New England Soccer Today

Five Things We Learned: #NEvMTL

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

It’s deja vu all over again.

For the second straight year, the Revolution claimed their first point of the season from a 0-0 draw in their home opener. That, of course, was after the locals have conceded five goals and scored zero in their first two…just like 2014.

Similar to last year, finishing is in witness protection. Chances have gone unanswered like drunken texts from exes. And the defense? Agita-inducing, though it subsided somewhat during Saturday’s draw.

But fear not, Revolution supporters. Because the scoring slump ended in Week 4 last year against the San Jose Earthquakes. Yes, the same San Jose Earthquakes who’ll be in town on Saturday for the Revolution’s Week 4 opponent.

Who scored the Revolution’s first goal of 2014? Victor Bernardez via the own goal, naturally. Although the locals got that elusive first goal in dubious fashion, another positive development resulted from last year’s Revolution-Earthquakes contest: the first win of the season.

Just sayin’.

Before we get to Saturday’s contest, let’s talk about Saturday’s second annual scoreless home opener.

1. Andrew Farrell isn’t half bad at center back. That is, when he’s not partnered with Jose Goncalves. Saturday’s contest was exactly what the third-year defender needed. After 180 minutes of something that, at times, may have resembled defending, Farrell put together a decent performance with versatile veteran Darrius Barnes beside him. Not that it was entirely surprising, mind you. Combine Goncalves’ inclination to play chicken with opposing forwards using the offside trap with Farrell’s instinct to get forward and, well, you get a negative-five goal differential in the first two games of the season. Separate them, though, and they’re both individually very good. Of course, Jay Heaps isn’t going to do that just yet. But it may not be long before the plug is pulled on this pairing.

2. If someone could create bionic hamstrings for Kevin Alston, the attack would be grateful. No disrespect to Jeremy Hall, who capably manned the right back spot and is really, really nice guy, but the offense missed Alston. Badly. While Hall doesn’t have the speed of his fellow right back, he was more than happy to get forward. There was just one problem: the central midfielders ignored him whenever he ventured past the halfway line. And when they didn’t? Let’s just say that Hall isn’t a right-footed Chris Tierney. OK, so Alston isn’t the greatest of crossers himself, but his speed stretches defenses and makes opposing left backs think twice when he enters the fray. The only problem, of course, is that Alston’s hamstrings continue to betray him. Didn’t Terminator 2 hint that we were supposed to have bionic appendages by now?

3. Scott Caldwell doesn’t need a beard to go into beast mode. He will never be confused for Shalrie Joseph, but the Revolution Academy OG was exceptional during Saturday’s contest. Correction: he was a manimal. All 5-8 of him. His positioning kept the Impact’s counterattack at bay, and prevented Dominic Oduro and Jack McInerney, both noted Revolution killers, from finding more success. Oh, and his ability to connect with teammates (90.8 percent passing accuracy) helped set the stage of a series of dangerous advances. True, the baby-faced midfielder looks like he’d rather help old ladies cross the street than dish out a fierce tackle. But Montreal found out fairly quickly that Caldwell is no cherub on the pitch.

4. Saturday’s clean sheet was just what the backline needed. After getting torched for five goals and, um, not torching anyone by scoring zero goals, the Revolution needed improvement somewhere. Anywhere. They got it from their backline, albeit a makeshift one that was missing two starters. Barnes looked as sharp as ever in Goncalves’ spot, while Hall was smart to play it safe, especially with Maxim Tissot threatening. The only shame is that we won’t see the same backline on Saturday, with all due respect to Goncalves and Alston. Even so, the unit that kept the Impact off the board gave the same supporters who endured the defensive mistakes of the first two matches a much-needed glimmer of hope. A glimmer of hope that although the backline still has issues to deal with, they may not be far off from turning the corner.

5. So long as Jermaine Jones is out, teams will continue to bottle the Revolution attack by clogging the middle. For the second straight week, the Revolution were unable to funnel the attack through the central channel. Knowing how much the Revolution attackers love to cut inside, Frank Klopas ordered his central players to plug the pockets that the creative midfielders like Lee Nguyen and Diego Fagundez both love to slice through. That approach won’t be as effective once the dynamic Jones returns, of course. However, until that happens, the Revolution must figure out a way to be more clinical. They have to be better with that final ball, and turning that final ball into paydirt. Pure and simple. The attack can survive without Jones, but only if they stop dousing their chances with kerosene and lighting them on fire.

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