New England Soccer Today

Technically Speaking: #SKCvNE

Photo credit: Chris Aduama/

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

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

NESoccerToday: Now that we’ve seen back-to-back Revs games in which the video assistant referee has had a profound effect on the outcome, what do you think of the concept? Would you do anything to change it?

Rick: I’m of two minds on this issue.

First, by using technology and the VAR to resolve referee calls, some of the human element is taken away from the game. Call me old-fashioned, but I believe in the human element. Most essentially, I feel that coaches and players should be able to accept any referee decisions (good or bad) without argument, and without the use of videos and the irritating game interruption that accompanies this use.

But second: I am still haunted by the overtime winning goal (or non-goal?) in the 1966 World Cup final. Did England win that game fair and square, or did the ball bounce down partly on the goal line? A VAR could answer that question – and I can see possibly limiting electronic monitoring to determining whether a goal was scored.

A third consideration is that I am inclined to accept any method, including the VAR, if it makes the referees’ job easier. I don’t know how refs ride with the abuse they take from coaches and players in many games. But I’m not sure having the VAR would end up helping in this respect, since frequent video reversals could serve to undermine trust in (and therefore respect for) the human referee even further.

As a former player, why do you think Nemeth was inclined to throw an elbow at Zusi, especially that early in the game?

Rick: Nemeth has been described as a very experienced and intelligent player. I would guess that, at that moment, his adrenaline level got the better of his judgment. It was a huge mistake, and I strongly imagine that he realizes this and regrets it.

My message to him and others is that, even given the importance at the professional level of winning, you primarily need to play these games for fun and for pride in your professionalism. Good sportsmanship, best described as an attitude that rises above an id-driven craving to win at all cost, leads to a generally positive approach to the game. And positive attitude is not only critical for avoiding red cards and injuries, but also improves players’ focus and performance.

Every MLS team practices playing a man down. How do you think the Revs played while they were down to 10 men?

Rick: The Revs were outclassed by a better team from the beginning of the game. Yes, they scored the early goal (I have frequently said that shooting for luck, as Teal Bunbury did there, is a good idea), but it was accomplished completely against the flow of play. KC, a very good possession team, was dominant from the start and would very likely have remained so throughout the game even if the Revs had been able to keep playing with 11 men.

Overall, the Revs did OK with 10 men, but they also had a serious problem on the left side of their defense, especially in the first half. The removal of Chris Tierney at half time was the correct one. I also feel as if they could have borne down and played tougher defense for those last 80 minutes of the game. Allowing three goals and several other KC near misses showed pretty clearly that the Revs have defensive weaknesses that go beyond playing a man down.

Aside from Nemeth’s red card, what stood out the most about Saturday’s game?

Rick: I get a little frustrated when players talk about how frustrated they get. Sure, I can understand that the Revs might have struggled to stay positive and focused after an early red card blasted their game plan apart (especially given that they were just coming off the recent Atlanta 7-0 debacle).

But players at all levels – and certainly in the pros – need to rally when s*** happens, instead of letting frustration worm its way insidiously into their psyches. They need to remember that they are playing a fun game in front of big crowds for money. What can make an athlete happier than that?

With the Revs’ playoff hopes essentially dead, from a coaching perspective, how would you keep the team motivated during these final 5 games?

Rick: First, I would have practice sessions that are creative and original, sessions that the players will enjoy. Second, I would try to find a way to emphasize individual improvement (technical and tactical). All players have weaknesses that can be worked on. They will feel good, despite their team’s place in the standings, if they sense that their own performance is being honed. Third, I would make it very clear that coaches often judge players precisely by their attitude and work ethic when the playoffs are, realistically, out of reach. You can see which players really love the game when there doesn’t seem to be much to play for.


  1. tom

    September 20, 2017 at 6:04 pm

    Wise words from an experienced, knowledgeable and canny player and coach. I nominate Rick Sewall to be the next coach of the Revolution, or at least be an advisor in the search process.

  2. Steve Sherlock

    September 25, 2017 at 8:59 pm

    Rick, I watched the 4 min highlights of the Portland-Orlando game this weekend where the VAR reviewed a call that resulted in a yellow card and penalty. Does the league use those moments for education with the ref? Would seem to be readily available now for the ref or assistants in positioning or rule review?

  3. Rick Sewall

    September 26, 2017 at 8:12 pm

    Good point,Steve. Reviewing the VAR does have the potential to help refs self-monitor and improve their performance.

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