Technically Speaking: #NEvPHI

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/capturedimages.biz

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/capturedimages.biz

The Union beat the Revs 3 to 1 Saturday night in what seemed to be a sloppily played game by both sides. I am not sure whether my impression was unfairly influenced by watching too many World Cup games played at a higher level, whether the Revs’ performance still suffers from playing on artificial turf as opposed to natural grass (there is still a perceptible difference, despite the new field turf), or whether the two-week World Cup break in MLS play simply made both teams rusty. Maybe I’m just mistaken on all counts.

Anyway, the Revs began fairly well, coming close to scoring at the 10th, 13th, 17th, and 20th minutes. Zac MacMath, the Union keeper, also made serious handling errors at the 5th and 6th minutes, either of which could have resulted in a Rev goal. The Union improved their play as the half progressed, nearly scoring in the 26th minute (Edu glaring miss), the 27th minute (LeToux miss off the goal post), and the 39th minute (Okugo shot). They finally hit pay dirt when LeToux beautifully poached a goal, taking advantage of a heading mistake by Goncalves.

The Revs at that point, playing a goal down, convincingly controlled some of the second-half play, especially that between minute 51 and minute 55, when they had three good scoring opportunities. The Revs’ all-out search for a tying goal here was understandable and could hardly be faulted, except that it led to defensive carelessness and a second Philly goal. A counterattacking Danny Cruz never should have been allowed to dribble the ball almost two thirds of the way up the field to shoot and score. The Revs’ attempts to prevent this debacle were almost embarrassing, especially when Soares failed to take the chance presented to tackle hard (taking a yellow card in this situation would have been a right thing to do). There were 6 Rev players around Cruz when he shot, but none seemed to have the necessary sense of urgency to do anything, about it. They could have at least tried to supply cover for another defender. Andy Dorman was nowhere to be seen – even though, since his main job is defense, he should have been right there in the mix. He also did a poor job tracking Conor Casey in the 63rd minute.

The Union’s third goal in the 77th minute once again resulted from poor defense (and an almost weird lack of the aforementioned sense of urgency, despite its occurring just after two fine Philly scoring chances in the 75th and 76th minutes). The Revs looked as if they were almost sleepwalking! Le Toux, an experienced and savvy player, was left alone 13 yards from the goal and had more than enough time to receive a pass from Wenger and shoot into the goal. It was a weak shot, but it was good enough, given the lax defense. Once again, Soares was the man nearest Le Toux. He should have been a lot nearer and man-marking properly – but all the Rev defenders were simply wandering around. Once again, Dorman was out of position, daydreaming outside the penalty area.

Very often a team will enter the second half down a goal. It is critical from the start of the half for them to show patience on offense and to be aware of defensive responsibilities – and this means all players. Each player has to ask himself what he can do to help his team on defense, and do it. For the last two Union goals the Revs simply failed on this score. The standing around was astonishing, especially on the third goal.

Conor Casey, Cristian Maidana, Danny Cruz, and Sebastien LeToux make up a skillful and super-experienced scoring quartet, a group never to be underestimated. They have a quiver full of ways to help a team score – Cruz by speed, Casey by toughness, LeToux by wiliness, and Maidana by playmaking. No wonder Philly was considered a strong pre-season playoff contender!

Maurice Edu may be a good player, but I can see why Klinsman didn’t take him for the national team. His shooting display in the 26th minute showed sub-par shooting technique, and his very weak stab at defense on Sene’s goal in the 73rd minute unveiled another reason for his non-selection.

How about the displays of shooting at the World Cup? So far Wesley Sneidjer gets the prize. His tying goal in the 88th minute of the Netherlands’ game vs Mexico was shot with technique as close to perfection as a player can get. This is the technique I have been attempting to describe in this column for the past year and a half. I hope everyone saw it.

Tough game to come vs Real Salt Lake.

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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.