New England Soccer Today

Technically Speaking: Revolution vs. D.C. United

Revolution forward Chad Barrett and the rest of his teammates couldn't figure out the D.C. defense on Saturday. (Photo: Chris Aduama/

Revolution forward Chad Barrett and the rest of his teammates couldn’t figure out the D.C. defense on Saturday. (Photo: Chris Aduama/

In a game both teams had chances to win, the Revs and D.C. United played to a scoreless draw. Statistics like ball possession, corner kicks, shots, shots on goal were all fairly even, as was the ebb and flow of the game overall.

Nonetheless, the Revs showed me that they are the better team, and made Bill Hamid sweat in both the first and second halves. Their collection of skillful attackers, when they are on their game, can pose a real threat to any team in the league. The Revs may not have performed to their potential, but they didn’t play poorly. From that standpoint, D.C. should be happy getting the point.

The big question is this: how can a one-win team, a team at the bottom of the table, come into Gillette Stadium and play the Revs, a hot team playing at home, on fairly even terms for 90 minutes?

The answer is that D.C. had the psychological advantage from the outset, much as the Revs did last weekend against the Galaxy. Underdogs almost always do, and this is a problem that is very difficult for the stronger team to overcome. All a coach can do is make sure his team takes this x-factor into account, and tell them to go out and enjoy the game. Jay Heaps was likely aware of the situation and understandably concerned before the game even began.

Despite its documented struggles, the D.C. that arrived in Foxborough team meant business from the start to finish, especially defensively. The “quartet of doormen” (a term Brian O’Connell employed in his June 8 column to describe D.C.’s penchant for politely ushering opposing forwards toward the goal) had tightened up. Except for a couple of rather embarrassing giveaways, they seemed immune to the kind of defensive gaffes the Galaxy gifted the Revs with last weekend, resulting in their first two picture-perfect goals. The D.C. defense bore down with good concentration for the whole game. Any team playing this way is going to be tough to beat. No doubt, D.C. came to play.

Three reasons I’ve heard cited for the Revs’ failure to score are failure to make an effective final pass, lack of touch, and inadequate offensive running off the ball to create scoring chances. To some extent I agree. But left out of these analyses is my own personal hobbyhorse – that the Revs shoot the ball over the crossbar too frequently.

This was the problem with Lee Nguyen’s miss in the 18th minute, Saer Sene’s in the 22nd minute and, most particularly, Kelyn Rowe’s in the 82nd minute. What concerns me about Rowe – otherwise a very effective player – is his almost total innocence of proper technique. He had a wide open shot but seemed to hardly glance at the ball while shooting (whatever happened to “head down over the ball”?) and crossed his legs almost violently on the follow-through. No wonder the ball went well over the crossbar. Shooting the way he is now, he simply will not get the ball on frame with any regularity, from anywhere outside the penalty area. The Revs should put more effort into shooting the ball on-target and low, as close to the ground as possible, to make it difficult for the keeper.

All the bases need to be covered, both tactical and technical, to maximize scoring. Improved shooting by everyone in a Revolution uniform could raise their final point total by seven or eight points.

Nonetheless, if I were the Revs, I wouldn’t be too unhappy with the tie in this case. As an old Italian manager of mine once said, winning is a time to celebrate, a loss is to be avoided at all costs, but there’s nothing wrong with a tie.

Good luck to the Revs vs the Red Bulls on Wedneday and in Vancouver on Saturday. They’ll have a challenging week ahead.

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