New England Soccer Today

Five Things We Learned: Revolution vs. Sporting K.C.

Revolution midfielder Kelyn Rowe displayed an improved defensive instinct during Saturday's scoreless draw. (Photo: Chris Aduama/aduama.com)

Revolution midfielder Kelyn Rowe displayed an improved defensive instinct during Saturday’s scoreless draw. (Photo: Chris Aduama/aduama.com)

It’s a good thing Tyler Seguin couldn’t #bethere323. Because if he could, he probably would’ve never seen another soccer game ever again. And that’s a pretty long time not seeing a soccer game.

The rest of us, however, were not as fortunate. Because for 90 minutes, the Revolution and Sporting K.C. subjected the masses to a snoozer. A game in which the passing percentages dipped below 60%. A game in which the Revolution didn’t fire their first shot until the 77th minute. A game in which Jimmy Nielsen couldn’t be bothered to make a save.

True, it may have looked like the game took place in a wind tunnel, especially in the first half. With assorted hot dog wrappers and napkins calling the roll near the President’s Club seating area, it looked very much like the game ball felt slighted, and attempted to crash the party whenever possible.

While it was disconcerting to see the wind – which, while noticeable, wasn’t exactly gale-force – cast itself as the lead actor, the more troubling aspect of the match was that both coaches seemed content to let it dictate the script. Both clubs dropped numbers, both seemed fine launching longball after longball, and both seemed to be OK grabbing a point from the blustery ballgame. After all, why would Jay Heaps and Peter Vermes each use only one substitute?

That’s fine and all for them, and in the long run, it’s probably was the best decision in the early part of a 34-game schedule. A point is better than nothing at all, even for the home team. But for all the hype and promotional hashtags about the home opener, the troubling thing is that people showed up for this game enthusiastic and excited.

That’s what makes home openers great. The hope is real for nearly every team in the league, even Toronto FC. And when the final whistle blew on Saturday, you have to think that there were very few Revolution supporters who came away from it enthusiastic or excited.

Heaps often said that he and his team felt “hard done” by some of the draws and losses last season. Well, on Saturday, it’s fair to say that the supporters got a taste of that feeling after watching two teams play the kind of soccer that only Jim Rome could love.

1. The Revolution attack needs a lot of help. For all the defensive improvements the front office made during the offseason, it’s quickly become apparent that the offense is on auto-pilot right now. For proof of that, all you have to do is compare the games played stat to the goals for stat. Crunch the numbers and you’ll get a disturbing goals per game average. Warning: it’s not pretty. Yes, it’s still early, and the Revolution have played their first three games in less than ideal conditions. And OK, Saer Sene isn’t healthy. Yet, there should be some legitimate concern about what this offense can do, especially given the lack creativity seen so far from the midfield.

2. Kelyn Rowe is much-improved defensively. While the sophomore midfielder was one of the heroes of the 1-0 Chicago win, one the biggest improvements Rowe’s made to his game this year actually has actually been on the defensive side. Once shy, Rowe has not been twice bitten at this season. This was certainly true on Saturday, when Rowe, pressed into a more defensive stance as the game progressed (and we use that term loosely), made a series of tackles and stop to keep Sporting K.C. from threatening. He collected eight recoveries in an attacking role, and did it on both sides of the field. It’s no wonder Heaps didn’t want to take him off for an attacking sub late.

3. It turns out that Jay Heaps has a conservative streak after all. We all remember his first presser as head coach: “We’re going to attack.” We’ve listened to and read the sentiment about making Gillette Stadium “a fortress.” We’ve seen him unleash attacking sub after attacking sub as if he were playing FIFA on the couch. Yet, for all that, Jay Heaps showed that he’s not afraid to be pragmatic given his resistance to using his remaining two subs on Saturday. With the wind destroying chances for both clubs, Heaps decided that bringing on Diego Fagundez or Andy Dorman probably wouldn’t benefit his club. He saw the way Sporting K.C. defended, and decided that the personnel on the field, despite their general ineffectiveness going forward, gave him the best chance to earn a point. Not three, but one. At home.

4. Chad Barrett was a sacrificial lamb. Talk about taking one for the team. In game that saw the midfield make it a habit of giving the ball away, there was Barrett, left all alone to chat up Aurelien Collin and Ike Opara. And when he wasn’t doing that, he was chasing down longball after longball, knowing full well that the cards were stacked against him. He wasn’t 100 % fit, the wind was a witch with a capital “B”, nor did he have much to work with as Sporting K.C. were in their defense-first posture. Put those three together and it was an awful day to be a striker. But like a true pro, Barrett never quit, even though he knew it wouldn’t be his kind of game.

5. Throw-ins are clearly not Kevin Alston’s bread and butter. While Saturday’s passing percentages and shot totals for the Revolution were far from encouraging, one particularly troubling stat, as pointed out by Sean Donahue, was this one: Alston succeeded in only 7 of his 19 throw-ins. You don’t need a calculator to know that’s not good. Not good at all. In a game that both teams struggled to hold the ball, Alston literally threw away possession 12 times on Saturday. Before you think that this was a one-time, wind-driven stat, consider this: on 43 of his throw-ins this year, he’s given it right back to opponent 24 times, or an average of eight possessions per game. That number is much too high for team like the Revolution, who simply can’t afford to give away anything if they want to be a contender this year.

8 Comments

  1. Demetrios Tsillas

    March 25, 2013 at 9:36 am

    The attack was poor last week when Bengtson was playing. But even then they manage a few shots on goal. This game saw no attack at all. Any effort by Nguyen or Rowe to press forward ended up in a lost possession or a free kick. The best chance was the Toja free kick which missed by about a foot. Nguyen’s corners were sad to watch. On the other hand if the Revs can keep clean sheets on two out of three games the rest of the season they should easily make the playoffs. Not exciting to watch but efficient.

  2. Mat

    March 25, 2013 at 10:37 am

    I still think our attacking problem can be fixed with a tweaking of this stupid defensive minded formation. Look at KC, they used a 4-3-3. Yeah, maybe we don’t have the players to do that exactly, but what about having our striker paired with a winger on either side high up in the midfield (a perfect fit for Ngyuen and a combo of Diego/Rowe?). Then Cisse and Simms can be in the CM (4-2-2-1?). I can’t see how this shouldn’t at least be tried. When I see how Heaps sets things up, I know that we are going to get minimal chances and that a draw is the realistic ‘good’ result.

    • Mat

      March 25, 2013 at 10:41 am

      Oops I meant 4-1-2-2-1 (or 4-3-3 if that’s the proper way to label it–I’m not sure hah) (with Dorman being thrown in the CM and Simms pushed back to DM)

  3. Brian O'Connell

    March 25, 2013 at 11:07 am

    I like the idea, Mat, especially w/ Sene out for another month or so. But when he comes back, where does he fit in? I honestly believe Heaps is dying to go 4-4-2 with Sene and Bengtson up top, Cisse and Simms as CMs, and Rowe and Nguyen out wide. That, to me, is what Heaps envisions. For the interim, I think you’ll see them go with 5 midfielders – 2 DMs, 2 WMs, 1 CAM/WDFWD in until Sene returns.

  4. JMH

    March 25, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    movement off the ball is poor. To many long balls. back never got forward.

  5. Chris B

    March 25, 2013 at 4:06 pm

    Ryan Guy was also a sacrificial lamb! Got cut after like 10 seconds of being on the field!

    But I agree on Barrett. Some people were criticizing him, but what could he do? He was working his butt of chasing down balls, battling with SKC’s defenders and trying to make something happen!

  6. Brian O'Connell

    March 25, 2013 at 4:38 pm

    Too true, Chris! Guy looked like he went 15 rounds in the ring during Saturday’s game. One sacrificial lamb coming on for another.

    Poor Barrett, though. Got no help whatsoever. Hard to watch him hunt for opportunities that were never there.

  7. PaulQ

    March 25, 2013 at 9:34 pm

    My 5 things
    1. Cisse only played 1 game, but the Revs already misses him so bad
    2. Rowe n Barrett are not a stater n Rowe ‘s best as a sub player for max 30’
    3. Caldwell is not ready as an MLS player yet.
    4. Soares is panic so easy n IMO, Barnes deserves to start next games
    5. Farrell is like Alston who is good at defensive plays, but don’t know what to do when they both have the ball at their feet in term of offensive plays

Leave a Reply to PaulQ Cancel reply