New England Soccer Today

Shaken, Not Stirred

The Jay Heaps Era kicked off in a remarkably similar fashion to the way the Steve Nicol Era ended: lots of long balls, a lack of possession and the absence of the finishing pass.

With a number of areas that still need improvement, the Revolution opened the 2012 season with a 1-0 loss to the Earthquakes on Saturday at Buck Shaw Stadium.

Chris Wondolowski scored in the 15th minute while Jon Busch stopped the only shot he faced to spearhead San Jose to victory. On the other side of the pitch, the Revolution debuted seven new faces, including first round pick Kelyn Rowe, who started on the right side of the midfield.

Without the services of starting defender Darrius Barnes, Heaps was forced to go with a makeshift back four. Center back A.J. Soares slid to the left, while Stephen McCarthy saw his first start at center back.

Nine minutes into the match, the Revolution attempted to take the focus off their back four when Clyde Simms – one of the seven newcomers – slid a pass inside the box to Benny Feilhaber. But the winger’s shot strayed wide of the near post.

Despite the early look, it was the Earthquakes that took advantage of their early chance. In the 15th minute, Shea Salinas grabbed a Shalrie Joseph giveaway and raced into space and fed it ahead to Wondolowski, who buried it to put the hosts on the board.

Instead of plotting a response, the Revolution was left reeling. Unable to get a foothold on the proceeding, they predictably reverted to their 2011 form with a familiar brand of Route 1 ball.

With their execution faltering from the run of play, the Revolution reverted to another trademark of last season: potential redemption on set pieces.

In the 32nd minute, Feilhaber sent a free kick from the right channel into the area, where it was flicked toward the far post by Soares. But once again, the ball went wide of the post.

Meanwhile, the Earthquakes nearly sneaked one by on a free kick of their own in the 34th minute. Marvin Chavez fired one into the 18, where Wondolowski nearly redirected it through before the ball jumped over the bar.

Feilhaber found another chance to equalize in the 48th minute, but was betrayed when a heavy first touch in the shadow of the net allowed Busch to smother the opportunity.

The long balls and heavy touches continued through 80 minutes. And that was just fine by the hosts, who were more than happy to allow their opponents to play right into San Jose’s hands.

With the attack in dire need of a spark, Heaps inserted attacking midfielder/withdrawn forward Lee Nguyen in the 79th minute. It was a move that nearly worked to perfection.

Two minutes into his Revolution debut, the former PSV Eindhoven playmaker single-handedly put the hosts on notice when he dribbled along the touchline and toward goal. With a tight look on goal, Nguyen tried to put it on the doorstep, but San Jose defender Victor Bernardez deflected it toward Busch to close the door.

In stoppage time, Feilhaber came within inches of stealing a point when he launched a long-distance shot that flew just wide of the far post.

When it was all said and done, the team that went undefeated in preseason play was all but missing from Saturday’s match. Rowe played confidently and even showed a few flashes in the defensive third. Simms did well to mop up in the rear and Lozano played a physical brand of football against San Jose striker Steve Lenhart.

After Saturday’s loss, the Revolution will get their next crack at win number one when they play Sporting Kansas City at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park on Saturday,  Mar. 17. Kickoff is scheduled for 8:30pm ET.


  1. Jim

    March 11, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    I couldn’t agree more with the assessment. Im glad I’m not the only one who felt that this looked exactly like last years team.

    It looked like there was a big disconnect between the wingers and forwards. Wingers would collect, and pass blindly to the forwards who either couldn’t get the ball or would have nowhere to go with it either lose it or make some stupid pass back.

    Things looked a lot better in the second half when Benny moved to a central position and took command of the attack. That 442 from the first half was atrocious offensively.

  2. Chris B

    March 11, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    It only looked a little like last year’s team. The Revs stayed in the game the whole time and even though it didn’t look like it, they did according to the stats. The problem was they did not play well as a unit because a lot of players individually were actually pretty good, only a few players (Alston, Joseph) were glaringly bad. The one mistake cost us, which is similar to last year, but I think when Tierney comes back and when Soares comes back from injury, the defense will be very good. Last night they were actually okay; last year’s defense gave up more goals against San Jose, this year they kept Wondo considerably quiet. He only scored from a terrible mistake and was riding the offside line.

    Let’s see how the team responds to this. If last year’s team beat SKC at home and then drew them at LIVESTRONG, let’s see if they can take it a step further and win! Can’t wait to see if Nguyen starts as well as a healthy Sene and a present/healthy Moreno!

    • Sean Donahue

      March 11, 2012 at 4:52 pm

      The stats last year in San Jose (a non-playoff team) were every bit as close, if not better. Shots nearly equally, Revs actually with more possession and I think the Revs actually had some decent offensive chances and held San Jose off the scoreboard until the 71st minute. Offensively I’d argue they did better in San Jose last year.

      That said, I do think this team will be better with more time and everyone healthy.

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