New England Soccer Today

Larger Issues Loom Following Loss

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/capturedimages.biz

After facing Crew SC 11 times in the last three years, the Revolution should have known the drill when it comes to facing a crafty and creative squad on Saturday: stay organized.

But whatever lessons the locals may have learned about their conference foes went to waste in Saturday’s 2-0 loss at MAPFRE Stadium.

The guests were undone by goals in the early going of each half, marking the third straight game in which they conceded multiple strikes.

“I think it was communication across the backline, letting them go when we probably should have stayed with them,” Revolution coach Jay Heaps told the media after the match. “One area where we were a little disappointed was how we came out in the second half.”

Indeed, for all intents and purposes, Federico Higuain’s 53rd-minute goal ended any hope of a Revolution comeback. But how the guests allowed the Crew to poke holes in the defense is a development that goes beyond what unfolded on Saturday.

The Revolution haven’t used the same backline in seven straight games, as Heaps continues to rotate Josh Smith and Benjamin Angoua at the center back spot next to Antonio Mlinar Delamea. Then there’s the continued use of Kelyn Rowe at left back, a spot that once belonged to Chris Tierney but is now in a state of flux.

And the reason why Rowe, a midfielder by trade, is playing left back? A clear lack of confidence in keeping Tierney in the XI, as well as a reluctance to use the card-prone Je-Vaughn Watson and the all-but-forgotten Donnie Smith.

Meanwhile, defensive midfielder Xavier Kouassi hasn’t shielded the center backs particularly well, which has led to more than a few moments where the mix-and-match defense is left exposed. And on Saturday, it cost his team dearly.

On Crew SC’s second goal, Kouassi failed to track Higuain, who ran to the box unimpeded before he picked up Ola Kamara’s pass and scored.

“We made some adjustments, we felt we were right there,” Heaps said, “and we got played through and we were just a little bit out of position on their second goal.”

The Revolution were also caught out of position on the first Columbus goal, as well. With Justin Meram bearing down on the defense, the Crew SC midfielder sent it through for Kamara, who eluded Smith and Andrew Farrell. Neither defender was quick enough to react and seconds later, Cody Cropper was picking the ball out of the net.

“Maybe we have to communicate better with our midfielders to be tighter on the guys in front of us,” Smith told the media after the match, “and try to communicate and work on that.”

A consistent back four would probably go a long way for a team that’s struggled with communication. Better play from Kouassi would help as well. Ditto when it comes to defensive depth.

But until the coaching staff and brain trust adequately address these issues, the Revolution will continue to be undermined by the same thing that’s cost them points against teams like Columbus over the years: poor communication.

“We didn’t have the quality that we can usually have,” said Heaps. “Tonight we were a little bit off in the final third, and I thought in the first half there were opportunities, but we gave a ball away and we got punished for it.”

3 Comments

  1. Mike Kennedy (@mekncl)

    May 7, 2017 at 6:39 pm

    By focusing on the final third, while technically he’s right, it also shows Heaps doesn’t understand the defense is having issues also. The reality is there are problems all over the field.

    Heaps is clearly losing his grip and needs to be replaced.

  2. JimM

    May 8, 2017 at 12:14 pm

    For years now the mantras are “a little bit off”, “not communicating enough”, ” we’re getting killed with crosses into the box” and “lack of energy/energy”.

    Can we fix these or get new buzzwords?

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