New England Soccer Today

Lechner Boosts Attack

Flo Lechner’s crossing ability changed the game for the Revs on Saturday. (Photo: Joshua Pearson)

Perhaps the most impactful change head coach Jay Heaps made on Saturday night in Toronto wasn’t planned at all. With right back Kevin Alston picking up a first half knock, Heaps turned to German veteran Florian Lechner and the change played a big role as the New England Revolution came back from two goals down to draw 2-2 against Toronto FC.

When Lechner entered off the bench, he offered some much needed width and had the team’s only two successful open play crosses. The first, in the 80th minute, led to a Saer Sene shot that Miloš Kocic came up big to make the save on. The second resulted in Chris Tierney’s equalizing goal in the final minute of stoppage time.

“And then it showed you that Fio Lechner had an excellent impact on the game because as soon as we got forward, he has that calm resolve to pick someone out in the box,” Heaps told the media after the match when discussing the second half comeback.

While Alston is no stranger to getting forward and offers pace that Lechner cannot match, the 31-year-old German offered a different look. For a team whose outside midfielders often cut inside and at times provide little width, opponents – such as the Columbus Crew last week – can sometimes find success defensively by clogging the middle of the field. Toronto had some early luck doing the same.

To counter that strategy, the Revs either need more width from the midfield or wide support from the fullbacks. When Alston ventures forward, he often cuts inside rather than sticking to the sidelines – often playing into the opposition’s strategy. With Lechner, who thus far has shown an ability to put in a consistently dangerous cross, the Revs have a more constant presence on the flanks.

Having to account for Lechner forced Toronto to stretch their defense, opening holes in the middle and creating more space across the field when the Revs attacked. The impact Lechner had on the offense – in spite of his subpar 57.5% passing accuracy when all was said and done – began to open up the game far before the team made the eventual switch to a 4-3-3.

Of course it helped to be playing a Toronto team that has struggled on crosses this season. The club had allowed seven goals off corner kicks or open play crosses heading into the match. And, in both games thus far under new head coach Paul Mariner – a 2-0 loss at Sporting Kansas City and a 3-3 draw at the Houston Dynamo – Toronto had allowed goals off open play crosses.

“We have young defenders,” Mariner, a former assistant coach for the Revs, told reporters after the match. “The defenders need to get focused on body shaped and get caught on the ball. The body position should be open a little bit. We’ve got a very young back four.”

But, despite that weakness, the Revs were unable to truly take advantage until Lechner took the field. And the impact he had proved to be a game changer.

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