New England Soccer Today

Five Things We Learned: #NEvDAL

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/capturedimages.biz

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/capturedimages.biz

“When a leader takes responsibility for his own actions and mistakes, he not only sets a good example, he shows a healthy respect for the people on his team.” – Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski

Over the course of the Revolution’s current slump, Jay Heaps has often pointed to his team’s performances as the reason for his team’s struggles. Sometimes, he gives specific examples. Other times, he paints a broad stroke. Once, he blamed the referee. But the common denominator among the various explanations is the curious omission of his own role in another summertime slide.

The primary duty of any head coach is to adequately prepare his players for the challenge in front of them. In DC, Heaps cited mental lapses. In Columbus, he said his club didn’t stick to the gameplan. Breaking: it is the coach’s responsibility to ensure those things don’t happen – at least not as frequently as we’ve seen over the last 10 weeks.

When the Duke men’s basketball team drops a game or endures a rare rough patch, Krzyzewski often reminds the media that the blame begins with him. He didn’t do enough to prepare his team. He didn’t make the right subs. He didn’t manage the game well enough. The focus is on him. After all, a team is often a reflection of their head coach, and this is something that Coach K continually emphasizes.

Heaps often says that the team is committed to “the process.” That the trust in this purposely vague concept will see them through these stormy waters. Maybe it will. Maybe it won’t. Either way, it’s clear that the process, as currently constructed, is flawed – and Heaps would be wise to accept his share of the blame for that.

Speaking of blame, we accept our share of the responsibility for this tardy edition of Five Things, which may be a day late, but we hope, not a dollar short.

1. The Revolution’s lack of leadership led to their undoing. It’s no secret that the Revolution have missed Jermaine Jones tremendously since he suffered a second sports hernia injury back in May. But on Saturday, his absence was impossible to overlook. After Mauro Diaz’s ninth minute tally, the Revolution’s response – or lack thereof – essentially doomed them. Instead of pressing the issue to get back on level terms, the guests seemed to be more concerned about the heat than equalizing as Dallas plotted goals no. 2 and 3. Eventually, the Revolution put together a decent spell of attacking football after the interval, then watched it waste away around the hour – something that Jones wouldn’t have stood for. During last year’s scorching sprint to the finish, conceding early seemed to embolden the attack, and Jones’ fiery personality was the biggest reason why. Without him, the Revolution shrank from the occasion, and allowed their hosts to run all over them.

2. Dallas’ speedy attack put a spotlight on the Revolution’s shortage of speed. Our resident coach Rick Sewall has often written that the Revolution need to get faster along the wings. While London Woodberry and Chris Tierney are both skilled at dangerous crosses, and Juan Agudelo can muscle off defenders, all three lack the pace to keep up with a speedy foe. And on Saturday, Rick was proven right. Even though Kevin Alston – the fastest player on the team – was deployed to mark the turbocharged Fabian Castillo, the veteran fullback still needed help even before his body betrayed him yet again. Ditto for Tierney, whom some have claimed is “deceptively fast.” Daigo Kobayashi and Scott Caldwell traded turns offering cover, but given that neither hadn’t yet mastered the ability to make multiples of themselves in time for Saturday’s match, their efforts were essentially Band-Aids on bullet wounds. No team in MLS is perfectly assembled. We get that. But the fact that Dallas – a team that has lived and died leaning on speed – has exploited Revolution’s lack of pace every year for the past four years is cause for concern.

3. The attack has lost its collective confidence. When a team has a dearth of leadership, confidence often wanes, which leads to an attack that becomes deliberate and predictable. Even though the Revolution were only down a goal during the first half, they repeatedly settled for ambitious chances instead of using the quick movements and split-second passing sequences that made them so dangerous down the stretch last year. Lee Nguyen fired a pair of shots from distance, but beyond that, little was stirring for the Revolution in the final third on Saturday. Yes, stationing Woodberry at center back didn’t help the Revolution cause. And yes, we get it: Toyota Stadium felt like a sauna. But those factors shouldn’t have stopped the Revolution from relying on its strengths. When a team as talented as the Revolution is collectively sure of itself, they tear up opposing defenses. When they’re not, well, you get a performance like Saturday’s.

4. Scott Caldwell is going to wear the armband before long. Many have marveled at and written about the kind of season Caldwell has put together so far this year, and with good reason. After playing the role of good soldier as a defensive-minded midfielder, he’s channeled his collegiate self by showcasing an attacking edge more often.  Oh, and who could look past the added grit? Not surprisingly, Caldwell’s stature has grown exponentially, both among the fans and his own coaches and teammates. Heaps and many of the team’s most senior players sing his praises. Of course,  it’s easy to see why: he always holds himself accountable. He leads by example. And when he messes up – like he did on Castillo’s goal – he points the finger at no one but himself. Mark it down: Scott Caldwell will captain the Revolution in the not-so-distant future.

5. Andrew Farrell’s absence gave the Revolution little hope of getting a result. It’s amazing how far along Farrell has come in his transition to as a full-time center back, and that development becomes especially evident when he’s out of the lineup. Without the former first round pick in tow on Saturday, the defense lacked verve and physicality, not to mention a healthy dose of speed, which sure as heck would’ve come in handy against the likes of Castillo and David Texeira. And in case you thought that Farrell’s absence was incidental to the scoreline, consider this: the last time Revolution center back missed time, the defense conceded a season-high four goals at Kansas City on May 20.

 

What else did we learn from Saturday’s match? Tell us in the comments section!

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