By Rick Sewall
FC Dallas beat the Revs 2-0 last Saturday, in a game a lot like last Wednesday’s game – with FC Dallas taking the lion’s share of prime scoring chances. While the Revs again maintained the ball-possession advantage, this time by a significant 55% to 45% ratio, Dallas was far ahead on all other significant game statistics.
Indeed, it could be argued that the Revs’ only genuine scoring chance was Diego Fagundez’s close-in try in extra time of the second half. Raul Fernandez, the Dallas keeper, saw very little action. Pretty much all he did was make two less than challenging saves (with Patrick Mullins and Kelyn Rowe shooting) and to punch away a pair of Chris Tierney crosses in the 26th and 42nd minutes. He didn’t have to make a diving save or tip a ball over the bar at any point in between the first and final whistle.
Bobby Shuttleworth, on the other hand, was repeatedly forced to come up strong. Andres Escobar’s 19th, 54th, and 69th minute shots are good examples, but he was not the only player to threaten for Dallas. Blas Perez, Matt Watson, Moises Hernandez, and Tesho Akindele all had excellent chances, with Escobar (29th minute) and Akindele (91st minute) actually scoring. And, of course, let’s not forget Bobby’s great save on Diaz in the closing moments of the game – a stop that’s actually up for Save of the Week on MLSSoccer.com. All in all, the Revs were fortunate the final score wasn’t similar to that of the LA game. Dallas was as dominant as the Galaxy.
Jay Heaps made several personnel changes to start the game: Charlie Davies for Mullins, Scott Caldwell for A.J. Soares (suspension), Stephen McCarthy for Jose Goncalves (injured), Steve Neumann for Diego Fagundez, and Daigo Kobayashi for Kelyn Rowe. These were appropriate changes for good reasons – to shake up the team after a poorly played LA game and to adjust because of injury and suspension, but they ended up making little difference in the team’s performance.
For the first 15 minutes, before Dallas began to pile up the scoring chances, and intermittently throughout the game, the Revs were able to pass the ball around with a lot of confidence. One reason, I’m beginning to think, that they cannot turn possession into scoring chances is that they simply don’t have enough team speed. With the exception of Teal Bunbury and maybe Davies, if he gets a step back, they just don’t have the kind of explosive speed needed to challenge and beat a defender to the end line before crossing. This deficit was especially obvious when they were playing a team graced by Hernandez, Akindele, Watson, and especially Escobar. This is obviously not be the only way to create chances, but if no one on your team is a threat to do it, life gets a lot easier for opposing defenses.
Andrew Farrell should be able, with his speed, to stop a forward in a 1v1 situation. Maybe not every time, but at least most of the time if we’re talking about a player contending for a national team call-up. He has failed to do so in each of the last three games: Chicago (Quincy Amarikwa), Los Angeles (Gyasi Zardes), and Dallas (Akindele). Against Chicago, Amarikwa’s resultant shot was the game-winner; Zardes’s was stopped by a fine Shuttleworth save; Akindele’s was the second goal against the Revs.
The Galaxy’s loss to Kansas City on Saturday throws further perspective on my last week’s lamentation about the Revs’ deficient man-to-man defense. On Wednesday, Robbie Keane and Zardes torched the Revolution defense. Sporting Kansas City, by contrast, gave the Galaxy nowhere near the time and space they were given by the Revs. As a result, their connection on passes was largely ruptured, and all they could muster was a single goal.
The power shooting technique (or lack thereof) used by Rev players continues to result in over-the-bar and wide shots. In this game, no single Revs shot was struck with any authority and on target. This situation could be greatly improved with a concentrated overhaul in shooting technique, but overcoming bad habits is difficult at best, and impossible if openness on the part of the players to adjustment and change is not there.
One neutral evaluation I read ranked this game’s three stars as 1) Escobar, 2) Shuttleworth, and 3) Akindele. I agree.
More and more I hear fans saying that the Krafts are using the Revs as a tax write-off. I have no idea of the truth of this allegation, but I’d feel better if the Revs would spend more money to acquire new players.
Let’s hope a week’s rest will help vs. Columbus.