New England Soccer Today

Technically Speaking: Revolution at Red Bulls

Revolution midfielder Kelyn Rowe helped create a few opportunities on the attack, but it wasn't enough in a 4-1 Revolution loss against the Red Bulls on Saturday. (Photo: Kari Heistad/CapturedImages.biz)

Revolution midfielder Kelyn Rowe helped create a few opportunities on the attack, but it wasn’t enough in a 4-1 Revolution loss against the Red Bulls on Saturday. (Photo: Kari Heistad/CapturedImages.biz)

The Revs played their best game of the season on Saturday. Unfortunately, when a given team (the Red Bulls) has a given player on the field (Thierry Henry) who is a class above anyone else and is playing well, that team is a lot likelier than their opponent to win. Despite an improved offensive effort, the Revs fell 4-1.

After the first eight minutes came to a close with the score 2-1 for the Red Bulls, the game settled down a bit. New York had the advantage throughout the half, but the Revs had about five good opportunities at goal. The second half saw a real change in the game’s tenor. Ten minutes into the half, the Revs started to click on offense, and the Red Bulls (perhaps mindful of their reputation for shaky defense) seemed to go into a defensive shell, holding nine men back and conceding the midfield to the Revs. At the time, I thought the Red Bulls were applying this tactic too early in the game for a one-goal lead. Wise or not, it allowed the Revs to showcase an attractive span of possession, especially from minute 58 to about minute 81. The Revs got a couple of good chances, and had even closed the possession gap (58% : 42% at the half), but the necessary finishing wasn’t there.

Then, suddenly, Thierry Henry cut to the wing and ran around a ball-watching Farrell to scoop up an oh-so-elegant through pass from Jonny Steele and bury it in the net. In retrospect, having watched Henry strike like a snake, I was reminded of my old college baseball coach saying, “Let’s score a few runs now, and then we can rest for a while.” The Red Bulls’ 20-minute ‘rest’ seems to have re-energized them pretty effectively.

The Revs have to take their defense more seriously. The main job of the back four and whoever is playing defensive midfield is defense, or more specifically, guarding their own goal. The more or less equilateral triangle formed by the two center backs and the defensive midfielder, about 8 to 15 yards apart, should be in place most of the time – even when the team is pushing up to score.

Good defense takes a thorough knowledge of how to man-to-man mark, without ball watching, how to coordinate your positioning with that of your fellow defenders, total concentration for 90 minutes, and a real sense of urgency when the going gets tough. Some of these facets of defending were lacking on all four goals the Revs allowed, but I may have post-traumatic flashbacks for months of Andrew Farrell being turned inside out by Henry while Kalifa Cisse, an overcommitted Stephen McCarthy, and Jose Gonsalves loped half-heartedly back towards the goal.

Bobby Shuttleworth (along with the vast majority of keepers in the league) should add a line-drive goal kick to his quiver – one that travels well past midfield and, if used at the right time, may catch opposing defenders napping. This technique would complement the long, lofted chip they currently use, almost always executed effectively enough to satisfy the coaching staff but, nonetheless, too predictable.

If Lee Nguyen and Kelyn Rowe would learn to follow through properly when shooting, their chances of getting the ball on frame would improve. They should end their shot with ankle locked, knee bent, upper body forward with the thigh fairly close to the chest at the end of the follow-through, and legs not crossed.

Playing on natural grass helped the Revs and made the game pretty attractive. Take note, Kraft organization.

One Comment

  1. Mattie R

    April 22, 2013 at 9:13 am

    Great analysis Rick. It’s nice to read the explanations of technique.

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