FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Make no mistake: the Revolution aren’t going to give greater attention to set piece work in training this week just because the Union are in town this weekend. But, rest assured, there’s a good reason for that.
Every week, regardless of the opponent, the Revolution consistently, and pain-stakingly at times, look for ways to fine-tune their form on set pieces, whether they be of the attacking or defending variety. And this week won’t be any different.
“It’s not something we take lightly,” Revolution head coach Jay Heaps said. ”We go over film on set pieces, we go over what we think their strengths are, and where we need to be better.”
The emphasis on defending set pieces, in particular, will undoubtedly be talking point for the Revolution this weekend. The Union enter Sunday’s match with a conference-high 15 goals from set pieces, and one needn’t look any further than Philadelphia’s attacking corps to figure out why they’re so successful.
Sebastien Le Toux’s long been a threat on free kicks, and with a league-high 12 assists, it’s clear he doesn’t shy away from adding to that total on dead ball situations. In fact, Heaps stressed the need to be “mindful of what Le Toux can do.”
Then, there is Jack McInerney, a recent addition to the pantheon of so-called Rev killers. Although the local XI managed to keep a lid on the 21-year-old in their last contest, McInerney’s set piece prowess single-handedly sank the Revolution in back-to-back contests on Oct. 6, 2012 and Mar. 16, 2013.
Another target for LeToux is New Hampshire native Conor Casey, a classic, big-bodied striker who punishes backlines with a knack for getting his noggin on the ball.
But free kicks and corner kicks aren’t the only varieties of set pieces in which the Union are dangerous.
“We know they’ve got a long throw in from Sheanon Williams,” Heaps said. ”They do a lot, so they get a lot of opportunities and they’re clinical on those so we, of course, prepare for those.”
While the Revolution won’t quit their quest to improve their set pieces any time soon, Revolution striker Chad Barrett believes that avoiding them is just as important, especially against a club like the Union.
“You just try not to foul them and not try to commit any stupid fouls in the final third and give them chances,” Barrett said. ”Of course, they’re going to get corner kicks and free kicks, but we’ve just got to limit them.”
Limiting opportunities for Le Toux, McInerney & Co. will be crucial if the Revolution want to claim their second straight win, especially against the fourth-place Union. Three points would keep the Revolution in the thick of the postseason hunt, and give them some much-needed momentum going to into a two-game road trip that starts in Toronto next week.
And while the Revolution know Sunday’s match may come down to set pieces, Barrett is confident that he and his teammates will be up for the challenge.
“We have so many guys who are just fighting like dogs to keep the ball out of our net, and have been doing it all year,” Barrett said.