In their fourth game of the season, the Revs finally began to cook. They improved their play in all three fundamental areas – defense, midfield, and offense – and defeated a team that is notably difficult to beat at home. Score? 2 to 1.
The Revs basically controlled the first half, playing, as announcer Brad Feldman commented, as if they were the home team, rather than San Jose. Indeed, the Revs pressured the Quakes into several embarrassing errors and were, for much of the game, the team in charge.
The second half was more even, with San Jose taking charge midway through the half, especially after scoring their single goal in the 69th minute. After this taste of success, San Jose went pretty much all out to get the winner.
But in response the Rev defense, led by a poised and gritty José Goncalves, dug in to deny the Earthquakes any more scores. At 1-1, the San Jose strategy was definitely to play for the win. Their strategy backfired when, in extra time, the Revs caught them napping on defense with a super-quick restart and fast break. Man of the match, Lee Nguyen, scored capped this attack by scoring a memorable goal.
A major Revs’ tactical improvement centered on the play of Andy Dorman. He solidified the overall defense by positioning himself correctly as a defensive midfielder.
For the last four years, including Benny Feilhaber’s tenure here, I have been complaining that the Revs have played pretty much without a defensive midfielder, because whoever was assigned to play there was chronically so overcommitted upfield that he lost contact with the centerbacks. Good defensive positioning is critical and will solve lots of problems. As Paul Mariner noted during this game, the triangle formed by the two centerbacks and the defensive midfielder was a major contributor to the Revs’ defensive success.
Dorman also played a critical role in the Revs’ most impressive display of possession soccer to date. He sprayed the ball left to right, never wrong-headedly intent on getting it quickly to players in forward positions. Nguyen helped this effort by resisting predictable forward sallies, in favor of running toward his own defense with the simple objective of getting the ball to the next white shirt.
It was very exciting to see Charlie Davies enter the game (I waited for this all last season) and immediately connect with Daigo Kobayashi for a nifty give and go. This gave an extra lift to the offense, which played quite well. If Davies can return to the form he had while playing in Sweden (he had lots of devoted fans over there, including one who now lives in my house), he could be the Revs’ best forward.
Bunbury and Nguyen had excellent games. Andrew Farrell’s participation in the offense bodes well for the future, if he can just break loose of his scoreless doldrums.
Overall, a very satisfying and well-deserved win against a good opponent. Beware of a let-down against D.C. United.