New England Soccer Today

Five Things We Learned: Revolution at Red Bulls

Revolution midfielder Juan Toja tried to provide spark off the bench in Saturday's contest against the Red Bulls. (Photo: Kari Heistad/

Revolution midfielder Juan Toja tried to provide spark off the bench in Saturday’s contest against the Red Bulls. (Photo: Kari Heistad/

We don’t typically start the Five Things feature with a query – after all, that’s what “Five Questions” is for – but was anyone shocked that an own goal ended the Revolution’s scoreless streak?

No matter how convincing A.J. Soares was in claiming Brandon Barklage’s blunder as legit Revolution goal, the fact is that a New England player hasn’t scored a goal in the 478 minutes since Jerry Bengtson’s First Kick strike. To put it another way: the Revolution have scored only one goal in the 540 total minutes the Revolution have played this season. Think about that for second.

To be fair, the comatose attack managed to show some signs of life after a trio of unappealing performances. Kelyn Rowe nearly sprung Jerry Bengtson for a score. Andy Dorman nearly slid a Lee Nguyen pass inside the far post. Heck, even Jose Goncalves came close to converting from – get this – a corner kick.

But when it was all said and done, the Revolution still fell short of taking off the training wheels and scoring on their own. Near misses, half chances and almost goals all add an air of drama, to be sure. But at last check, MLS rules dictate that the ball must cross the part of the opposing team’s goal line located between the posts for a team to score. There is no other way. There is no hidden level or subterranean passage by which a goal can be acquired in a regulation league match.

At some point, the goals will come. Whether they arrive from the run of play, a set piece or off a defensive miscue, the Revolution won’t finish the season with a single goal to their credit, own goals be damned.

Until then, though, the Revolution are going to have to figure out how to go about scoring again. And they’ll have to do it quickly. Effort, determination and grit are commendable qualities, but it takes skill, ability and accuracy to get results.

Sure, it’s still April, and there’s plenty of games to play. But the season isn’t getting any longer and if it’s still “postseason or bust,” well, they’ll have to flip the excuses-to-goals ratio around post haste.

After all, Brandon Barklage won’t be around every week to help the Revolution’s cause.

So what else did we learn from Saturday’s 4-1 loss to the Red Bulls?

1. The days of leaning on the defense are gone. On Saturday, the Revolution tripled their goal against stat thanks, in large part, to a defense that was outclassed by a strong and enterprising Red Bulls attack. In the first eight minutes alone, the Revolution were guilty of giving Dax McCarty time to reflect before he ripped a shot past Bobby Shuttleworth, then casually allowed Fabian Espindola to sneak into the final third and bury another. By the 10th minute, it was already 2-1. Even though the score held going into the last 10 minutes, the Revolution’s inability to score forced them to use high pressure, which against the Red Bulls, is like lighting a cigarette near a leaky propane tank. Chalk it up to a bad game or Thierry Henry alone, but the Revolution defense simply isn’t good enough to grind out points against  upper echelon clubs.

2. Contrary to popular belief, it’s going to take a lot more than scoring a few goals to get the attack back on track. Stop me if you’ve heard this before: the antidote for a stuggling offense is goals. That’s it. Scoring breeds scoring. If only it was that simple. For starters, the Revolution haven’t scored a goal of their own in the last five games because they aren’t sharp enough to collect a respectable number of shots on goal, nevermind put the ball in the back of the net. Even if they manage to score a pair of goals against the Union on Saturday, the Revolution need to acknowledge the fact that something is broken – and something that probably won’t be fixed by success alone.

3. Andy Dorman should hold down the starting central midfield spot opposite Kalifa Cisse until further notice. Say what you will about how poorly the Revolution defense, which didn’t have Clyde Simms on the pitch to help out on Saturday, played against the Red Bulls. While Simms helps reinforce the back four, the team can’t continue to employ two defensive-minded midfielders if they hope to scrape together some attacking success. OK, so maybe the Red Bulls’ shaky defense might have given the Revolution a false positive on the way it was able to find more success in the final third this week. Yet, Dorman did well to strengthen the midfield, and helped stretch the field with some consistent service out wide. Plus, he provides some much-needed leadership on the attack. Dorman may not be the solution to what’s ailing the offense, but he certainly gave it more than what we’ve seen in previous weeks.

4. Lee Nguyen continues to be an enigma. Although he didn’t play a poor game, Nguyen put together another headscratching performance, not unlike the one we see from Kaley Cuoco in those commericials with William Shatner. Anywho, the Lee Nguyen that we saw last year has been, by and large, a ghost this year. On Saturday, he brought a healthy dose of creativity, and nearly helped set up Dorman on a goal in the first half. His passing accuracy wasn’t terrible (71%) on Saturday, but by and large,  he’s been pretty predictable, and teams have taken notice by allowing him to cut  inside and either take a shot from distance, or attempt to play it inside to a forward, which has never been his strength. It could be argued that Nguyen will start to play better now that Tierney’s back in the starting XI, and the two have formed a good partnership on the left side. However, if it’s width the Revs are going for, Nguyen needs to start playing along the sidelines.

5. Juan Toja was effective, so it stands to reason that we won’t see him perform like that again for until late-May. For the first time since early-March, we saw a glimpse of the Juan Toja who livens and attack rather than, you know, doing everything under the sun to undermine it. This includes flailing, mis-timing a run, or pushing a pass behind a second runner. Then, just when you least expected it, the six-figure Toja made an appearance in Saturday’s game, albeit off the bench. As they say: better late than never. In 29 minutes, he served as a strong attacking catalyst, linking with Rowe and Nguyen effectively. He looked like someone who wanted to play soccer. If the Revolution are going to snap out of their attacking funk, then they’ll need more of what the Colombian midfielder brought to the table on Saturday, and less of the epic flail.


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