On Saturday, the Impact, the worst team in the conference with only seven points ot its credit, beat the Revolution, the first-place team with a point total of 23, 2- 0 in very convincing fashion at Stade Saputo. The hosts dominated in the first half, then prudently fell back in the second to hold onto their lead.
How did this happen? Well, for one thing, Montreal has some good players, and Revolution coach Jay Heaps will tell you the same thing. Attackers Marco DiVaio, Jack McInerney (strikers), Issey Nakajima-Farran, Felipe, and Andres Romero (midfielders), match the best five Revs attackers for talent. For performance, they completely outclassed them on Saturday. The Impact’s use of the long pass was especially effective, enabling very skillful players, DiVaio and McInerney in particular, to put tremendous pressure on the Rev defense.
Another reason for the upset was that a last-place team, when playing a first-place team, will almost always try harder. Simply put, the Impact were desperate for a win, the Revs were not. The psychological advantage in this kind of match-up inevitably tips to Avis over Hertz. There is little a coach can do to alter this reality. The Revs had a tiger by the tail, and simply could not respond to the Impact’s numerous first-half offensive forays.
In 45 minutes alone, Montreal had a player one-on-one with keeper Bobby Shuttleworth not once, not twice, but six times: Romero at the 2-minute mark (goal), Nakajima-Farran in the 10th minute (Shuttleworth save), Romero in alone again in the 20th minute (Shuttleorth save), an encore by Nakajima-Farran in the 31st minute (Shuttleworth save), McInerney in the 38th minute (goal), and DiVaio in the 46th minute (Soares’ sliding save, after DiVaio eluded Shuttleworth).
Six golden scoring chances are far too many for any team at this level to cede. Indeed, the Revs were lucky to be down by only two goals at halftime. They were also fortunate when, in the 26th minute, DiVaio stumbled in the penalty area, taking away another great chance.
A normally-strong Rev defense just wasn’t up to the task in the first half. They looked lackadaisical and appeared to have difficulty communicating. Occasional defensive lapses can be excused, but the Revs got left in the dust way too often. Their lack of urgency was particularly noticeable on the McInerney goal, when Revs defenders stood and watched while he, all alone, pushed in a rebound off Shuttleworth’s save.
In the 54th minute Kelyn Rowe made an undeniably excellent run and shot on goal. I blame the heavy fall he took after the shot, though, on his habit (shared by most of the Rev forwards) of striking the ball with the inside of his big toe.
This technique makes it much more difficult to maintain balance after shooting, because it leads to a crossed-leg follow-through. Classic shooting technique, by contrast – striking the ball with the instep surface of the foot and following through straight toward the intended target – keeps the player on balance and makes it easier for him to follow his shot in hopes of a rebound and easy push-in goal.
In the last two games the Revs have switched to out-swinger corner kicks. I have no problem with the change, but I’m wondering why the switch was made.
Anyway, all teams in a 34-game regular season will probably have at least one clunker. As an old baseball manager once said, “Some you win, some you lose, some get rained out.”
Boston could sure use a stadium similar to Stade Saputo. The field looked terrific.
Look out next week, New York. Will the great Thierry Henry deign to play on our improved artificial turf?