For the third straight game Lee Nguyen was named Man of the Match, and he did so while playing against a good, albeit undermanned, Sporting Kansas City side. On paper, the 3-1 score may imply that the Revs controlled in this game. But in reality, it was a chippy game that put the referee Ismail Elfath to work and was, more or less, evenly played throughout. One thing was for sure, though – this was a much more evenly played match than the one seen in Toronto days earlier.
Lee Nguyen’s play gets better with each and every game, making it a challenge for other MLS teams to get a result when playing the Revs. It would behoove opposing coaches to think about adjusting their defense to counteract Lee’s play, because he’s well on his way to becoming one of the league’s top-shelf talents.
It might take a tenacious man-to-man defender (consciously targeting his right foot) within 40 yards of the goal to help stop his penetrating passes (let him have the sideways and back passes), his possession dribbling, his willingness to battle for the ball, and (last but not least) his considerable goal-scoring talents. In any event, kudos to Lee for his excellent play and to the Rev coaching staff for nurturing it.
By my estimation, three of the four goals in this game were a result of bad defensive errors, the one exception being Nguyen’s 48th minute goal (though he could and should have been marked more closely by Sporting, as he was just outside the area when he shot).
The first, of course, was Soony Saad’s ninth minute header. It was pretty clear to see that Teal Bunbury was on the wrong side of Saad when he scored his header in the 9th minute. He should have been between Saad and the goal (“goalside”), which he admitted after the game.
Ironically, Bunbury would be the beneficiary of a defensive blunder before the half. To be fair, Seth Sinovic may have been on a yellow card when Bunbury scored in the 45th minute, but this is no excuse for sloppy marking. Bunbury slipped around him far too easily, maybe because Sinvoic thought the ball was handled. In any case, all players should always, I mean always, play the whistle. Both commentators had high praise for Sinovic’s overall play in this game (which I agreed with), but they failed to mention this costly, and completely avoidable mistake.
Lastly, Nguyen’s well-taken instep drive in the 94th minute resulted from a terrible Lawrence Olum giveaway. If you want a textbook lesson in what can happen when you lose your focus inside of your own end, cue the DVR a few seconds before Nguyen starts his celebration.
Regarding good and bad fortune in soccer: Bunbury’s goal happened when the ball deflected off of Sporting’s Matt Besler. Some may consider this a stroke of luck, but I say this is just the sort of “luck” that will result when a team consistently shoots the ball with the instep, on target, and from both inside and outside of the penalty area. While it can be best to aim the ball when close to the goal, to counter the keeper’s cutting down of the angle, shooting for luck requires only getting the ball on target, preferably with pace, and with the shot as low as possible.
An erect body while taking a shot on goal, especially during the follow-through, is a strong indication that a player has made too little effort to shoot the ball low and on target. Kelyn Rowe’s 11th and 77th minute shots, both well over the bar, are examples (unless he was aiming the 11th minute shot). The same was true with Besler’s 92nd minute shot from 16 yards. Hopeless. In the second half, Sinovic shot wildly from distance with little or no thought about technique other than to hit the ball with his shoe laces. Again, hopeless.
Proper shooting technique requires a lot, and I mean a lot more, than these displays. Professional players, with an almost daily routine, can and should do a lot better. The first thing they should practice is simply looking at the ball. They, for sure, don’t do this while shooting during a game.
The problem is that technique and concentration go together, and the team that figures this out will be dominant. So far, nobody has, from what I’ve seen.Patrick Mullin’s 87th minute well-taken shot on target from distance was an exception. Sporting keeper Andy Gruenebaum had to make a nice diving save to keep it out of the goal.
Overall, the outlook for the Revs is positive. Jermaine Jones is a fine passer and it’s clear that he knows his way around the field. Nguyen and Jose Goncalves can play like authentic stars, and most of the rest of the team can, at least much of the time, play at the level needed for a team to win games in the MLS. Barring injuries, there is no good reason why the Revs cannot continue their winning streak, make the playoffs and do well in them.
I’m genuinely looking forward to the Fire on Sunday.