New England Soccer Today

Technically Speaking: #NEvRSL

Photo credit: Chris Aduama/

Welcome back to another edition of “Technically Speaking,” where our resident coach and former pro Rick Sewall takes a closer look in the Revolution’s latest performance.

Have a question for Rick? Feel free to ask away in the comments section!

NESeoccerToday: Obviously the Revs aren’t going score 4 goals every game, nor are they going to face a team as depleted as Salt Lake every week. From a coaching perspective, what would you tell the players in the locker room after the match?

Rick: Given my personal coaching style, and knowing that the players are totally aware of the game schedule and future challenges, and don’t need to be reminded of them, my first instinct would be to take about ten seconds to say something like “Nice game, practice on Monday, and I am looking forward to the game against Columbus on the 21st.”

Pushed to say more, I would have complimented them on the rare feat of scoring four goals in one half. But then I would probably have felt compelled to add that, although they beat RSL handily, they were still vulnerable to a so-so attacking team in the first half. The ball was in their penalty area far too often, and RSL had some decent scoring chances. Turning to the positive again, I would have pointed out that they definitely stepped up their defensive game in the second half, rendering RSL far less dangerous that half. To finish, I would have said something about the challenge of the upcoming game with the Crew and the opportunity we have to redeem ourselves there.

How would you set your front 4 or 5 once Juan Agudelo returns to health?

Rick: If he’s healthy for Sunday, I would likely switch back to the 4-2-3-1 formation against Crew SC. This is a more defensive formation, and one likely to improve communication, because of the two defensive midfielders. I’d put Kei Kamara up top, with Diego Fagundez, Lee Nguyen, and Juan Agudelo behind him to round out the attacking four. Kelyn Rowe would once again play left back, with Chris Tierney on the bench, and Andrew Farrell would stay at right back. I’d put Scott Caldwell and Xavier Koassi at defensive mid. Benjamin Angoua would be Toni Delamea’s partner at center back, with Cody Cropper between the sticks.

What should be the biggest takeaway from Saturday’s match for the Revs going forward?

Rick: Even though the Revs should be happy, overall, with the way they played against RSL, I wouldn’t be too buoyed by this game, considering how weak the depleted RSL side was. The Revs face against a much more formidable (though beatable) opponent in Columbus.

With that in mind, what should the gameplan look like against Crew SC?

Rick: When Crew SC attacks down the wings (as they did so often in the first game), here’s what should happen: one of the center backs provides immediate support to the fullback the opposing winger is bearing down on. Simultaneously, one defensive midfielder drops back into the vacated center back slot, and Lee Nguyen falls back to become the second defensive midfielder.

Another critical problem: how do the Revs deal with Federico Higuain? Is there any defender – or or any player at any position, for that matter – on the roster who has the focus and discipline to mark him over the course of 90 minutes, whenever Higuain is in his offensive half of the field? This is not easy to do, but far from impossible. Would Scott Caldwell be up to the challenge?

I know man-to-man marking is not in vogue in the modern game, but it might be applicable, given the constant threat from a player like Higuain. These are all questions the coaching staff must ask in order to prepare a solid defense.

In light of that, I’d suggest a strategic game plan like this:

1) Get your defense set, with all players knowing their roles and how all of these roles interact.

2) From this solid defensive basis, at least until the game settles in (say after the first 20 or 25 minutes), assume an opportunistic (counter-attacking) approach to offense. Assuming all is going well by that time, strive to get more ball possession and mount a systematic, assertive attack, while never failing to cover up consistently and conservatively on defense.

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