The Revs lost to the Fire 3-2 Saturday night in a game played very much like a cup or a knockout contest – in other words, quite tough, with more than normal fouling and occasionally very sloppy play by both teams, especially during a one- or two-minute period in the second half when both teams missed pass after pass, repeatedly giving the ball away.
The Revs were the better team for the first ten minutes, but the Fire took over for the rest of the game, becoming increasingly dominant as the match wore on. They surpassed the Revs statistically in all categories in the first half (except for the score, where they trailed 1-2) – and even more so in the second half, when they sank two goals to win. Indeed, the Revs were fortunate to lose by only a single goal, as the Fire just missed several excellent chances in the latter half. One could fault the Revs defense on the first and third Chicago goals, but with the Fire’s multitude of scoring opportunities, balls were bound to go in the net.
The key to preventing teams from getting all these scoring chances lies not with the Revs defense, but with failures in their midfield possession. Scott Caldwell, Lee Nguyen, and Kelyn Rowe are not syncing well enough as a midfield trio. Though of course it takes all eleven players, goalkeeper included, to mount a really effective possession game, it is captained by the central midfielders. There simply is not enough communication among these three. The Revs have a good defensive leader in Jose Goncalves. Now they need that key man, that good decision maker – an aspiring Pirlo, Scholes, or Reichhart, for example – in the midfield. The critical ingredients for such a leader are awareness, vision, and poise.
As for shooting: the Revs took a total of four shots from outside the penalty area. Saer Sene took the first, missing wide with a peculiar inside-of-the-foot poke. Rowe took the other three – a curving Beckham-Rinaldo-Bale-like beauty that he sank for a goal in the eighth minute, then two later ones that were blocked by defenders.
Shooting from long distance, say between 25 and 35 yards, is a valuable arrow in a team’s offensive quiver. It is a great way to catch a goalie off-guard or score a lucky goal by deflection. It is also, arguably, the most difficult skill in soccer and the most poorly executed, even by professional players. Like the golf swing, the power kick is delicate. When players have difficulty with a skill, they will naturally be reluctant to attempt it – which partly explains why there were so few Revs shots from outside in this game. As a team, the Revs need to put more effort into mastering this delicate skill and overcoming the many obvious bad habits they have when they do attempt it. Even though shooting from outside is only one of many ways of scoring, the team that excels at this skill will have a distinct scoring advantage. In the course of a long season, this will make a difference.
Watch out for D.C. on Saturday.