New England Soccer Today

Technically Speaking: #NEvCLB

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

The Revs beat the Crew 3-1 Sunday night in a game that was essentially decided in the first half, given the Revs three-point aggregate goal differential at halftime. Although the Crew put intense pressure on the Rev defense in the first half, Lee Nguyen’s nifty goal in the 43rd minute strike (what a beautiful run he made!) sent them into the second half at a severe disadvantage.

Before that goal was scored, though, the Crew’s performance was impressive, especially when they had lost three big guns to injury – Federico Higuain, starting center forward Aaron Schoenfeld, and Bernardo Anor. Time and again, the Crew had the ball in the Revs’ penalty area, and they came very close to scoring on several occasions, most notably on Justin Meram’s wide shot in the third minute and Tony Tchani’s shot on goal in the fifth minute.

But there were also Eric Gehrig’s 15th-minute header over the bar, Hector Jimenez’s 21st-minute run at goal, Jairo Arrieta’s dead-on 34th-minute attempt, Meram’s 35th-minute chance, Arrieta’s opportunity in the 37th minute, and Bobby Shuttleworth’s spectacular save of Arrieta’s close-in header in the 46th minute. It’s almost amazing they didn’t score. The final touch simply didn’t happen.

So what kept the Revs in the game in this all-important first half, as the Crew peppered Bobby Shuttleworth with shots?

For one thing, Crew keeper Steve Clark had a terrible game. He just didn’t seem to be able to make or execute good decisions when distributing the ball. Possession mistakes can have serious consequences. When a keeper is at all in doubt of the prospects for advancing the ball under possession, he should simply kick it as far as he can.

As early as the first minute of play Clark decided to push a goal kick to a teammate who was barely 25 yards up field. It went over the sideline for a Rev throw-in. This was followed by two more faulty distributions in the 21st and 29th minutes, leading up to a serious mishandling of the ball in the penalty area in the 36th minute, which nearly resulted in a Rev goal. In the 41st minute, Clark passed a goal kick directly to Kevin Alston. As the icing on the cake, he came out of the goal and inexplicably missed the ball on a run by Teal Bunbury that seconds later resulted in Nguyen’s goal.

In short, even though the Crew outplayed the Revs in the first half, they deserved to end it at a one-goal deficit, considering the sloppy keeper play. Shuttleworth, by contrast, didn’t make a mistake of any kind for the whole game.

For another thing, the Crew’s ball watching and consequent failure to track Nguyen as he ran into the penalty area before scoring (where were you, Tony Tchani?) is a fatal flaw at this level of play. Wouldn’t you think they’d at least keep close tabs on an MVP-caliber talent?

The Revs had repeated chances at goal in the first five minutes of the second half, thanks again both to dubious keeper distributions and to scattered defense. Once Jose Goncalves did score in the 55th minute, the Revs were pretty secure in their advancement to the league finals. They got a lock with Ethan Finlay’s shaky red card in the 60th.

From the home team’s point of view, the scary thing about this game was how under the gun they were for much of the first half. With players like Thierry Henry, Bradley Wright-Phillips, and Lloyd Sam on tap for the Conference Final, the Revs need to worry that the Red Bulls will convert where the Crew didn’t. They had better be on their toes when they play Mike Petke’s star-studded side.

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