New England Soccer Today

Technically Speaking: Revolution vs. Galaxy


Juan Agudelo and Saer Sene celebrate after the French forward scored in the 33rd minute of Sunday’s 5-0 win over the Galaxy. (Photo: Chris Aduama/

In one of the most bizarre, exciting, and satisfying games they have ever played, the Revs beat the Galaxy 5-0 on Sunday. All five goals were of the excellent variety, especially the first three. All were also beautifully assisted.

The game, played in conditions familiar to the Revs (very windy, warm, on artificial turf), began favorably for the Galaxy, a team playing like they were last year’s champs (which they were). From the start they had plenty of ball possession and created several good scoring chances. This trend held until the 33rd  minute, when Saer Sene scored the first Rev goal, elegantly assisted by Diego Fagundez. A prettier give and go will not often happen.

From that moment on, right up to the end of the game, the Revs settled into a comfort zone. Their confidence grew steadily as the game progressed, and although the Galaxy maintained some superiority in ball possession (the game ended 60% to 40% in their favor), it always seemed to me as if the Galaxy would only score if they ran into a bit of very good fortune – the Revs’ defense was that good.

The second half continued much as the first ended. Then came the 70th minute, the game’s major turning point. Landon Donovan barreled Andrew Farrell over at midfield, then helped him up with an elaborate display of sportsmanship. Clearly, he knew perfectly well that he had committed a foul and was startled to see the linesman point in his favor. The referee thought otherwise, though, and directed his finger in the opposite direction. In a heartbeat Fagundez, capitalizing brilliantly on Donovan’s flat-footedness, restarted so quickly that he fooled even the cameraman. He passed to Lee Nguyen, who dribbled in and almost casually left-footed the ball into the Galaxy goal. Score: 2-0 Revs.

Lesson to be learned: never, ever, help an opponent to his feet unless you know exactly what is going on in the game and what the referee’s decision has been.  Landon should know that quick free kicks are a common threat in soccer, especially in midfield, and that the play often does not pause, even for a split second. The game will pass you by if you fail to adjust immediately – Donovan got what he deserved. Parenthetically, it was satisfying to see an 18-year-old outsmart a seasoned national team player.

Because of the conflicting referee signals that led to the goal, Donovan and Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena were understandably upset. Donovan ended up with a yellow card. All players and coaches, nonetheless, have to realize that bad refereeing and strange occurrences happen in soccer. These will hurt your team’s chances often enough, yet they have to be accepted with the same equanimity as bad field conditions. It’s a waste of time to try to change a referee’s decision. It won’t work, and protests can be distracting to your players. If a team and coach let an unfortunate situation like this roll off their backs, they will have a better chance of concentrating and, therefore, winning. I do give the Galaxy credit for regaining their composure after all the fireworks. They played well until the third goal, when the game fell apart for them.

The Galaxy had numerous corner kicks, many of which were strangely unthreatening, as were some of their crosses. Caused by the fake turf? Who knows?  Donovan’s shots in the first half were flubbed, as was Juninho’s in the 79th minute effort – a shot that went way over the crossbar and should not have. Robbie Rogers did shoot the ball very effectively on target twice toward the end of the game. The Galaxy clearly missed Robbie Keane, who took the Sounders to the cleaners last week.

One more point: when should a team use the offside trap, a tactic that can either help or hurt them? Playing a flatback four and looking for the offside trap is risky, even for professionals. The first goal of this game, on a give and go, was scored when Sene, the giver and goer, ran through a flat defense, totally uncovered, leaving the keeper helpless. The defensive mandate to stay with the cutter was ignored, as both defenders in position to do so were caught ball-watching, doing absolutely nothing to impede Sene’s run.

Even so, the goal could have been stopped if the defense had been lined up less flat. Re-creating the offside trap made famous a while back by Arsenal is no easy feat.  If a coach wants to use it, he’d better know what he’s doing. If he doesn’t, sooner or later his team will get burned. I’ll vote for basic defensive supporting position any time.

Fagundez, yet again man of the match, was brilliant, both physically and mentally.  What can he do for an encore? Will he ever have a bad game?

Truly a memorable game for the Revs.

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