New England Soccer Today

Technically Speaking: #PHIvNE

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/capturedimages.biz

Welcome back to another edition of “Technically Speaking,” where our in-house coach and former pro Rick Sewall dissects the Revolution’s latest performance.

Have a question for Rick? Fire away in the comments section!

NESoccerToday: What does conceding an early penalty on the road do to a team psychologically, and how can they overcome that daunting hurdle?

Rick: First and foremost, Jay Heaps, who must have known that he was outgunned by the Union from a manpower standpoint, could better have begun the game in a more defensive posture. The fact that C.J. Sapong got into a very advantageous position with the ball at the three-minute mark, resulting in the PK goal, gives evidence that the Revs should have started more defensively. Even after that first goal went in, I would have done all I could to shore up the defense instead of being too concerned about getting a tying goal. Allowing an early goal is tough psychologically, but allowing another would really hurt, especially when playing away from home with your team missing at least four starters.

I say keep the deficit at one goal for as long as possible. The Revs performed fairly well in this regard by holding the Union scoreless for the remainder of the half – but Philly scored about two minutes into the second half. The Revs appeared to have fallen victim to the post-half danger time (dangerous because a restful half-time break can lead to a lapse in focus). If the Revs had been able to bear down defensively for more of the game, they might have frustrated the Union – and you never know when a game will turn in your favor. A tie would have been a great result for the Revs, given the Union’s manpower advantage.

All defensive players need to have an awareness about when and why a game is about to turn against them and an instinct for how to take preventive measures. They should ideally be able do this without instructions from a coach, but it’s still the coach who sets the game plan.

What did you make of the Revs response following the penalty?

Rick: The Revs tried to play their normal game too soon, looking for that equalizing goal. Because they were outmanned, they just plain did not have the personnel on the field to make that goal a viable reality. What the personnel on the field did make viable was a second Union goal. I would have dug in and played defensively for most of the game and hoped for a stroke of luck or a psychological turn.

In your opinion, what seems to be the common themes for the Revs on the road as they continue to search for that first road win?

Rick: All teams have difficulty playing on the road. First, your team needs to be rock-solid defensively, and this the Revs are not. It is too easy for opposing teams to get behind the Rev back four. Andrew Farrell made some great plays, but only after having to chase an opposing winger down for close to 50 yards. For any opposing player to have this type of freedom is a sign that something is not working with your defensive system.

Scoring goals is, obviously, also important. The Revs are too one-dimensional in their approach, attempting almost exclusively to score from within the penalty area. They cross the ball well (especially with Kelyn Rowe and Chris Tierney) and head the ball to goal well (especially with Juan Agudelo and Kei Kamara); other times they make a lot of tricky passes down the middle to get the ball into the area to score. Because playing away puts a team at a natural disadvantage, a varied and balanced offense is essential for success.

2 Comments

  1. Mike Kennedy (@mekncl)

    July 4, 2017 at 9:54 pm

    Great analysis, thanks Rick. In terms of starting out defensively, would you have changed the formation? Or was the lack of personnel for this game a limiting factor?

    Also, I’m curious about your thoughts on the role fatigue may have played given many were involved in the USOC on Wednesday.

  2. rick sewall

    July 5, 2017 at 9:07 am

    Mike, I appreciate your comment. I thought that the left side of the Rev defense with the two Smiths was below par defensively, lacking both athleticism and experience. Before the first goal I would have liked to see Andrew Farrell back on defense, either supporting Angoua or taking on C.J. Sapong himself. I also would have begun the game with two defensive midfielders, either in a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-4-2.

    I can’t see that fatigue was that much of an issue, as three full days to rest should really be enough. But, then again, from personal experience I know I used to love to play in the heat partly because I knew other players didn’t. Maybe the Union players felt this way too.

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