Technically Speaking: #CHIvNE

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/capturedimages.biz

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/capturedimages.biz

The Revs and Fire tied Saturday, 1-1, in a game where it could be argued that both got what they deserved. Each side had excellent chances – point-blank opportunities, in fact – to win the game. But the finishing touch simply was not there for either, resulting in a frustrating tie for both – especially, perhaps, the Fire.

The hosts had a distinct advantage for most of the game, even while playing a man down for 17 minutes late in the game. The poorly taken 90th minute penalty by the Fire’s Juan Luis Anangono was an unmistakable sign that, despite their pluck with only 10 men, Chicago did not deserve to win the game.

For the Revs, the first half was notable for the fact that it was their left back, Kevin Alston, who was largely responsible for all three of their scoring chances for the half (in the 6th, 12th, and 30th minutes, the last of which resulted in Lee Nguyen’s nicely-taken penalty shot). Except for Nguyen’s passing ability, especially evident in the ball to Alston just before the penalty, the Revolution midfielders and forwards had little offensive impact on the game.

A bungled offside trap resulted in the Fire goal in the 16th minute. Speedy, capable players like Quincy Amarikwa have to be watched more carefully. On Amerikwa’s goalscoring sequence, Andrew Farrell or A.J. Soares should have run with the Fire forward, who was clearly the Fire’s most dangerous player – that was until a second caution spelled a premature end to his afternoon.

A major reason that the Fire didn’t deserve more than a tie was Amerikwa’s red card in the 73rd minute. As promising as his 2014 has been so far, Saturday’s dismissal proved that he is lacking the poise and maturity to be a truly excellent striker. Look out if he grows into these qualities, though.

The second half saw an improved performance for the Revolution, most notably in ball possession. They went from 39% for the first half to about 48% for the whole game, a very real improvement. Nonetheless, the Fire still found excellent chances in the 58th, 77th, 79th, 81st, and especially the 90th minute (when it was almost a miracle that the ball did not go in the goal – twice, counting the missed penalty).

The Revs had a superb chance of their own when, in the 87th minute, Chris Tierney missed a point-blank shot after Teal Bunbury’s elegant run past Greg Cochrane.

The Revs still have goal-scoring problems. They can’t seem to get behind, or past, the opposing defense. Buying an explosive winger would be a solution, though an expensive one. Short of that, they have fast outside backs in Alston and Farrell – timely fullback overlapping could be a winning strategy.

Good professional soccer teams pride themselves on their ability to spread out, to “share” the ball by passing quickly from player to player, to demonstrate a lot of patience in building the attack – but then to recognize the most opportune moment to strike at the goal. As a general rule, despite a modern coaching truism that players should keep the ball moving all the time, the best players show a definite preference for stopping the ball before they pass it.

This is wise for two reasons: (1) it is easier to pass the ball accurately when it is not rolling, and (2) it is easier to look up and around, for increased field awareness, when the ball is not rolling. Although a player cannot stop the ball every time he gets possession, it should be a frequent first choice to do so, especially in the defensive and middle thirds of the field.

Superior ball possession, of course, does not guarantee a team’s success. In Sunday’s EPL clash between Everton and Manchester United, the Toffees beat the Red Devils 2-0 despite being out-possessed 61% to 39%. Everton won the game by giving Manchester a clinic in all other aspects of the game.

Sporting Kansas City will likely present a stronger challenge than the one seen in Chicago. But with the new turf underneath them, the Revs may just be able to find the form they showcased two weeks ago against Houston.

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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.