New England Soccer Today

Five Things We Learned: Revolution vs. Toronto FC

Diego!

Diego Fagundez tried to level Sunday’s game in stoppage time on a volley inside the area, but his shot rattled off the post. (Photo: Kari Heistad/capturedimages.biz)

Given the tsunami of rumors that have flooded the feeds of local soccer fans across the region, it almost feels as if last weekend’s game took place months ago. A game that pitted an opponent we have to rack our brains hard to remember and at a place that might as well have been on an exotic island in the South Pacific. And the result? Somebody scored…we think.

Kidding! Kidding! We didn’t really forget that the Revolution played Toronto at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, and lost 1-0 on a goal second minute scored by Luis “El Lobo” Fangoso, er, Matias Laba. Fewf, that was a close one.

But back to something everyone loves: Rumors. Whether you admit it or not, everyone enjoys a good, juicy rumor. And when it comes to soccer rumors, well, they are the golden standard of speculation.

At the center of the Revolution rumor mill are Juan Agudelo, Saer Sene, Charlie Davies and Louis Saha. That’s a pair of talented goalscorers, a local kid looking to make a comeback, and an EPL-tested veteran who’s on the wrong side of 30. By the one thing they all have in common are that they’ve all performed well enough – some more recently than others- to warrant their names cropping up in foreign newspapers and French-speaking social media forums.

Thousands of words could be easily spent on the speculation surrounding each player, how good a fit they’d be in New England, how their departures would affect the Revolution, their attitudes toward turf, or what their addition or subtraction would mean for the Revolution’s playoff ambitions this year. Thousands upon thousands of words all to say this: no one with a blog, website or overactive twitter feed really knows. We’re all just throwing darts at the board.

But what we do have a pretty good handle on is this: Whatever move or moves the Revolution make must be done with both this year and next year in mind. If they add a striker, it must be a striker who’ll not only contribute this year, but stick around and score next year, as well. If they add a midfielder, that midfielder must improve their poor starts and keep doing so next year. Why? Because Agudelo and Sene may not be around next year, and Kalifa Cisse has already been shown the door.

Anyway…how about that that game on Sunday? What did we learn from a game that’s long since been buried in so many of our minds?

1. Juan Toja still has something to contribute to this team. Admit it: when you saw the starting XI on Twitter or heard it over the PA system at Gillette, seeing/hearing Juan Toja’s name instead of Kelyn Rowe’s was probably a bit of a surprise. As in the kind of surprise you experience when you see bright orange ticket on your parked car. As in not a good kind of surprise. But Toja’s first half performance was a revelation – and a positive one, at that. He proved he belonged on the pitch by playing smart passes ahead, pushing forward into the attack and avoiding clumsy mistakes. For 45 minutes, Toja looked like a legitimate $300K player. Well, almost. Clearly, Heaps still believes in his creative Colombian midfielder, and Toja rewarded his coach’s belief with an impressive showing on Sunday.

2. Sunday’s game was a reminder that the set pieces have to be stronger when teams like Toronto bunker in. Death, taxes and Revolution’s struggles on set pieces. They are three constants in life for area soccer fans, the latter since Steve Ralston hung up his boots, at least. Incredibly, weeks had passed since the issue was touch, thanks to Toja’s free kick goal in Colorado and Jose Goncalves game-winner three days later in Columbus. But just when you think the Revolution are out of the woods, they run into a club like Toronto who do everything they can to introduce negative soccer on any given night. With Laba’s second half goal emboldening them, Toronto dropped numbers back and successfully stifled the Revolution on the run of play. Sure, the Revolution had chances to equalize late. But the best way to beat a team keen to park the bus is to pick them apart via the set piece.

3. Andrew Farrell played one of his best games as a pro. It’s been a bit of a funny season for the first overall pick. He made an impressive debut in Chicago, and has pieced together some strong performances. Yet, he’s still a rookie, and sometimes we are reminded of that whenever he crosses a long diagonal ball beyond the far touchline. Or when he cuts inside and coughs up the ball to the opposition. Or when he gets exposed by a savvy striker. But on Sunday, Farrell put together an impressive piece of work. He was heavily involved at both ends of the pitch, and strung together a team-high 58 successful passes. And who else has but Farrell had the audacity to attempt a bicycle kick cross – a bicycle kick cross – that nearly earned him an assist had Richard Eckersley not cleared Diego Fagundez’s shot off the line. While a former Revolution number two filled the headlines over the weekend, their current number two nearly put together an incredible performance.

4. Sometimes, all it takes is a single mistake to come away empty-handed. Soccer is a cruel game. On occasion, it is the cruelest of all games. And we were reminded of that on Sunday. Despite an otherwise sound game, the Revolution were severely punished for one mistake, albeit an avoidable one. At the time, few would’ve believed that when Laba pick-pocketed Jose Goncalves in the midfield and scored the Revolution wouldn’t find a way to come back. In fact they could’ve – and should’ve – cashed in on the opportunities they found in the first half. But, as noted above, soccer can be a fickle witch, and that witch was certainly laughing at the Revolution when Eckersley and Ashtone Morgan both cleared shots off the line. After the game, the players said it’s a game they have to forget quickly. And who could blame?

5. As promising a season as Scott Caldwell is having, the Revolution would be wise to add another defensive midfielder. The 22-year-old rookie put together a decent performance on Sunday. Decent, but not great. He completed 79 percent of his passes, and helped the attack’s width with his remarkable vision and awareness. But similar to what happened to Clyde Simms in D.C., Toronto, albeit in different fashion grabbed the bull by the horns early held on to win. True, it wasn’t Caldwell who dumped the ball to Laba. And credit must be given to the rookie for putting himself in position to dismantle Laba’s initial effort on the goalscoring sequence. But the Revolution need to have a stronger, more imposing presence at the six spot if they want to improve their first half form.

5 Comments

  1. Scott M

    August 7, 2013 at 8:30 am

    From where we were sitting in Section 108, Juan (who I think is very talented) had a disastrous night, Caldwell didn’t play any role at all other than failing to help stop that first goal, and set pieces were greatly improved over last year. Glad to see they re-signed Tierney, but they have to figure out who else can help on corners. This was our first in-person game since last summer when we moved to TX and for the most part I liked Revs 2013. But that first half was painfully embarrassing.

  2. Ben Saufley

    August 7, 2013 at 11:02 am

    Toja a “revelation”? Eesh… perhaps comparatively.

    And why didn’t he take the free kicks? They’re the only thing I’ve seen him be dangerous at.

  3. Marmaduke

    August 7, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    Where Caldwell really disappointed me was in switching the point of attack. He has (at least he did in this game) a tendency to look to the right side first. There were quite a few times where fagundez or tierney were out left alone with no one getting them the ball with the exception of a full field bomb that bypassed the central midfielders. I suppose that’s also on Toja and Nguyen too, but really the holding midfielder is in the best position to switch the point of attack, and Caldwell needs to do that more.

    I also think Heaps made a mistake in pulling off McCarthy. The possession numbers for the next 10 minutes after that sub seemed to tilt heavily back to toronto (at least relative to the preceding 70 minutes). I’m not sure what he should have done, though. I like the aggression of putting in an attacking sub, but the team was getting chances and shots, they just weren’t going in. In retrospect, I think Imbongo needed to be replaced. He had a pretty good game (he didn’t get ejected!), but right about the time of the sub, he seemed to run out of gas and played for a corner kick every time he got the ball.

    All in all, though, the team responded well to going down early.

    • Ben Saufley

      August 7, 2013 at 12:35 pm

      I was noticing this right-leaning tendency in this game as well. It felt like we were all crammed up – four men in a ten foot radius, people literally stepping on each other’s toes – at times on the right, and then once in a long while we’d switch to the left and I’d realize there’s Chris Tierney, all by himself! Not a defender nearby!

      That might’ve been my biggest frustration with what was actually (despite the result) a pretty decent effort by the Revs in a tough situation.

      I thought the McCarthy for Barrett sub was a gutsy one, but unfortunately as you said it did next-to-nothing.

      As far as Imbongo “playing for the corner kick,” I’m not sure that was the wrong strategy. Our efforts in the box were going nowhere – we were getting manhandled without a whistle (part of the problem) and Toronto was able to glom on like blood cells attacking a virus once we got to the 18. Set pieces could’ve been the trick to undoing that defensive blockade. Unfortunately, we wasted most of them.

  4. Mike D

    August 7, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    Toja looked horrible. He is like a bull in a china shop.

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