New England Soccer Today

Five Things We Learned: #ORLvNE

Photo credit: Chris Aduama/aduamaphotography.com

Photo credit: Chris Aduama/aduamaphotography.com

It was the kind of match that only a referee’s mother could love.

On a sparkling Sunday afternoon in the Sunshine State, the Revolution conceded the earliest penalty call in MLS history and scored from the spot about over an hour-and-a-half later to salvage/stomach a 2-2 draw at the Citrus Bowl against Orlando City.

Amid a season that’s already seen more than its fair share of controversial decisions and non-calls alike, leave it to Baldomero Toledo to cement his reputation as the nuttiest referee in MLS by officiating a match that left players and coaches from both sides incensed at the end.

So what did we learn from it all, with “it” being a mishmash of inspired play, putrid refereeing, and plenty of purple?

1. Penalty strike aside, Lee Nguyen remains in another early-season slump. Had someone other than Toledo been assigned Sunday’s match, Nguyen’s offensive stats probably would’ve looked like this through six games: 0 goals, 0 assists. Double-zeros. Not surprisingly, the Revolution offense has felt the effects of Nguyen’s slow start, as Sunday’s draw marked only the second time this year they racked up multiple goals. Last year, it took until July for Nguyen to come alive. If the Revolution are going to improve upon their fifth-place finish, they’ll need their no. 10 to find his form a little faster. That or a huge swing in refereeing karma. And in MLS, that’s a big ask.

2. Gershon Koffie has been great, but his physicality is probably going to create a few sleepless nights for Jay Heaps. Plan C for Jermaine Jones’ departure has certainly made some fans in New England early on. A gritty ball-winner whose number is rarely forgotten by MLS referees, Koffie has given the midfield a healthy dose of physicality early on. But three cautions and one straight red through six games could not only force him to miss games – it could also alter Jay Heaps’ late-game substitutions. Given how much flack Heaps got on social media for taking out Scott Caldwell late on Sunday, it might be in the best interests of everyone involved to find a way for Koffie to be a little wiser with his challenges. After all, those cards aren’t staying in the pockets of referees as long as they once did (cue the obligatory Paul Mariner sound byte about “the modern game.”)

3. The Revolution have to get mentally tougher. For the second straight week, a momentary lapse in concentration cost the Revolution on the board. When Kevin Molino used his right arm to push the ball ahead of him on his 92nd-minute goal, a host of Revolution defenders immediately shouted for a call instead of staying in the play and seeing it through. Yes, every team is guilty of a momentary lapse. No team stays turned on for the entire 90. But for the Revolution, those moments have come at critical moments, an issue which the coaching staff must address sooner rather than later lest we see more instances of Bobby Shuttleworth getting hung out to dry like yesterday’s training pinnies.

4. Je-Vaughn Watson isn’t half bad at center back. It wasn’t quite the start that the Jamaican International had envisioned, bit credit Watson for bouncing back well from that penalty call inside of a minute. Not only did he refuse to let the play rattle him, but he played with a noticeable swagger that helped keep the Lions at bay before Molino’s shenanigans. We’re not suggesting that putting Watson at center back on a weekly basis is a good idea; we’re just saying that when Goncalves or Andrew Farrell isn’t able to go, the Revolution have a good insurance policy in Watson. A policy that is 97.5 percent better than the notion of Donnie Smith at center back (true story).

5. There’s way too much thinking going on in the final third. Orlando may have brought in the heavy artillery when they introduced Molino and Cyle Larin just after the hour, but the Revolution could’ve stolen their thunder on close-range shots from Nguyen and Charlie Davies in the latter stages of the second half. On both occasions, an extra touch or two was taken, something that suggests the squad is collectively preoccupied with pulling off the perfect shot. This is a simple game; you win the ball, you pass the ball, and you shoot the ball at goal. Sometimes, you win. Sometimes, you lose. Sometimes, you draw. And sometimes, Baldomero Toledo happens.

2 Comments

  1. BWG

    April 19, 2016 at 1:41 pm

    Five things is as good as always! Love the new poll, it does seem appropriate to only have one option! Watson was good and not meaning to take anything away but is there any word on the status of sambinha? Is he just not ready to play? Why bring him in? Hate to sound a broken record but how can you expect the players to stay tuned in when the coach isn’t leading by example? WRT lee and the thinking too much maybe some change is in order in structure of formation give lee some more space put him on the wing either for a game or part of a game and let Diego have time in the middle. Not a punishment or demotion for lee just a different point of view for both him and the team

    • Brian O'Connell

      April 19, 2016 at 7:54 pm

      Thanks, BWG! I spoke to Tom Soehn about Sambinha last week, and I’ll have a story about that convo up this week. Essentially, Soehn said that CBs in the Portuguese Liga aren’t accustomed to playing as quickly as CBs in MLS have to because of the prevalence of the high press. He said there isn’t as much high press in Portugal, so part of Sambinha’s progression is to get him thinking quicker than he’s accustomed to. Re: guys staying tuned in, our buddy Rick Sewall said the same thing in his Technically Speaking piece, so you are definitely not alone in that thinking. It’s hard for me to argue otherwise esp. when Heaps makes it a point to talk about the refereeing after just about every game. As far as switching things up w/ Lee, offensively, I think it’d serve him well. just for a change of pace. But his defense and vision is what makes him perfect for the middle. I’d argue he’s actually more of a no. 10/no. 8 hybrid than a true no. 10. He’s probably the most defensively-sound of the front four, so you’d sacrifice some defense by doing so. But if the Revs happen to have two true DMs (Koffie and Kouassi?) on the field at the same time, you’d have a lot more wiggle room to mix and match the front four, including moving Nguyen to the wing.

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