New England Soccer Today

Five Things We Learned: #PHIvNE

Photo credit: Chris Aduama/

Photo credit: Chris Aduama/

Be honest, Revolution fans: how confident were you in the club’s chances of getting a result from Sunday’s match once the lineup was released?

Fielding a squad that featured a central midfielder with no MLS experience at center back, a right back who hadn’t played an MLS game in two years, and their best crosser on the bench, no one would’ve faulted you for worrying about what might unfold against, of all clubs, the Philadelphia Union.

And in the early going, those fears were realized, but it had nothing to do with the way the lineup was constructed. Not at all. Aside from the occasional hiccup, Jermaine Jones didn’t look completely out of place. London Woodberry was a revelation on the right, and to the surprise of many, can actually serve a decent ball from the right flank.

What really made the match unnecessarily nervy early on was the fact that the Revolution were allowing the Union to play to their strengths. Fernando Ariseguieta nearly forced a Bobby Shuttleworth own goal, while C.J. Sapong had a point-blank chance that he butchered at the far post. Then there was Jones’ rash foul on Maurice Edu, which opened the door for Cristian Maidana to blast a rocket into the back of the net before halftime.

But the Revolution knew the Union, who were playing their third match in eight days, would wilt in the second half. Fortunately for Jay Heaps, he had Teal Bunbury, Chris Tierney and Diego Fagundez all at his disposal. And all three went on to make an impact.

Yes, it wasn’t the strongest lineup the Revolution have ever fielded. It’s not hard to imagine a scenario in which the locals gets roasted with Jose Goncalves and Darrius Barnes both sidelined, and Bunbury and Tierney both on the bench. Credit the likes Jones, Woodberry and Bunbury for stepping up when it mattered.

Sunday’s comeback win wasn’t just a testament to individual excellence from a handful of players. More than that, it was a reflection of the homework that Heaps and general manager Mike Burns have both undertaken to make this one of the deepest squads we’ve ever seen.

With the lineups alone essentially writing this week’s column, it wasn’t easy to limit ourselves to five talking points. So here are the five that stood out more than Jermaine Jones decked head-to-toe in red.

1. London Woodberry should remain in the lineup until further notice. Show of hands: how nervous were you to see a guy who hadn’t played an MLS game since 2013 at right back? Let’s see, one, two, three, four…100,371, 100,372, 100,373…anyway, you get the idea: Woodberry was on very few peoples’ radar before Sunday. But within 90 minutes, that all changed. The first thing that jumped out at many of us was his dangerous cross to Andy Dorman near the top of the box early on, the first of 11 crosses he’d launch throughout the game. Not long after, he was stiff-arming Raymond Gaddis off the ball. Lest anyone think he was done in the latter stages, he helped set up the equalizer by playing a short ball wide to Bunbury moments before Davies slotted it through. So within an hour-and-a-half, we learned that Woodberry can 1. cross, 2. defend, 3. cover effectively, and 4. inject himself into the attack. Any reason why he shouldn’t be in the XI on Saturday?

2. Jermaine Jones wasn’t terrible at center back, but you don’t want to see him there very often. With Goncalves and Barnes both out, Heaps really had no choice but to put his superstar midfielder in the rear. And you know what? Jones did well not to embarrass his head coach, or himself. With Andrew Farrell’s instincts getting better by the week (more on that in a little bit), Jones seemed to perform his duties without incident. That said, even though he didn’t blatantly undermine his club’s chances, he has to shoulder some of the blame for Maidana’s blast before the half. With referee Mark Geiger allowing play to continue even though Kelyn Rowe was on the ground, Jones took it upon himself to foul Maurice Edu within striking distance of goal. Note: entering the game, the Union had scored two goal from set pieces. Clearly, it was not a smart choice, and at center back, you cannot afford to be rash in your decisions.

3. Diego Fagundez played an excellent game on both sides of the ball. If you thought you were witnessing a replay of the Revolution’s final preseason game during the latter stages of Sunday’s game, you would not have been blamed given Fagundez’s performance. Not only was he a force going forward, but he was a classic pain-in-butt on defense, as well. Overall, Fagundez completed 90.9 percent of his passes, and his instincts on the ball stretched the Philadelphia’s defense, which in turn, opened up wider pockets of space for the likes of Bunbury and Davies. What we saw on Sunday was a confident Fagundez playing near the peak of his powers. If he can continue to harness that form off the bench on a regular basis, it won’t be long before Heaps is forced to put him back into the lineup.

4. Andrew Farrell is quietly becoming a very good center back. All eyes may have been on Jones, but one story that continued to fly under the radar on Sunday was Farrell’s continued improvement at center back. Moreover, the fact that he continues to progress without the benefit of a consistent center back partner is even more impressive. This week, he was paired with a player whom he’d probably spent all of a week training beside. Pro tip: a week’s worth of training is not the ideal amount of time for a center back duo to get acclimated to each other. Despite that, Farrell looked as confident as ever, winning duels and, largely, keeping Aristeguieta under wraps. But perhaps the most impressive aspect of Farrell’s play is that the center back spot is no longer a regular talking point for the Revolution any more.

5. The Revolution don’t make substitutes; they call in reinforcements. You have to think that Heaps is probably the envy of many MLS coaches by now. And who wouldn’t be? On Sunday, he fielded a full-strength front four, and still had last year’s team assist-leader and a guy who scored 13 goals as an 18-year-old on the bench. While many clubs’ substitutes are largely comprised of rookies and retreads, the Revolution’s bench is regularly stocked with real contributors who, as we saw on Sunday, can alter the trajectory of a game. To see Bunbury and Fagundez positively influence the proceedings on the road is one thing. But to see Heaps use them at the right times, and have them spell the right players spoke to how challenging it will be for opponents to gameplan for the Revolution going forward.

What else did we learn from Sunday’s match? Tell us your “6th Thing We Learned” in the comments section.


Leave a Reply