Technically Speaking: #NEvCHV

Photo credit: Chris Aduama/aduamaphotography.com

Photo credit: Chris Aduama/aduamaphotography.com

Even though the main story at moment is the acquisition of Jermaine Jones, the Revs did play pretty well to beat Chivas USA by a score of 1-0 on Saturday. Admittedly, Chivas is weak. They’re in last place, and they hadn’t scored in 344 minutes entering Saturday’s match.

The most glaring weakness of the Chivas team was their almost baffling inability to hold the ball, especially in the first half, when the Revs dominated the possession stat by almost 70 to 30 percent. Their players appeared to have enough skill, but they are missing that critical player with the mental and physical talents to serve as midfield general. If they want to climb out of the cellar of the MLS western division, they need to to find a player (or players) who can provide that vital midfield leadership.

Meanwhile, they created only two on-target threats on goal throughout the game. The Revs were pretty much in control for the whole game – but that, in turn, raises the Question of the Day: ‘Why couldn’t the Revs win this game by more than one goal?’

The Revs’ main successes at scoring this season have been through skillful possession-style attacks that free up a forward in or very near the penalty area, following a sequence of tricky passes. A deserved residue of this style of play is the kind of defensive error on the part of the opposing team that resulted in Lee Nguyen’s 56th-minute winner against Chivas.

This is a very appealing style of play – I’m all for it! – but it can’t stand by itself. The problem the Revs have is that opposing teams anticipate their style of attack, and take steps to frustrate it by clogging up their defensive penalty area as the Revs approach it. The best way, in return, for the Revs to frustrate that defensive strategy is to pose a genuine threat from outside the penalty area.

In basketball, by analogy, the inside game (or ‘game in the paint’) has to be complemented by a good outside shooting game for a team to pile up good scoring chances on a consistent basis. It would behoove the Revs to adopt this way of thinking. They could free up their inside-the-area game if they learned to shoot the ball effectively from distance. That threat would give the other team something else to worry about, something to keep them honest, to keep them from crowding the penalty area.

The main reason Rev players don’t choose to shoot from distance is that they don’t have confidence in their ability to get the ball on target, largely as a result of technical deficiencies. For the most part, they seem to have a single all-purpose method of kicking a ball, and they use it indiscriminately for crossing, set-piece kicking, and shooting. In all these cases, they make contact with the inside of the big toe, use a restricted backswing and an even more restricted follow-through, very often finishing with legs crossed and a too-erect upper body, making it almost impossible to follow their shots. They employ only minor technical changes for shooting and crossing. Beyond that, they are regrettably one-footed.

Admittedly, they do make good contact upon occasion. Nguyen’s goal was a notable exception, as was Neuman’s shot from 25 yards in the 76th minute – which, if it was not picture-perfect, was pretty close to it, a rarity for MLS. But far too often they shoot off-target when they absolutely should not. Daigo Kobayashi and Nguyen both had clear shots from inside the penalty area that soared unnecessarily over the bar.

In short, poor shooting technique will make players instinctively reluctant to shoot the ball from outside the area. A bad miss from inside the area will reinforce this hesitancy.

The Revs coaching staff should recognize these problems and focus on solving them. Learning proper shooting technique and learning to kick with the weaker foot are not impossibilities. If the Revs could create a more balanced scoring style, they would make life much more difficult for opposing defenders. The flow of play this past Saturday could (and should) have led to a 3-0 victory. With an effective outside game, maybe underachieving of this type can become a thing of the past.

Andrew Farrell could be a real offensive threat if he were not so insecure about his shot. He seems to rush and lose all poise when he shoots – yet he has terrific physical abilities, and few ingrained bad shooting habits. His positive mental attitude makes him a prime candidate to focus on refining his shooting technique. If he did, he would become the offensive weapon the Rev brass feel he could be. Besides, I think he wants to lose that beard.

Hope to see Jermaine Saturday vs Toronto.

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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.