New England Soccer Today

Five Things We Learned: Revolution at Impact

Chris Tierney returned to the lineup in Montreal on Saturday, and delivered the game-winning assist in the 88th minute. (Photo: Kari Heistad/

It wasn’t the way Jay Heaps drew it up before the season started.

During his first press conference as head coach, Heaps emphasized the desire to have his team attack. To push forward. To play their game. To impose their will on other teams.

Well, one team certainly stuck to that approach on Saturday. Interestingly, it wasn’t the Revolution.

In the season finale, Montreal owned the midfield,  journeyed into the final third at will, and fired seven shots on frame, all the while the Revolution seemed content to keep numbers back.

And that was precisely the plan. They didn’t step onto the pitch at Stade Saputo looking to impose their will. Quite the opposite. They flooded the rear and absorbed the pressure. They poked the ball away when possible, and journeyed up field on occasion. In other words, it was the exact opposite of what Heaps preached 11 months ago at his unveiling.

At the same time, it was a classic Heapsian performance. Even though they were outmatched, outgunned and outmuscled, they grinded. They frustrated their opponent. They did just enough to keep it level, then capitalized on a golden chance late.

It wasn’t just a win. It was survival. And at the end of the day (or season, if you will), it wasn’t just the best course of action for Heaps. It was the only one afforded to him.

So what else did we learn from Saturday’s afternoon affair?

1. For the second straight week, the Revolution’s gameplan provided the difference. Last week, the Revolution keyed in on Chris Rolfe, went with a funky formation (4-1-4-1), and somehow, pulled off an improbable win. Well, if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it, right? On Saturday, Heaps may have revamped the look in the midfield, but nevertheless, the general idea was the same: drop back, flood the defensive third and play for the counter. Granted, the Revs may have had too many players back at times. Bobby Shuttleworth faced a career-high seven shots. And yes, the possession scale tipped heavily in favor of the Impact. But however perilous it became, the fact is that the Revolution wouldn’t have succeeded any other way.

2. Fernando Cardenas still needs to be better inside the area. There’s no denying that the Colombian midfielder is talented. At times, he’s a world-beater, ready to take on anyone standing his way. He’s quick, he’s shifty and he’s never met a give-and-go he didn’t like. Yet, for all the energy and spark he adds, it all seems to go horribly wrong when he enters the the area, with Saturday’s game serving as the latest example. In the 28th minute, Diego Fagundez played a nifty ball inside to his fellow mohawked midfielder, who slipped past a sliding Jeb Brovsky. With only Troy Perkins to beat, Cardenas put his shot right…at…Perkins. OK, so finishing’s not his forte. What’s more troubling, though, is that he had Bengtson at the far post. If Cardenas wants to expand his role next year, he can’t afford to leave chances like that on the pitch anymore.

3. Bobby Shuttleworth’s subpar passing was a byproduct of the Revs figuring out how to carry out the gameplan. We all know Shuttleworth has a bionic leg that could probably clear a country mile. When the Revs are pinned inside their own end, they can count on their fourth-year keeper to collect it, then air mail it into the opposite end of the pitch, while they catch their collective breaths. On Saturday, Shuttelworth was called upon to launch it long a lot, but right back to Montreal. The reason? Too many guys in white shirts lagging behind, trying to grasp the gameplan. Once they did, though, Shuttleworth’s service became better. Much better.

4. Let’s face it: the Revolution also got lucky. Dimitry Imbongo may have brought the wrong boots to Montreal, but it didn’t look like the Revolution left the rabbit feet, four leaf clovers and lucky undies at home. Think about it. First, the Rev-killer himself, Sanna Nyassi, gets suspended for Saturday’s match due to yellow card accumulation. Then, Marco Di Vaio’s shot squirts through Shuttleworth’s legs and, somehow avoids crossing the line (the blue streamers may have helped). In the 86th minute, Ryan Guy whiffs on a clearance before Blair Gavin, who might’ve put on an invisibility suit shortly after he came on after the hour, makes the game-saving stop on the line. Finally, a game-winning goal from a set piece? And on the road? C’mon. Even the most ardent Revolution supporter would’ve had a good laugh at that one.

5. Clyde Simms may have just played cemented his spot on the roster for 2013. It was only a month ago that Simms looked very much a shell of the player he was during the first half of the season. Without Shalrie Joseph, it the former D.C. midfielder was no longer a steadying presence in the middle of the park. Rather, he became a liability. He failed to assert himself.  He gave the ball away. But in the last two games, the central midfielder’s form rose from the ashes. His voice grew louder. His positioning was more precise. His attitude was edgier. More importantly, he welcomed the responsibility that came with the armband, and showed it. And because of that, he might have just earned a return to Foxboro in 2013.

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