious thing. Of course, this isn’t to assert that Toja is somehow the second coming of David Beckham. But he has shown on more than one occasion this year that he is, by far, the best the Revolution have on free kicks. Now, if he could only find his form on a regular basis…

2. The Revolution’s recent run of action suggests that the defense isn’t as air tight as we’ve been led to believe. The numbers are hard to ignore: 10 clean sheets, the sub-1.00 goals against/game average, the 420 minute scoreless streak, the home shutout streak, and so on, and so on. We get the idea: This Revolution defense is good. But are they great? Well, that notion is starting to wear thin in light of the defense’s performances over the few weeks. Since Jun. 14, the defense has allowed nine goals in their last five. Bobby Shuttleworth has watched five straight goals scream past him from outside the 18. And you just know things aren’t as rosy as they once were when Jose Goncalves concedes an own goal. Yes, Kevin Alston’s remarkable return is sure to strengthen the defending corps. And the own goal doesn’t turn Goncalves a terrible defender overnight. But with the competition sure to grow fiercer with each passing game, the Revolution absolutely need their defense to start earning them points again.

3. Jay Heaps waited much, much too long to make changes. Has there been a game that cried out more for halftime subs than the one that transpired on Wednesday night in the Rockies? During the first half, the Revolution’s possession rate dipped to 34 percent, after sequences in which it bottomed out near between 15-20 percent. Granted, the Revolution were able to sneak a goal out of Toja inside of 15 minutes, but aside from that keen strike, the Revolution were supremely lucky that they weren’t down a goal instead. Even so, it took a 57th minute injury to Stephen McCarthy to make his first sub. Yes, the injury forced Heaps’ hand to make his first sub a defensive one, but he inexplicably waited until his team conceded not one, but two goals to insert another sub. After the game, Heaps pointed the finger at everyone – including himself (well, sort of) – for Wednesday’s wholesale failure. The Revolution were being bossed around, and Heaps simply watched instead of calling for reinforcements. Wednesday’s game is proof positive that in life, sometimes the most obvious answer is the one we overlook the easiest.

4. Possession isn’t everything, but the lack of it certainly played a huge role in the Revolution’s loss. For the first 45 minutes, it was something of a minor miracle that the Revolution were able to hold the advantage. They had been outplayed, outpassed and essentially, outclassed by Colorado. When it was all said and done, the Revolution only had the ball 37 percent of the time. What’s worse: They still struggled to hold the ball even after the Rapids started to drop numbers to preserve the result. We’ve heard time and time again about the coaching staff and players preaching possession. Possession is important, and having it near goal is perhaps one of the most important objectives for a soccer team to have outside of outright scoring. But even though they needed a quick goal late to get back in the game, what did the backline do? They air mailed it over the halfway line. What did the midfielders do? They coughed up the ball when a defender looked their way. True, Chad Barrett may not have been offside in the fading moments, thus robbing the Revolution an opportunity for an improbable equalizer. But the fact is, for all the preaching about holding onto the ball, the Revolution showed that they simply weren’t up to the task the Rapids presented them.

5. The conditions played a key role in making the game virtually unwinnable for the Revolution. Going to Colorado isn’t easy for any club who isn’t used to playing at altitude. And the mere thought of playing there for a mid-week clash is enough to make a player’s lungs explode. And the heat? Well, try running around for an hour and half in 89 degree heat without the altitude. Heaps talked about how the gameplan and energy simply weren’t enough on Wednesday, but the thing is, the conditions only exacerbated the problem. The possession stat is indicative of this, of course, but the eyeball test also hammered home the point that the Revolution were, by and large, exhausted once the hour mark approached. Much has been said about how a club should be prepared for this, and certain clubs, in fact, are (see: Colorado Rapids and Real Salt Lake). Others, however, simply cannot. Sure, Heaps and Nick Downing have done their best to make the players as well-conditioned as possible. But the hard truth is that it is impossible for visiting players to adequately condition their bodies for summertime in the Rockies, especially when that scenario is sandwiched in between back-to-back Saturday matches.

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