In a game the Revs deserved to win by at least two goals, they squeaked by D.C. United with a 2-1 victory. But who cares – three points are what counts. After the first 15 minutes the Revs clearly outplayed DC. The number of corner kicks was perhaps the most telling statistic, 12-1 in favor of the Revs. Beyond that, the Revs had numerous great scoring opportunities, highlighted by several dangerous shots taken by Kelyn Rowe, Lee Nguyen, and Saer Sene.
D.C., by contrast, was able to create only a few scoring chances. By rights – at least according to my own rule of thumb, which is that a team needs five or six good scoring opportunities to convert a single goal – they didn’t deserve to get on the scoreboard at all. Luckily for them, one of their opportunities was a nice pass by Luis Silva that Scott Caldwell slotted in for a Revs own goal. It’s probably true that the Revs came out too casual in the first 15 minutes of the game – but the reality? If you play any position in central defense, sooner or later you will score an own goal. It’s part of the game.
Electrified by the shock of the own goal, the Revs suddenly began to play attractive offense, spreading the field (with the wing fullbacks, Andrew Farrell and Chris Tierney, positioning themselves strategically right on the sideline), using a nice combination of possession and direct play, and becoming more and more dangerous as the game wore on. I still wish for a dominant central midfielder to quarterback the offense, though. Last week I mentioned Scholes, Pirlo, and Reichart. This week I’ll add Ya Ya Toure of Manchester City. Pure class. He was sensational Sunday vs. Manchester United.
Once again, referee calls played a part in the outcome of the game – this time in the Revs’ favor. The first penalty call (which Nguyen failed to convert) was, at best, a fifty-fifty situation. Fagundez was definitely offside on the goal that immediately followed. The sideline referee was running toward the end line and just plain missed the call. The lesson for Revs fans? Over a long season, all teams will suffer from dubious or even bad calls, but they’ll also luck out a few times. I say get used to it, and concentrate on playing the game correctly (a tough enough job in itself). Energy spent obsessing over referee calls is energy wasted.
Nguyen deserves a lot of credit for drawing the second penalty by taking Lewis Neal on aggressively in the area. A direct challenge like this puts the defender under tremendous pressure, and indeed Neal reacted poorly. By facing Nguyen directly, the way he did, he gave him a chance to go to either his left or his right. When Nguyen picked the right, Neal couldn’t turn quickly enough and resorted to sticking his foot out helplessly, causing the penalty in a vain attempt to win the ball. If, instead, he had adopted a “side-on” defensive stance in the first place, facing his left sideline and forcing Nguyen to the right, he would have had to turn 45 degrees at most to stay between the attacker and the goal, and he wouldn’t have been caught so obviously flat-footed.
Speaking of footing, Revs badly need a new natural grass field. They’re trying hard to play skillful soccer, but artificial turf makes it difficult for players at nearly any level to perform well. The ball just bounces around and runs out of bounds too easily. Add football lines all over the place – and a field only 106 yards long – the playing situation gets dire, especially with important games coming up. A proper field would attract good players and would also show respect for the fans, a point the Rev brass should consider.
In the meantime, though, let’s hope the Revs can capitalize on these pitch peculiarities to unsettle visiting teams. Beat Houston!