The Revs and Dynamo tied 1-1 Saturday night in a very tough and evenly played game. Considering the fact that (1) Houston were last year’s finalists, and (2) that they are the more experienced team, the Revs should be pleased with their performance, even though they did not get the much-needed three points.
Four events in the game stand out in my mind. The first was the very nicely taken – and nearly successful – free kick by Chris Tierney in the 39th minute. You rarely see a team kick a ball around the outside of a wall, away from the center of the field. This surprise move, coupled with the speed with which the kick was taken, forced goalkeeper Tally Hall to respond instantly to an emergency situation. Unfortunately for the Revs, the shot hit the post before Hall pushed it out of danger.
The second was the entrance of Juan Agudelo into the game. From the time he appeared in the 62nd minute until the Houston goal, the Revs were impressively in control. In the 64th minute, while running half-speed, he executed a dazzling behind-the-leg pass to Lee Nguyen. It gave Nguyen an excellent shooting opportunity, as he was directly in front of the goal, just outside the penalty area, with only a single defender in front of him. Undoubtedly from lack of confidence in his left, he opted instead to flick the ball to his right with his right – and the opportunity was frittered away.
After a sweet feed by Nguyen to Saer Sene led to New England’s only goal of the night, the Revs followed up with two more attractive pass sequences, either of which might easily have resulted in a goal. Then, in the 70th minute Fagundez put a nice ball across the goalmouth, barely failing to connect with Agudelo for an easy push in. In the 73rd minute Agudelo turned and volleyed, skimming the ball just over the crossbar. These were rapid-fire demonstrations of skill that are a blast for players and fans alike. The idea is to shoot the ball on target as quickly as possible. In these fourteen minutes, the Revs scored one goal and came close to scoring four or five more.
The third notable event – the only downer – was the Houston goal. Andrew Farrell may be criticized for failing to clear the ball and for not marking Bruin properly, but where were the rest of the Rev players? A.J. Soares was down (am I being unreasonable to think he could have gotten up and played his position?), but the rest of the team just wasn’t there. With less than 20 minutes in a game, up 1 to 0, it’s kind of basic to think defensively. This the Revs did not do.
The fourth was the last kick of the game in the 95th minute, when Sene took a free kick from 35 yards. The ball was well-struck, with a lot of dip on it, bouncing just after crossing the goal line. His technique was good, with one exception – he crossed his legs on the follow-through. This technical lapse may have been enough to account for its spinning just outside the left post.
Rev players are still shooting the ball over the crossbar too often. It’s hard to say how much this betrays lapses in technical knowledge versus lapses in concentration. In volleying the ball, it is especially challenging to keep the ball on target and under the crossbar. The shooter should focus primarily on kicking the ball down and at the goal line. I don’t see them doing this.
Anyway, Saturday’s game was good, well worth the ticket price. The Revs are trying to play attractive soccer and having some success. If they keep up this way, they’ll have more success in the long run.