New England Soccer Today

A Double-Edged Sword?

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

Sure, it’s entertaining, but how effective is this wide-open, attack-first, defend-later style that Revolution coach Jay Heaps has advocated for and implemented throughout his three-year tenure?

A quick look at this year’s statistics will show you that it’s generally a viable tactic: 17 wins, 13 losses, and four ties were enough the Revolution into the playoffs. They were blown out (by three goals or more) only twice this season. That they tied just three times tells you they’re an all or nothing team, which at the end of the season, proved to be a good business model on the whole.

But there’s something to be said for week-to-week match-ups. Against some teams, this wide-open style of play is quite risky. Teams that pride themselves on strong defending, an ability to compete for 90 minutes in midfield, and two or more players capable of finishing and creating scoring chances can unhinge the Revolution soundly.

Granted, this trio of characteristics within a team is quite rare. After all, isn’t a team with a solid defense, competitive midfield, and goal-hungry offense by definition good, no matter what opposition?

Yes, but tactics are different. Good teams win a lot. Great teams know how to win in more than one or two ways.

For all their troubles on the road and an overreliance on players like Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill, and Bradley Wright-Phillips, the Red Bulls are a great team. They’ve found more ways to win this year than most teams. They’ve won against the teams that drop back, that play physical and dirty, that take a lead and keep on coming. And they’ve also dismantled the Revolution twice this year; once at home and once away.

Yes, Diego Fagundez hit the post when the Revolution first played the Red Bulls in June. Yes, Jermaine Jones didn’t arrive until weeks after the Revolution-Red Bulls wrapped up their regular season series.

But Red Bulls coach Mike Petke has the confidence that his team can beat the Revolution again when it matters most. For the Revolution, that will mean fighting fire with fire; mimicking the Red Bulls’ resolute defense, competitive midfield, and nose to the grindstone attack.

The Revolution may have scored seven goals in their last two games, but they also have just one shutout since Aug. 31. For this weekend, the expectation is that Lee Nguyen and Charlie Davies will continue to run the offense while the Jermaine Jones-Scott Caldwell combination matches the Red Bulls in midfield. But the Red Bulls, who have collected five shutouts within the same 10-week time frame, are coming into this game pretty close to complete, even without the services of suspended left back Roy Miller.

The wide-open style of play may be beautiful. It may yield lots of goals. But in the last two and a half months the Revolution defense has not been sensational. Zero-in on all of this. There’s an opponent coming for the next two weeks comprised of the league’s leading scorer, a modern-day legend, and a World Cup-caliber talent ready to come off the bench.

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