New England Soccer Today

Five Things We Learned: #NEvTOR

Photo credit: Chris Aduama/aduamaphotography.com

Photo credit: Chris Aduama/aduamaphotography.com

It turns out that the Atomic Ant just needed a little luck to get the best of the Revolution.

After he was held off the board in his previous three clashes against New England, Sebastian Giovinco finally found the back of the net against the Revolution in Saturday’s 1-1 draw.

Say what you will about the circumstances that led to his strike (we’ll get to that later), but leave it to Giovinco to deflect his shot right off of Jose Goncalves, leveling the score in the 58th minute.

Aside from the fact that Giovinco’s powers are expansive enough to influence a defender to serve as an accomplice on a dastardly goalscoring sequence, what else can we draw from Saturday’s dramatic tilt between the Revolution and the Reds?

1. The “play to the whistle” theme apparently only applies when the OTHER team is at a disadvantage. Eight days after staying on the gas with an opposing defender down, the Revolution eased off when played was allowed to continue after Gershon Koffie and Teal Bunbury both went down on challenges. While players and coaches alike were barking at the referee for the back-to-back non-calls, the Reds pressed forward, and when Will Johnson’s long ball found Jozy Altidore, the locals were caught in Kemar Lawrence Land before Giovinco punished them. Did the Revolution have a legit gripe on either foul? Yes. But how quickly they forget that play doesn’t stop until the referee blows his whistle. Somewhere in the bowels of Red Bull Arena, Jesse Marsch is snickering to himself at this.

2. It’s not the refereeing; it’s the offense. Jay Heaps has not been a fan of MLS referees this year, and in case you forgot, he proceeded to go off on them again on Saturday. After seeing the aforementioned non-calls, as well as the non-goal in the 92nd minute, the Revolution coach went on to say that five of his squad’s last six games were “decided by referee error.” Whoa there, Jay. True, the referees may not be at their best early this season, but the very same could be said about the Revolution offense. In their last five games, they’ve scored a whopping three goals, and only two at home this year. Worse, they’ve been held to a goal or less since their season-opening three-goal explosion. The talk of referees negatively influencing the Revolution’s fortunes is merely a distraction from a larger problem. A problem that – spoiler alert – has nothing to do with the kind of day Edvin Jurisevic or Nima Saghafi is having.

3. Gershon Koffie proved why his spot was never in question following his red card ban. In the days leading up to Saturday’s game, Heaps told the media that he had options when asked whether the returns of Koffie and Je-Vaughn Watson to the XI were foregone conclusions following their red cards bans. Well, based on what we saw on Saturday, there is only one option at the no. 6 spot: Gershon Koffie. The 24-year-old midfielder connected on 92 percent of his passes, collected six interceptions and, according to Heaps, had a “near perfect game.” He may not be Jermaine Jones, but then again, he doesn’t need to be. He doesn’t need a billboard proclaiming his presence. He doesn’t need his own bobblehead. He just needs to be himself. And if it’s saving the Revolution a few million dollars in the process, then all the better.

4. Lee Nguyen has been eerily quiet since his return from National Team camp. There’s no doubt that the Revolution playmaker was deserving of the new deal he received last month. That said, the early returns have been uncharacteristic of the 2014 MVP finalist. Since coming back from National Team duty, Nguyen has only fired three shots over the last 180 minutes, and the two efforts he put on frame weren’t particularly dangerous. While the creative midfielder has been a slow starter for the last two years, the Revolution are going to need him to find his form quickly to escape the offensive doldrums. After all, Taylor Twellman is not walking through that door.

5. The latest injury to Juan Agudelo should remind us why the 4-4-2 wouldn’t work. For all the sentiment behind the Revolution going with a 4-4-2 as its preferred formation, one need only look at the recent injury history of the two players who figure to be at the top. Davies suffered a hamstring strain in the second game of the season and hasn’t started since. An injury to Juan Agudelo made him a late scratch for Saturday’s game, leaving Teal Bunbury and Femi Hollinger-Janzen as the only healthy strikers available. The knocks to Agudelo and Davies are nothing new. Both have struggled to stay healthy during their time here. Unless the Revolution trainers have the technology to create to bionic hamstrings and titanium ankles, it makes little sense for Heaps to switch to a two-striker setup anytime soon.

3 Comments

  1. BWG

    April 12, 2016 at 7:16 pm

    Brian,

    What do you think the challenges are with the offense? I read an offhand comment from Rick last week that the middle of the pitch is fine and it is the wing play and some commentary on other sites about the need for DP quality striker. I am not sure. The more I look at it the more I feel the problem is the middle of the pitch. We have some incredibly talented players with the ball at their feet, Lee, Rowe, Diego. Lee especially is very talented off the dribble. I feel the weakness is the lack of incisive players with quick passes and incisive movement. The middle players are good with the ball at their feet and so don’t always need to be incisive but the time spent allows the opposition too much time to collapse and pack in leaving no room for productive passing but lots of unproductive passing. Consider as well when Lee and the team was most productive a couple years ago was when he spent less time with the ball at his feet and quicker in distribution and shooting. Some of the best chances this year have come with Caldwell this year (he is very quick with his distribution and it opens the play not always productive with it but quick). Not sure what the solution is. Jones at his best was a very incisive player. From what I’ve seen of koffie, he doesn’t have that same edge (not saying I don’t think he is a good player). I think we more need a center of the pitch DP (classic box to box) to improve the team. Is this way off base? Is this something that can be improved with the current personnel or needs new?

    Looking back at the winning and losing streaks the past few years I think they can be directly attributed to periods of quick play and passing versus getting caught in cycles of playing with the ball at their feet

    • Brian O'Connell

      April 13, 2016 at 10:34 am

      Hey BWG,

      My own take on the Revs offensive woes boils down to predictability in the final third. Yes, they’re loaded with talent up front, but generally this is the same group that’s been in place for the same 3-4 seasons. The book on Fagundez, Rowe, Bunbury, Davies, et al is well-read by now. They haven’t adapted. They haven’t tweaked many things in the last 3 years. Generally, everyone knows that guys like Rowe, Nguyen and Fagundez all like to cut inside while the fullbacks provide width. If you don’t change things around, you’re relying on the aforementioned to make their own adjustments, and we haven’t seen enough of that (case in point: Fagundez is severely right footed). Nguyen is a great dribbler like you mentioned, but sometimes he leans on that too heavily when he’s not confident on his shot (esp. early in the season). I think Koffie was a great add in light of Jones’ departure/Kouassi’s injury, and maybe the latter is the solution. We probably won’t know until next year. Right now though, they need to figure out what they can do to keep teams off balance. The goals will come sooner or later as their play generally quickens as the season progresses. But right now, it seems like opposing defenses are reading this offense well enough to keep them from hurting them. I think the true test will come in the summer, a time when this team historically hits a lengthy snag.

      • BWG

        April 13, 2016 at 12:23 pm

        Thanks a lot for the reply! All the points make sense to me. Appreciate the thoughts

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