New England Soccer Today

Five Things We Learned: #SEAvNE

Photo credit: Brandon Bleek/

Photo credit: Brandon Bleek/

You know what the best part of season-opening defeats like the one the Revolution suffered on Sunday in Seattle? They hardly mean a thing in the scope of a 34-game season. And last year’s First Kick showing (or lack thereof) is proof positive of that.

The Revolution didn’t just stomach a hard-luck defeat to the Dynamo to kick off the 2014 season. They suffered a humiliating and harrowing experience that, at the time, many believed was a bad omen for the locals going into a season in which much was expected. The postseason berth from the previous year? Total fluke. The losses of Matt Reis and Juan Agudelo? Too much to overcome. Jose Goncalves contract dispute? There goes the defense. The doomsayers were out in full force even before the buds on the trees started blooming.

As we all know now, that humbling night Houston wasn’t a harbinger of things to come. It didn’t stop them from finishing second in the east, blind draws be damned. It didn’t stop them from powering through Conference competition during the postseason. And it didn’t stop them from nearly pulling off a title game upset against one of the most complete teams to ever grace an MLS pitch. That night in Houston was a distant memory by the time autumn arrived.

So to anyone who stayed up to watch Sunday’s match that’s truly concerned about the Revolution, and their fortunes going forward: it’s going to be OK. This team is far from finished. The Revolution will be fine. And not just because of what happened last year.

Rather, it’s because they have really good players. Good players who, once they’re all healthy, will remind us why the Revolution are favorites to win the conference this year.

To quote a certain quarterback/insurance pitch man: R-E-L-A-X. Relax.

With the early-season PSA out of the way, let’s take a look at what we learned from a yang of last year’s 5-0 home victory over Seattle.

1. Looking good during the preseason and looking good in the regular season are – you guessed it – not the same. Playing soccer in Tucson is not the same as playing soccer in Seattle, that’s for sure. Case in point: Think about the center backs the first teamers faced during the winter. Then think about the ones they faced on Sunday. Yeah, it’s not so easy when you’re matched up against the reigning defender of the year, or a guy who nearly made the U.S.’s World Cup roster, albeit as a fullback. Another thing that’s not so easy: playing in front of 40,000 of the league’s loudest fans, all of whom are rooting against you. Yes, there were reasons to be confident in the Revolution’s chances going into this game. But as we saw, there were also a number of reminders of how tough it can be to translate preseason success into the regular season.

2. Lee Nguyen and Jermaine Jones can’t return soon enough. To be fair, the lineup that Heaps trotted out for Sunday wasn’t exactly a B-team. It featured a confident Diego Fagundez, a motivated Juan Agudelo, and an inspired Kelyn Rowe, who was playing in his home state. But all that wasn’t enough to keep the attack from lacking ambition on the break. Instead of grabbing the ball back, and trying to catch the Sounders on their heels, the Revolution were much too methodical, much like they were in their preseason finale against FC Tucson. The locals performed as if they knew they couldn’t play to their strengths without Jones and Nguyen. Whether that approach is smart or overly cautious is up for debate, but either way you look at it, the Revolution attack clearly lacked the customary bite and ambition necessary to truly put the Sounders on their heels.

3. Sunday’s game may have been the best thing to happen to Andrew Farrell. Yes, watching your team concede three goals isn’t exactly the kind of a performance any defender will hang his hat on. And that second goal? Obafemi Martins should send an Edible Arrangements fruit bouquet to Foxboro for that one. But even though it wasn’t Farrell’s best performance by any stretch, the good news is that he may have just got his toughest game out of the way right off the bat. From here, you have to think things will only get smoother. That the worst is over. That he’s smart enough to take Sunday’s experience as a teaching moment. And with a focus on fixing the mistakes he made, the Farrell we saw on Sunday is likely to become more scarce as the season goes on. Or at least that’s the hope.

4. Referee Juan Guzman gave the Sounders a break they didn’t really need on his penalty call. Given the way the Sounders played, there was little doubt that the hosts were going to find the back of net at some point during Sunday’s contest. Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins were simply too much for the Revolution to contain. But the Sounders were all but gift-wrapped the lead when Guzman – who was a late replacement for Armando Villarreal – pointed the spot after Dempsey was tripped by Agudelo in the area. And we use the term “tripped” advisedly. Yes, everything is clearer on replay. But given how early it was, and how loud the nearly 40,000 fans in attendance, was Guzman guilty of officiating to the crowd?

5. Stefan Frei single-handedly (literally) shut the door on any hopes of a Revolution comeback. The locals may have looked generally outclassed by the Sounders, but there was a moment in the 40th minute in which the stars nearly aligned for a potential equalizer. After Rowe pounced on a ball inside the Sounders’ end, he charged ahead and unleashed a screamer that, against a lesser keeper, would have found the back of the net, and led to a goal of the week nomination. But Frei was up to the challenge, and sprung to his right to make the acrobatic save. Had the ball beaten him, it’s likely the Revolution would’ve gone into the half with a 1-1 score, and just as importantly, the momentum going into the second half. Instead, Martins immediately scored the Sounders’ second goal after Frei’s save and, well, Rowe’s potential heroics became nothing more than a mourned fantasy.


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