New England Soccer Today

Five Questions: Revolution at Crew

Tony Tchani (left) and Benny Feilhaber battle for position during the Crew’s visit to Gillette Stadium on Jun. 16. (Photo: Kari Heistad/

Talk about a tale of two halves.

In the first 17 games of the season, the Revolution were a team with realistic playoff hopes. No, really.

They went 6-7-4, which wasn’t all that bad for a team that spent five of their first seven games on the road. The offense averaged 1.40 goals per game. And even when the shots weren’t kissing the twine, the attack remained dangerous by firing 6.1 shots on frame per game. And 47.3% of their total shots per game were on target. Optimism? There was certainly good reason for it in Foxboro.

Then, the second leg of the season arrived. On Jul. 14, the Revolution, inside of Gillette Stadium walls, fell to Toronto for the first time ever. And since then, the stats aren’t pretty. Not only are the Revolution winless in their first seven games of the second half, but the attack has been pitiful. And the stats are pretty sobering.

Goals per game? 0.43. Shots on frame per game? 3.1. And the percentage of total shots finding frame? 27.7%. And the most surprising stat? The Revolution are actually getting manhandled less often in the second half (12.5 fouls suffered/game) than they were in the first half of the season (14.9 fouls suffered/game).

Given that, the Revolution had better start finding some answers. Laying the blame on physical tactics and refereeing only masks the real culprit. And that culprit, without question, is the offensive ineptitude that’s seen this team plummet to the depths of the conference table. The playmakers aren’t making plays, and the goalscorers aren’t scoring. And it’s as simple as that.

So now that the ailment’s been diagnosed, we’ve got questions ahead of Saturday’s conference clash in Columbus

1. Is Benny Feilhaber finished as a starter? His bench assignment in Chicago certainly didn’t do much to suggest otherwise. Of course, it wasn’t entirely unexpected. The talented playmaker had been playing at a below-average standard for someone who, not long ago, was a strong candidate for National Team duty. That, paired with his ongoing frustrations when things aren’t flowing smoothly, essentially forced Jay Heaps’ hand last weekend. Yet, given the lack of viable options in the central midfield, Feilhaber will probably be back in the starting XI before long. But he no longer is, by any means, an automatic starter anymore.

2. Will Jay Heaps give his younger players a longer look? With the playoffs out of reach, it may not be the worst idea to begin gauging the youngsters. The likes of Diego Fagundez, Tyler Polak, Michael Roach, Tim Murray, Alec Purdie and Dimitry Imbongo all have something to offer. Some, more than others, of course. Yes, they may not all be starting caliber talents at the moment. But giving them the opportunity to showcase their abilities could only benefit the coaching staff once the offseason arrives and the roster is re-evaluated.

3. Is A.J. Soares’ starting spot in jeopardy? If it isn’t right now, it should be. There’s little debate that the talented center back is in the thick of a sophomore slump right now. Last week, he tripped up Chris Rolfe inside the box, and the subsequent penalty gave the Fire an early lead. But that’s just the latest example of Soares’ struggles. Over the course of the season, he’s been victimized on crosses and corners, and has picked up yellow cards in two of his last four. If Heaps is serious about accountability – as he has shown with the benching Feilhaber and Saer Sene – then Soares should be on alert.

4. Will the Revolution stop turtling up in the attacking third? The aforementioned attacking stats don’t lie: the attack has been abysmal during the seven skid. When things aren’t going well, they panic. They play route one ball. They hurry their shots. They hope and pray for a break or stroke of luck. They berate the referee. In short, they display the classic habits of a team that’s unsure of itself. And if they want to start improving their accuracy and start scoring goals, they actually have to believe that they can.

5. How do the Revolution break through against the Crew’s counterattacking approach? Yes, the additions of Jairo Arrieta and Federico Higuain have given the Crew a pulse in the attacking third. And yes, Columbus has registered back-to-back two-goal outputs. But the Crew are still wont to grind out a game. To counter that, the Revolution have to simply play their game. They have to stretch the field. They have to string the passes together. They have to be patient. Patience being the key. Another key: discipline. Of course, this isn’t something the coaching staff and players don’t already know. But putting those elements into practice on the field is crucial to getting a result in the Buckeye State.

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