New England Soccer Today

Five Things We Learned: #NEvMTL

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

Backing into the playoffs. That’s how the Revolution are doing it this year.

With one of their last chances to gain some momentum before the playoffs, the locals looked like a team going through the motions, and were put on blast by a motivated Montreal side that eked out a 1-0 win on Saturday.

The latest loss for the locals not only extended their winless streak to four (0-3-1), but it was also another reminder that the team’s collective mojo – which essentially propelled them to the MLS Cup last year – is clearly somewhere on a tropical island sipping a pina colada, and may not make it back in time for the playoffs.

But this column isn’t about booking trips, or finding the best deals on airfare. It’s about what we learn with each successive match. So let’s turn our attention back to Saturday. To the record crowd. To the sight of Didier Drogba at Gillette Stadium. And, sadly, to the forsaken set of points left on the pitch by the hosts.

1. The Impact made Lee Nguyen look ordinary. The book on containing the bleached-blonde playmaker has been top-seller in MLS this year, and it was clear the Impact not only read it, but highlighted all the important stuff before Saturday. How do we know this? Well, the Impact made sure that resident irritant, Marco Donadel, was close to Nguyen at all times. Anytime Nguyen got the ball, Donadel got in his face. Anytime Nguyen made a run, Donadel disrupted it. Heck, Donadel didn’t even have to do this for an entire 90, rather, only until Nguyen started taking it out on referee Mark Geiger. After all, frustration is the fatal flaw of every no. 10. With Nguyen flustered, the Revolution became predictable, and allowed the Impact to focus their attention on other things, like clearing away one poor cross after another.

2. The only thing the Revolution attack is succeeding at lately is ghosting on the rest of the team. Prior to Saturday’s match, there were a few Twitter debates raging about the root of the Revolution’s recent stumbles. Was the defense (seven goals against) to blame, or was it the offense (two goals scored)? After Saturday’s match, it seems like now is an appropriate time to paraphrase a former U.S. President: it’s the front four, stupid. After all, when a team unleashes the likes of Nguyen, Juan Agudelo, Kelyn Rowe and Diego Fagundez, and can’t even score at home, the answer is abundantly clear. Alas, this is what happens when talent doesn’t play to its potential: they deliver an hour-and-half of uninspiring soccer. They get shut out by the Impact twice in a month, draw the Union at home, and get whitewashed by the Fire. They put the added pressure on the defense to pitch a shutout, and that’s a big ask for a team that’s been sketchy at best in the back as of late.

3. All it takes is one moment of carelessness to lose a late-season home game. Some would argue that a fair result would’ve been 0-0 given the way both offenses performed. Although each side had ideas (the Revolution having more than the Impact, to be fair), the final product was lacking far too often on each end. But it is precisely in matches like this in which a defense has to be mentally locked in. After the Impact pretty much flailed at their chances during the first half, the Revolution all but escorted Ignacio Piatti, in all his majesty, toward their area before he uncorked a brilliant shot that lodged itself into the net. Moral of the story: defenses must be at their best when the postseason nears. After all, when the leaves turn and the cool autumn air arrives,  the team that makes the fewest mistakes often prospers.

4. The turf definitely affected Didier Drogba’s influence on the match. It’s no secret that opposing coaches and players have lamented the prospect of playing on Gillette’s unnatural surface. Red Bulls boss Jesse Marsch complained on more than one occasion that it didn’t allow his team to play the short passing game while Union coach Jim Curtin essentially said that last month’s 1-1 draw may as well have been played in the Bar Louie parking lot. While Impact manager Mauro Biello didn’t go out of his way to rip to the turf, he did mention that it impacted (pun intended) Drogba’s game. With the unforgiving surface beneath him, the 37-year-old striker had to conserve his energy, and often dropped back to help out the defense instead of making a number of his trademark runs. Although he fired a team-high four shots, he wasn’t quite the same player the Revolution encountered last month at Stade Saputo.

5. Barring a miraculous reversal of fortune, the Revolution won’t be making a return trip to the MLS Cup final. Sorry to say it, Revolution supporters, but it’s looking less and less like the locals are destined for another trip to the final. Last year, they were an inspired group, a team that played well, and at times, punched above its weight. They authored a classic underdog story en route to the final. They were a team of destiny. But it’s obvious that moment in time is no more. And proof of that came on Saturday, when a first-choice XI playing in front of a record-setting home crowd couldn’t even find the back of the net once.


  1. Jesse Kane

    October 20, 2015 at 10:53 pm

    Apparently playing in front of large crowds does not equal success? Hard game to watch at the stadium. Just hoping they still make the playoffs.

    • Tony Moninski

      October 21, 2015 at 10:39 am

      They’re pretty much in. Just appears to be a one-and-done campaign this year. No fairy tale run barring an incredible turn around in form.

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