New England Soccer Today

Five Things We Learned: Revolution vs. Crew

Dimitry Imbongo celebrates his first MLS goal with Diego Fagundez during Wednesday’s 2-0 win over the Crew. (Photo: Kari Heistad/

Given the circumstances, it made perfect sense that the winless streak would snap on Wednesday.

Nevermind that the Revolution were missing their leading scorer. Or their high-priced poacher, for that matter. Forget that the defense was missing two of its regulars. Or that the club’s highest-salaried player was kept off the pitch. Oh, and the fact that one of the hottest teams in the east was in town? Trivial.

Nope, none of that mattered. Because somehow, the Revolution, featuring a slew of second-choice players, toppled a team that hadn’t been beaten in their last six. Google the word “logical.” And behold, the boxscore from last night’s game will appear.

All sarcasm aside, no one was happier about the win than Jay Heaps. The reason (other than, you know, it ended the winless streak)? Without a doubt, one of Heaps’ favorite qualities is heart. During his playing days, he was the quintessential “all-heart” player. And if Heaps had it his way, the fire that burns the hottest would always get what it desires. That the greater the will, the better the odds became.

Yes, that hasn’t always happened for the Revolution this season. Or in the last three seasons, to be fair. There have been countless times where heart has been trumped by class, skill and, on occasion, sheer luck.

But on Wednesday, Heaps’ makeshift squad showed that, sometimes – not often, but sometimes – heart can be the difference between winning and losing. That heart alone can render the odds moot.

With that life lesson in mind, we move on to the five things we learned from the mid-week shocker.

1. Darrius Barnes deserves to remain among the starters for the remainder of the season. Is there anyone on the squad with a bigger chip on his shoulder than the former Blue Devil? In his first three years in the league, Barnes was an automatic start. Center back, right back or left back, it didn’t matter where – his name was likely to appear on the lineup. Then, a slew of offseason signings – along with the emergence of Stephen McCarthy in the back – pushed him off the first XI and onto the bench. But with A.J. Soares hurt, Barnes has been a man on fire. He’s been strong inside the box, he’s moved the ball to his midfielders, and while he may be prone to getting beat for speed on occasion, his positioning has been generally sound. In other words, he’s playing like he’ll never get another start. That said, Barnes, who’s helped the defense pitch back-to-back shutouts, belongs with the starters for the duration of the season.

2. Wednesday’s benching all but assures that Benny Feilhaber is as good as gone next year. OK, so Heaps may not be making any more drastic roster moves until winter.  But he might as well already cut his creative midfielder lose after anchoring him to the bench on Wednesday. It’s one thing to park Feilhaber, then bring him on later – even if he’s not exactly thrilled about it. Sure, Heaps may have simply wanted to rest him at the tail end of a concentrated three-game stretch. Yet, the fact that the midfielder didn’t see the field in a winning effort is telling. Not only does it signal that Heaps can win without his temperamental attacker – it may also send the message to Feilhaber that he may be better off on another club next year.

3. Flo Lechner should give a clinic on throw-ins to his teammates. Since the dawn of time – or at least 2009 – the Revolution’s throw-ins have been, in diplomatic terms, ineffective.  With so many immediate turnovers born from the throws of Barnes,  Kevin Alston and, yes, even Chris Tierney, it was refreshing to see Lechner get a chance –  a chance he deserved, in retrospect. By heaving long, and – here’s the key – arcing balls into the box, Diego Fagundez nearly found a pair of goals. Gone were the prompt clearances and needless turnovers. For one night in September, the Revolution were finding chances from throw-ins. And for that, they have Lechner to thank.

4. Don’t look now, but the Revolution are finally gaining some momentum. The optimist will say that the end of the Revolution’s winless streak also extended the club’s unbeaten streak to three. And you know what? The optimist is right. Recent three-game record aside (*cough*1-0-2*cough*), the Revolution are playing with something that, not long ago, was a figment of their imagination: confidence. With Chivas USA in town, they went built a 3-0 lead. Yes, that lead collapsed, but the energy in the locker room wasn’t down or dreary. They felt they could’ve won. Against the Union, the backline blanked the Union, who forced Matt Reis to make seven saves, and a few pats on the back were in order. Then, of course, was the 2-0 scoreline against the Crew. Is this the trio of games that sends the Revolution to the postseason? Of course not. But then again, a strong close to the season often fosters confidence going into the following campaign.

5. Dimitry Imbongo may not be the most polished poacher, but he could carve out a super-sub role if he works at it. Prior to Wednesday’s showing, Imbongo had put together a trio of tame performances. He was pushed off the ball, he played for the foul, and his positioning – well, let’s not go there. And because of these problems, Imbongo essentially cast himself as the fourth-choice striker. But Bengton’s departure forced Heaps to give the French forward an extended look. And to his credit, Imbongo did not disappoint. He overcame some early nerves and found a rhythm with Fagundez. He pressured the backline. He put himself in good positions. Most importantly, he did what a striker’s supposed to do: score. Yes, one game does not make a career. Heck, when Bengtson returns, the odds are Imbongo goes back to the bench. Even so, if he can hold onto the form seen on Wednesday and improve it, he may just be what the team needs off the bench. And then, who knows from there?


Leave a Reply