New England Soccer Today

Technically Speaking: #PHIvNE

Photo credit: New England Revolution

Photo credit: New England Revolution

Welcome back to another edition of “Technically Speaking,” where our very own resident coach and former pro Rick Sewall takes a deeper look into the Revolution’s latest performance.

Have any questions you’d like Rick to address? Let us know in the comments section below.

One of the biggest talking points from Sunday’s game was the surprising play of London Woodberry. How would you assess the way he played, especially on the defensive end?

Rick: London Woodberry had a strong game on both sides of the ball. Offensively, he appeared very comfortable in possession. His passing, both long and short, was good – I don’t remember him giving the ball away once. His crossing was especially effective. In the 9th and 28th minutes, his crosses gave Andy Dorman and Charlie Davies, respectively, good chances to score, and he dropped the ball in the area several other times.

He was also effective defensively – positionally strong, and arguably making the defensive play of the game in the 84th minute when he prevented Conor Casey from scoring, effectively challenging a big and strong man who had been set up for his favorite scoring situation (a header right in front of the goal).

On the negative side, in the 16th minute he was a half-step out of position while chasing Fernando Aristeguieta toward the end line before his cross and Bobby Shuttleworth’s near own-goal. In the 79th minute he was beaten by Andrew Wenger, and in the 81st minute by Raymond Gaddis on the overlap.

I wish he were just a bit quicker. Nonetheless, I would think Heaps should be quite happy with his play.

What were your overall thoughts on the way Jermaine Jones manned the centerback spot opposite Andrew Farrell?

Rick: Jermaine Jones is the Revs’ most experienced player, and he’s definitely strong at centerback. Specifically, he knows how to coordinate his play with other members of the back four and the two defensive midfielders. Jose Goncalves knows this too, so Jay Heaps generally has the luxury of playing Jones where he is probably most needed by the team, in defensive midfield. Playing there puts him in a better spot to assure that other team members perform their best. His signature capability is to raise the level of play of all those around him. He did that Sunday for the defense, but what the Revs need most is for him to initiate and gel the offense.

From what you saw, why do you think the Revs struggled to create chances up until Jay Heaps started using his subs, even though their passing accuracy was actually pretty high (83%)?

Rick: I would pin the Revs’ early difficulty creating scoring chances primarily on the wing play of Juan Agudelo and Kelyn Rowe. Both played poorly.

Agudelo was simply too casual. This failing came into particular focus when Diego Fagundez came into the game, sparking a noticeable change in the run of play through his energy and willingness to put in a full-out effort. Wing and outside midfield positions do not bring out the best in Agudelo’s play. I’d rather see him in the middle with Lee Nguyen.

Wing is even more clearly not Kelyn Rowe’s spot on the field. He did very little right, and a lot of things wrong during his stint. He can’t challenge an opposing back on the dribble. He is best as a midfielder with both offensive and defensive responsibilities, where he should primarily concentrate on ball-winning and making short passes. He has ability to score, but in this game he missed the net when he should not have a couple of times, and in fact didn’t put a single shot on target. My diagnosis? Being out of his comfort zone positionally emphasizes technical deficiencies in his shooting that are less noticeable when he is in a positional groove.

Poor wing play puts too much pressure on Nguyen in the middle. The bread and butter of good wing play – effective crossing – would reduce that pressure. Lee got this benefit far too infrequently in this game from his wingers.

The shot in the arm the team got when the subs entered the field resulted primarily from a combination of getting Teal Bunbury, a natural, skilled winger, onto the pitch and releasing Diego’s pent-up energy.

It seems like Lee Nguyen continues to be effectively contained by opposing defenses. What has to happen for him to finally showcase the form that allowed him to score so many goals last year?

Rick: Lee Nguyen is having the kind of difficulties stardom often presents to a player in soccer: he is getting kicked around a lot. There are a few possible solutions to this problem.

a) Move Juan Agudelo next to him. Juan’s skillful control and passing, combined with simply adding a second offensive midfielder into the mix, would make it doubly difficult for the opposing defense to focus on Lee. Hard tackling and tactical fouling would diminish a lot with Juan close to Lee, and such a move would play to Juan’s strengths too.

b) Get Lee to pass the ball more quickly instead of looking first to penetrate. He is an excellent dribbler, and dribbling is his move of choice. Because opposing defenders know this, he should decoy them by defaulting frequently to the quick pass, saving the dribble for a surprise move. Getting rid of the ball is an ideal was to stop hard tackling, not only because it diverts the defenders’ attention elsewhere, but also because they know that a late, hard tackle is a sure way to land a red card. In short, this kind of patient forbearance will make his dribbling more effective.

c) Have him fall back to a deeper position, closer to the defensive midfielder. This move, in combination with solutions 1 and 2, will give Lee more space on the field, and make him the productive player he can be.

What stood out the most to you from Sunday’s match?

Rick: I came into this game predicting a 3-1 victory for the Revs against a weaker and slightly fatigued Union team. The wind may have had an equalizing effect in the first half (though it was hard for me to gauge how much it affected the play). At any rate, the Union’s two there-but-for-the-grace-of-God opportunities in the 16th and 38th minutes, followed by the go-ahead goal in the 42nd, were a little daunting, but by half-time had ratcheted me down only so far as predicting a 1-1 tie or a 2-1 squeaker for the Revs.

I think the Revs were helped by two coaching decisions on Union coach Jim Curtin’s part. Like Taylor Twellman, I was surprised that the Union, with a tenuous single-goal lead and the wind against them, played so defensively in the second half. They pretty much parked the bus as soon as they stepped out of the locker room. They threatened more seriously after the second Revs goal, but that was too little, too late.

I was also surprised at Curtin’s decision to sub for Maidana in the second half. Maidana not only scored the goal, but he and Sebastian Letoux are a devastating left-foot-right-foot set-piece pair – as good as it gets in the league (as was especially apparent from their in-swinging corner kicks).

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