New England Soccer Today

Technically Speaking: #NEvATL

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: What did you make of the Revs gameplan against Atlanta this time around?

Rick: The main purpose of a game plan is twofold: (1) to organize a solid defense, and (2) to set up an offense that creates scoring chances. The Revs succeeded. They defended well enough to get a shutout, and they created enough scoring chances to score, especially toward the end of the game.

The Revs basically exerted high pressure for the whole game, crowding the attacking half of the field with six or seven guys when Atlanta was in possession. This was a game plan I cannot fault, given Atlanta’s propensity for a possession game, the problems practically all MLS teams have had playing on the road (high-pressure them!), and the Revs’ familiarity with the Gillette artificial turf. Diego Fagundez’s dead-on chance in the 23rd minute and the numerous chances the Revs created in the second half provide enough evidence for me, overall, that the game plan was the right one. Basically, of the two teams, the Revs were the more likely to score.

Add in the Revs’ 61% : 39% advantage in ball possession, and it’s pretty clear that the game plan was appropriate.

What more would you have liked to have seen from the offense?

Rick: Despite a game plan that resulted in multiple good chances to score, the Revs did not. The question is, obviously, why?

New England is very good at passing the ball around in the offensive third of the field; they mounted showy performances in this regard several times in this game. This style, however, gives the opposition time to stuff their penalty area with defenders. The Revs lacked that final spark to get the ball around them and into the goal.

To light that spark, the Rev forwards have to become more proactive in their style of play. Wingers have to be able to make it to the end line before crossing (like David Accam of Chicago); this knack has eluded the Revs all season. I also wish that Kei Kamara would run fast from far post to near post (like Taylor Twellman or Jamie Vardy) when getting crosses from the near-post side. This works better than just standing in the middle of the area and waiting for the ball. I realize that both these ‘knacks’ are expensive, but if the Revs bought just one for next year it would pay off for them big-time.

As it is, opposing teams can stop the Rev offense by packing a lot of players in and in the vicinity of their penalty area, knowing that the Revs have neither the dynamism nor the long-distance shooting power to score (a deficiency discussed often in this column).

Finally, good kicking from the back can result in more fast-break scoring chances. As it was, the Revs got only one of these, in the 57th minute, with Fagundez, Nguyen, and Caldwell getting a 3v1 break. Fast breaks are great scoring chances because there are very often far fewer defenders in the area. 1v1 or 2v2 are better scoring chances than 7v7 or 8v8.

Were you surprised that Tom Soehn didn’t use all three subs?

Rick: From the standpoint that the team had only two days of rest, I am surprised that only two subbing opportunities were used.

The subs who did not come in were Kobayashi, Watson, Angoua, and Kouassi (add keeper Cropper). Many have asked why Xavier Kouassi wasn’t subbed in, say for either Scott Caldwell or Gershon Koffie, neither of whom is known as a particularly effective attacker. I think a better tack might have been to attack with six players (four forwards, two offensive mids), putting Daigo Kobayashi, the better offensive threat, in behind the forwards. I would not have subbed Chris Tierney out – his left-footed cross and in-swinging corner from the right side are too valuable as offensive threats.

My full solution might have been to take out Koffie, Fagundez, and Caldwell, and go with a forward line of (left to right) Tierney, Kamara and Agudelo (your two best goal scorers), then Bunbury, with Nguyen and Kobyashi backing up the front four. On defense, I’d put Dielma (another lefty), Delamea, Farrell, and Angoua (subbing for one of the defensive mids), with Angoua at right back because he is better than Farrell offensively.

But who knows? After watching them practice on a daily basis, the staff is in the best position to place players on the field. We spectators can only hypothesize. What I do know for sure is that going all-out to get a goal was called for, considering the playoff picture.

What do you think is the biggest difference between the way the Revs have played at home versus how they’ve played on the road this year?

Rick: Familiar surroundings? Home cooking? Cheering fans? Who knows exactly why teams win more at home than away? But in the Revs case – so far not winning away at all – the situation is dire.

One thing I have seen is that, for one reason or another, the Revs are much more assertive at home, much more willing to apply the high press. I remember, in particular, the away Chicago Seattle, and NYCFC games. In all of these, the Revs basically camped out in their defensive half of the field and relied on the counterattack for scoring chances. I would rather be the possession team, as the possession team usually wins. (Unless, of course, your team is the 2015-16 Leicester City team, that rare counter-attacking team that won the EPL, going away, with a season-long ball possession rate of 40%).

The Revs do not have a good goal-scoring record in away games. This problem can be solved if the Rev staff approaches scoring with a comprehensive mindset. They need to cover all the bases when preparing for scoring opportunities. Specifically, the team has to be as strong as possible in all aspects of attacking play – passing, wing play, striker play, and, last but definitely not least, shooting. And this prescription applies to the whole team, backs included.

What stood out the most from Saturday’s game?

Rick: The Revs’ focus and effort were very consistent throughout the game, and if one team deserved to win, they did. And hurray, no Rev yellow cards!

I can’t overstress the importance of having that Schweinsteiger-like midfielder on your team, as an experienced player at midfield makes for a coherent offense – and this in turn makes a huge difference in the outcome of many games. I think the Revs’ off-season number-one priority should be finding one, even more important than a dynamic forward.

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