Technically Speaking: #PHIvNE

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/capturedimages.biz

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/capturedimages.biz

The Revolution, using a revamped lineup from last weekend (five player changes) were able to improve their play considerably this week, but were still unable to beat the Union, losing 1-0. That’s a lot better than losing 4-0, though.

The game started off fairly evenly, but from about the 18th minute to the end of the first half, the Union clearly took and kept control. They scored in the 31st minute from Sebastien Le Toux and had the chances to score at least one more. The Revs had an excellent chance in the 38th minute on a close-in shot by Diego Fagundez on a nice feed from Teal Bunbury, but Zac MacMath made a great save.

A major reason for the home team’s superior effectiveness was their ability to attack with their wing fullbacks, Raymon Gaddis and Fabinho, coming at the Rev defense almost at will, particularly after the 18-minute mark. An important defensive principle, especially at the professional level, is that wingers or offensive midfielders have got to mark the overlapping, or attacking, fullbacks. Paul Mariner, as Rev TV commentator, cited this rule in frustration about a half-dozen times in the first half alone, faulting Diego Fagundez and Donnie Smith for their apparent obliviousness to it.

In the second half, the Union switched to more defensive play, calling off the dogs by having the fullbacks more or less stay home. They created their scoring chances on the counterattack instead, and had six or seven very good ones. Under these circumstances, the Revs were able to improve their possession game, but they still created only one good scoring opportunity – Fagundez’s nice shot at the keeper from about 30 yards around the hour mark.

The Union defense was strong. MacMath was not seriously challenged. All he needed to be up to the task was good steady play.

Last November at Kansas City, and last week at Houston, the Revs had big problems with their ball possession game. This difficulty continued yesterday, reaching embarrassing proportions in the first half, when the Revs were able to hold the ball only 28% of the time, to the Union’s 72%. Although possession statistics are obviously not as important as the final score, any self-respecting professional team should do a lot better than this.

The best way to establish a team rhythm and consequent possession game is to spread out and pass the ball around, being patient about advancing the ball. I can think of three possible reasons for the Revs possession problems: (1) the players are not skillful enough to hold the ball; (2) they are being coached improperly (or counter-productively); or (3) some combination of the first two. Technically sound players like Fagundez, Lee Nguyen, and Kelyn Rowe need to show more patience, and be relentlessly schooled to have more of a ball-possession mindset. Let’s hope this problem gets solved, and soon.

Jay Heaps made a good decision in going with the 4-2-3-1 formation. Scott Caldwell and Andy Dorman played well together, and were a real help to the back four. I have never seen Caldwell play better. Losing by only one goal meant that the Revs were always in the game.

Before the game, I thought the Revs would need good luck to get any points out of it. I don’t think they had good luck, but they didn’t have bad luck either. The better team won, but the Union were also better because they were playing their first game at home. Another professional axiom? “Win at home.” Maybe this will help this coming weekend versus Vancouver.

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About Rick Sewall

Rick Sewall played four years at Yale University (1961 to 1965), nine years semi-pro for New Haven City (1966 to 1974), three years on the Connecticut Senior All-Star team (1972 to 1974), one year for the Boston Minutemen (1975), three years for Framingham Belenenses (LASA League, 1980 to 1982), and many years of over-30 and over-40. He has coached at all levels from kindergarten through college, including Boston Latin High School from 1986 to 1999 and girls’ club soccer from 1991 to 2005 (including two Mass. state championships) and runs camps and clinics focusing on technical training. A USSF B licensed coach, he was taught by, played with, and has coached with and for Hubert Vogelsinger, his primary soccer mentor, for over 40 years.