New England Soccer Today

New Look Defense Takes 1st Step

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/capturedimages.biz

Offseason signing Antonio Mlinar Delamea may have deemed his first MLS match “a bad debut,” but that assessment might have been harsh all things considered.

Yes, the Slovenian international would’ve preferred to flip the score of Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Colorado. Even so, the fact the Revolution defense – which featured recently-signed center backs (Delamea and Benjamin Angoua) and a fairly new keeper (Cody Cropper) – only conceded once was a bright spot amid an otherwise disappointing performance for the guests in Colorado.

“I thought our defense played well tonight,” Revolution coach Jay Heaps told the media after the match. “I thought our center backs combined well defensively.”

That Delamea and Angoua were both in the XI for the opener was a mild surprise. The duo had only played together for portions of the final two preseason matches due to Angoua’s early-winter hamstring injury.

However, their performances were generally positive. Angoua connected on 83.7 percent of his passes, while Delamea’s rate was 79.4. Interestingly, both recorded the same number of clearances (7) and aerial wins (4).

“I think we’re still trying to (get to) know each other because we didn’t play a lot of games together even in (preseason) games,” Delamea told the media after the match. “We made only two appearances together, I think this can be a problem, but we have (another) week to prepare for our next game.”

While it may have been a big ask to have Angoua get his first 90 in nearly two months at altitude, neither the thin air nor the lack of familiarity with his teammates seemed to negatively affect the backline. At least for the most part.

In the 51st minute, Angoua was called for a foul on Dominique Badji deep in New England’s end, setting up a dangerous Dillon Powers free kick.  During the scramble for the ball inside the box, no fewer than three Revolution defenders were unable to clear it before Jared Watts flicked it up for Badji, who scored.

“I saw one guy was making a block,” Delamea said, “so we let Doyle get some space, and he actually made a great header and it was unlucky (the ball) hit the bar and came back to their feet and somehow they scored. The biggest problem wasn’t that, the biggest problem was that we didn’t play as we know.”

True, the Revolution didn’t play nearly to their full capabilities on Saturday. The offense struggled to generate the kind of chances needed to set the tone, or find an equalizer.

Despite that, Cropper said the guests stayed organized in the face of Colorado’s attack, a development that seems to suggest the Revolution are far from falling into dire straits.

“Defensively, we were very compact, and we worked on that during the week and during preseason,” Cropper told the media after the match. “So I think our shape was very good, we just need to be stronger in certain areas.”

The ways Heaps saw it, each of the Revolution’s newer faces in the rear made an impact, which at this stage of the season, is all any coach can ask for.

“I thought Cody made a save early that was critical,” Heaps said. “Other than that, there wasn’t a ton in the game, it wasn’t a barnburner, so to speak.”

One Comment

  1. Rick Sewall

    March 6, 2017 at 9:02 am

    I am still confused as to why Heaps put Nguyen at striker and Agudelo at offensive midfield. Of the two, Juan is the better goal scorer, especially in the air, and Lee can be excellent with the ball, both passing and dribbling as a withdrawn player. As it turned out, Lee saw very little of the ball, and Juan’s offensive contributions were disappointing.

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