New England Soccer Today

Five Things We Learned: Revolution vs. Fire

Midfielder Blair Gavin, who played 61 minutes in Saturday’s 1-0 win over the Fire, made a positive impression in his Revolution debut. (Photo: Chris Aduama/

It’s amazing what a bye week can do.

With two weeks to prepare for a playoff-bound Chicago Fire, Jay Heaps looked at his roster, sized it up against Frank Klopas’ side, looked at the tape, and put together a gameplan that succeeded.

About that gameplan: yes, the 4-1-4-1 helped clog the midfield, and effectively cut the oxygen from the Fire attack. The idea of using a three-man central midfield, with Blair Gavin being called upon to act as the fulcrum, was a heady idea. And Heaps deserves the credit for drawing it up.

Yet, as much as it may have been tactics over talent on Saturday, the bottom line is this: the players won the game for New England. Each player, from top to bottom, kept the mistakes to a minimum, and just flat out executed.

And if you want to talk about executing, just look at the goal Diego Fagundez scored.

Tactics? Yeah, they helped. What actually pushed the Revolution over the brink was ability and discipline on the part of the players.

So what else did we learn from Saturday’s home finale?

1. Blair Gavin could be a big part of the midfield next year. After recovering from an ankle injury that sidelined him since July, Gavin finally showed why the Revolution asked for him in the Shalrie Joseph trade. True, Gavin was a first round pick in 2010. At the same time, playing on an offensively stagnant side like Chivas USA made it hard to evaluate what New England was getting in return. On Saturday, we got a taste of what he brings to the table: composure, vision and the brain to make intelligent runs. One game does not make a career, of course. But if Saturday was a preview of coming attractions, then Gavin may be counted upon to play a major role in the midfield in 2013.

2. Jerry Bengtson’s confidence at the club level is severely lacking. The Honduran striker had to come into Saturday’s match with a renewed sense of confidence, thanks to his hat trick performance in Tuesday’s World Cup Qualifier. He had to believe that, after bagging a trio of goals, his goalscoring form in Foxboro would catch up. Well, um, it didn’t. Or at least it hasn’t yet. A minute from full time, Diego Fagundez played a perfect ball across frame to an unmarked Bengtson. And all Bengtson had to do was tap it through. It was right there. Instead, he pushed it over the bar, and for the second time in as many games, the Designated Player scuffed a sure goal. That said, it’s just a matter of time before he gets back on the board. But he won’t be able to until he regains his confidence.

3. The tactical switch was long overdue. Given the number of casualties on the Revolution injury report, coupled with the disappointing losses in Houston and Philadelphia, Heaps decided to go with what he termed a 4-1-4-1 on Saturday. With Simms staying true to his defensive duties, and Bengtson featuring alone for much of the match, the Revolution found a way to contain Chris Rolfe and Patrick Nyarko. More importantly, they played like a unit, with Simms mentioning that the dialogue between him, Darrius Barnes and A.J. Soares kept things tidy centrally. Yes, Gavin’s presence certainly aided the Revolution’s shape on Saturday. The question that begs to be asked, of course, is why didn’t we see this sooner?

4. Clyde Simms continues to be at his best in a defensive spot. Was there anyone who was asked to do more on the Revolution starting XI than Simms? Saddled with the task of snuffing out Chris Rolfe, the dependable veterans stepped up and delivered. By staying within the area between the midfield and back four, the skipper helped keep Rolfe’s engine in neutral. Granted, Rolfe wasn’t exactly eliminated from the conversation on Saturday. He certainly stayed on the same page with his teammates. The stats, though, don’t lie: with Simms effectively bottling Rolfe, the Fire were only able to force one shot on frame – and it wasn’t until the 86th minute.

5. Diego Fagundez is the most effective when he’s out on the wing. Another beneficiary of the formation change was none other than the goalscorer himself. Instead of being forced centrally – an area he plays well in Academy fare, but not so well against seasoned professionals – Heaps put his prodigy on the wing, thereby allowing him room to roam. More importantly, it allowed Fagundez to employ his crossing, which happens to be one of his more underrated abilities. Some will point to his goal and say that he should’ve stayed in the attacking midfielder/withdrawn forward role all game. Aside from that moment of brilliance, the Homegrown Player’s presence out wide, where he was allowed space and time to make better decisions, bolstered the attack.

One Comment

  1. Chris B

    October 22, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    I think we can officially say that Simms plays better with a D-Mid partner. Gavin did a good job of covering space while Simms was allowed to focus on one guy (Rolfe). This is when Simms is most effective. He’s getting older, so space is harder for him to cover; enter the younger Gavin to do that for him and then Simms can focus all his talent and veteran savvy on the opposing attacking midfielder.

    Brilliant job by Heaps to realize this and great job by the entire team for executing for once. If Sene and Lee were in that lineup, I think we win the game more convincingly though.

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