New England Soccer Today

Five Things We Learned: Revolution vs. Dynamo

Lee Nguyen tries to spark the attack during the second half of Saturday's game against the Dynamo, which the Revolution lost 2-1. (Photo: Kari Heistad/

Lee Nguyen tries to spark the attack during the second half of Saturday’s game against the Dynamo, which the Revolution lost 2-1. (Photo: Kari Heistad/

It was, perhaps, the most telling 45 minutes of soccer we’ve seen all season from the Revolution.

The first half of Saturday’s contest was far from pretty. It was certainly no Van Gogh. Or Brek Shea, for that matter.

Take your pick on the first-half stat sums it up. The 38 percent possession, which actually climbed from the 29 percent figure that came near the half hour mark. The zero shots on goal, or the zero shots period. Or if ball movement’s your thing, there’s the 102 fewer passes collected than Houston.

Do any of these statistics paint the picture of a team – a team at home, mind you – that collectively believes it’s worthy of a postseason berth?

We heard all week about how Saturday’s game was important. A six-pointer. One club goes up, the other goes down. A game in which a season could be made or broken. Some of it may have been hyperbole, but the basic ideas were sound. The winner would trek a smoother path to the postseason.

On the surface, the Revolution players appeared convinced that they had what it took to overtake whatever the Dynamo was ready to dish out. They knew what to expect. They knew that Houston would come in, and do everything and anything short of assault and battery to disrupt the Revolution.

And even though they knew what was coming, they failed to do anything to stop the Dynamo from taking a hold of the game right from the opening whistle at home, and on a night thick with postseason implications. And as Jay Heaps said in his post-game presser, they didn’t do well enough to react. Without question, they wilted under the pressure.

So what does this say about the state of the sixth-place Revolution, who just kicked off the second half of the season with a loss? It says a lot.

It says that this team, as a whole, weren’t confident against a marginally stronger opponent on Saturday. Forget the stats. Just look at some of those first half touches and runs. The bulk of them oozed with uncertainty and, to some degree, apprehension. When Armando Villarreal blew the opening whistle, the Revolution knew they were in for a street fight, and it didn’t take long before they ducked under a manhole.

We’ve heard players say that they have what it takes to make a run this year. And there’s no doubt that each player believes it in his heart. It’s not lip service when they say they can do it. They believe it, individually.

But as a group, they doubt themselves, and that was plain to see on Saturday. They allowed an opponent to walk into Gillette Stadium and immediately take control of the match. They were pushed around, and offered little by way of a response in the first half – a half in which teams who believe in themselves take the initiative before their own fans.

In their collective heart of hearts, they aren’t confident. They didn’t play  confidently on Saturday. The first half  is evidence of that. The biggest challenge the Revolution faced wasn’t the Dynamo, Armando Villareal, or even Adam Moffat himself. Rather, it was their own self-doubt. They realized the stakes, to be sure, but didn’t fully believe they had what it took to overtake the Dynamo in a crucial game.

The sad thing is this team is talented enough to earn a playoff bid. They are. They’re defensively sound, they have attacking weapons, and plenty of talent in the middle. On paper, they have what it takes to get onto the upper half of a wobbly eastern table.

But unless the collective mindset changes, and until they start playing like a confident team right from opening whistle, the only football we’ll be watching in New England come November will be of the heavily-padded variety.

Thankfully, no protective equipment is necessary for this week’s list of things we learned.

1. The Revolution need Juan Agudelo to get healthy post haste. So much for the Chad Barrett experiment. We saw the veteran striker put together a pair of strong performances against Chivas USA and San Jose, and for a minute there, it looked like he’d make Agudelo’s injury easier to tolerate. Then Saturday happened. The Dynamo’s gritty approach threw off the entire attack for the entirety of the first half, and as a result, Jay Heaps pulled the trigger early and subbed off Barrett in the 52nd minute. Now, Barrett is a serviceable player in his own right. A valuable piece of the puzzle. But imagine how the first half would’ve gone down had Agudelo been healthy. With his size, strength and technical ability, it’s possible he breaks through and either opens the door, or even dishes out a little punishment Bobby Boswell’s way. We don’t know for sure. What we do know is this: having Agudelo healthy couldn’t have hurt. In fact, he probably would’ve helped, just as he did back on May 18 in Houston. With the games sure to stay gritty from here on out, the Revolution can only pray for a quick recovery.

2. Mike Burns has some serious financial decisions to make. It’s often said that big-money players show up in big-money games. Well, Saturday’s game was about as big-money as it gets for the Revolution. Curiously, the club’s most expensive players collectively contributed next to nothing to Saturday’s game. Designated player Jerry Bengtson, whom the club invested over $350,000, wasn’t listed on the gameday 18. Nor was Kalifa Cisse ($445,000). Juan Toja ($295,000) may not have started, but at least he had the decency to get on the pitch. If you do a little rough math, that’s at least $1 million invested in three players who did nothing to impact the club’s most important game of the season so far. Clearly, this situation cannot be allowed to linger for much longer with the club still trying to poke into the postseason conversation. With the transfer window open, and the playoff battles heating up, Burns is almost certainly thinking of ways to mitigate the situation. And Saturday’s game showed that he needs to figure something out fast.

3. Say what you will about the way he plays, the Revolution are going to need an Adam Moffat to make it to the postseason. Was there anyone on the pitch who exerted more influence over Saturday’s match than Moffat? Sure, it’s easy to look  at the scoresheet and say that. But taking aside his two tallies, Moffat was an absolute beast on the pitch. He was an irritant from start to finish, and imposed his will on the match by getting in Diego Fagundez’s face and throwing an elbow – albeit a dangerous one – in the ear of Chris Tierney. But he didn’t just make the game fierce. He played a sound game of soccer, and connected on 86 percent of his passes in the center half role. Sure, he served as the perfect villain for Revolution partisans. But from a neutral view, let’s be honest: he tackled, he fouled, he antagonized, he inflicted pain, and he scored. Twice. In other words, he is the type of big-game player that the Revolution should be looking for while the transfer window is open.

4. Aside from his goal, Saer Sene didn’t look like a player who knew he was on a foreign club’s radar. Last week against San Jose, the French forward played one of his best games of the season. And it couldn’t have come at a better time. With Socheaux and Nantes reportedly showing interest in Sene’s services, it was the kind of game probably that jacked up the asking price. Well, at least temporarily, as Sene certainly wasn’t the same player on Saturday. Instead of making bold moves or giving it go from outside the area, Sene seemed to back down against the physical Dynamo. Often times, he ran right into danger, and his touches were far from confident. Granted, few Revolution players shined on Saturday. And yes, his goal came was a sure-fire response to Moffat’s first strike. However, it’s also worth remembering that he was all but invisible for the first 45 minutes.

5. The road to the playoffs just got a heck of lot tougher. Think Saturday’s game doesn’t have the potential to derail the Revolution for the rest of the season? Take a look at the club’s upcoming schedule. A three-game road trip to Colorado (winless in Denver/Commerce City since 2002), Columbus (0-3 at Crew Stadium since 2010) and D.C. (winless in their last four overall to United) awaits. These are three games in which the Revolution will be lucky to a point out of each. Although they return home for a game against a perpetually-helpless Toronto FC, they’ll have to face a trio of contenders (Sporting K.C., Chicago and Philadelphia) shortly thereafter. Yes, the postseason picture wasn’t decided on Saturday. Not by any stretch, with plenty of games remaining. But the Revolution’s fate just may have been sealed.


Leave a Reply