New England Soccer Today

Technically Speaking: #NEvDC

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

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? Feel free to ask away in the comments section below.

From what you saw, how were the Revolution able to only concede one goal with only nine players for the last 32 minutes?

Rick: They took playing with two men down as a challenge – the only way to think if they were to achieve any sort of result. Counter-intuitively, playing two men down is not just a challenge: it can be downright enjoyable because, being down two men, your adrenaline is up, and at the same time you can relax in the knowledge that you’re not expected to chalk up a win. DC United, on the other hand, had to be thinking how embarrassing it would be to fritter away a double man-advantage. In other words, the Revs (despite, or because of, their precarious position) had a strong psychological advantage. They played excellent defense and came very close to scoring a second goal.

Right after Lee Nguyen’s ejection, DC fullback Sean Franklin played a careless ball over the Revs’ end line. This was almost a presage of what was to come. DC played poorly, not passing quickly or with enough care, allowing several bad passing giveaways (what a waste of a two-man advantage!), and losing the ball on the dribble. A good sign of the pressure they were under was that they ended up drawing three tactical yellow cards late in the game. In my view, their sloppy play resulted from a negative player mindset. They were all too aware that, with the advantage they had, anything but a win would be a disappointment.

On the other side of the coin, it’s somewhat amazing that DC was only able to register one shot on goal (Arrieta’s goal). What could they have done better to create more shots?

Rick: The basic way to beat a stacked defense is to go around them via the wings and to shoot from outside the area. DC’s passing attack was executed too slowly and with too many giveaways. Their use of Taylor Kemp on the left side was promising, but fell short of full effectiveness. The Revs gobbled up almost everything on the DC right wing and up the middle. Chris Rolfe’s shot over the bar in the 67th minute was their only attempt from outside the area (DC is not the only MLS team with this weakness, but it really took its toll on Saturday’s game).

How difficult is it, especially for a defender, to continue to be strong on challenges after watching two of his teammates get sent off?

Rick: I would say not too difficult at all because it presents him with a terrific personal challenge and a chance to shine against the odds. Most competitive athletes prefer to play in tough games. This has a way of pumping up the adrenaline and raising the level of the underdog’s game. All the Revs players – defense, midfield, forwards – showed textbook responses to being two men down. Jay Heaps is definitely happy about this.

Which Revolution player in particular do you think was instrumental to getting a draw out of Saturday’s game?

Rick: There were no slouches on the field for the last 32 minutes of the game – they all seemed to play to their potential – but if I had to single one man out for extra praise it would be the Man of the Match – Andrew Farrell. I counted about eight nifty defensive plays on his part in the last 32 minutes, involving sliding tackles, a blocked shot, and clearances by kicking and heading. He played with a verve and energy.

He might be criticized for ball-watching on the DC goal, as Arrieta slipped in behind him, but then again Jose Goncalves was in the best position at that moment to neutralize the goal-scorer.

My main suggestion for Farrell in this situation is that he should have rotated his body about 45 degrees to his left, to see both the ball and Arrieta at the same time. As it was he was directly facing the ball and oblivious to what was going on behind him.

What stood out the most to you about Saturday’s game?

Rick: I would say the Revs’ determined play of the last 32 minutes and United’s inability to adjust to having the two-man advantage for such a long time. Coach Ben Olsen’s post-game comments were right on the money. He gave the Revs a lot of credit for their play and conceded that his team played too slowly and not enough to the wings.


  1. BWG

    May 27, 2015 at 7:44 pm


    Not sure if this question is in scope on the technical side or not. I wonder a little about your view on comments made after the game by Heaps with respect to using common sense on the Tierney red card. The red card was justified and in no way questionable imho, regardless of intent, the action clearly had the potential to endanger he safety of the opponent. By and large, I am disappointed with the reactions from heaps and the team as a whole with respect to decisions made by the referees and would much rather see a more measured response. I am wondering In your experience do you think the tone and reactions from players and coaches help hurt or have no effect on the way things are called? I am of the opinion that generally the revs do not get the benefit of the doubt as a consequence but there are of course examples of the opposite as well SAF being one such highly notable exception.

    I liked your comments about how much determination played the primary role in the outcome. Two players who exemplify this are two that have stood out most for me over the course of the season, Caldwell and Farrell. Were you surprised it was Caldwell and not someone like jones or Goncalves who are believed to be the veteran leadership on the team that heaps called over after the Nguyen second yellow? Who would you have asked? If you weren’t surprised why and what have you seen this year in caldwells development that highlight such leads hip qualities (disclaimer: Scott is one of my favorite players on the team)

    Keep up the good work I enjoy your column!

  2. Rick Sewall

    May 28, 2015 at 8:56 pm

    Every coaching staff and the players on a professional soccer team know, or should know, that referees, being human, will make bad decisions in the course of a long season that may go either for or against you. I always tell my players to think of the referee as a ‘field condition’ — neither more nor less to be ‘blamed’ than rain, wind, an overhanging tree, or an exceptionally narrow field. Both players and coaches need to learn to live with referees’ decisions, whether they find them justifiable or not.

    As for these particular calls: I agree with you 100%, BWG, that the calls on Tierney and Nguyen were absolutely correct and should have been called by the ref. Coaches who argue that a referee should tailor his calls so he doesn’t interfere with the run of play should realize that they’re just inviting the kind of arbitrary subjectivity that they’ll bitch and moan about later when a call goes against them. Tierney and Nguyen committed the fouls, and I disagree with Coach Heaps’s assertion in his post-game interview that the ball should be the decider, not the referee. I’m not even sure what the first part of that statement means, but I AM sure that the second part is a direct, unmerited, and improper criticism of referee Geiger. I agree with you that complaints against referee decisions by coaches and players can have either an immediate or a cumulatively negative effect on referees’ attitudes toward the team. It only makes sense that coaches and players should try to get on the right side of the referee — not only for the present game, but for the future as well. Word gets around in the refereeing community and can create a prejudice against a team right from the opening whistle. In addition, a coach’s complaints about refereeing rub off on his players and can lead to demoralization, un-winning attitude, and further fouls and failures of sportsmanship.

    As for your second point: I think Heaps may have called Caldwell over because both Jones and Goncalves were discussing Nguyen’s ejection with the referee, but it does seem to me that Caldwell is beginning to assume more of a leadership role. His improvement as a player over the past few years has been impressive. I think he now understands how important positional play is as a defensive midfielder, and that is enabling him to be instrumental in initiating the Revs’ attack.

    Thanks for your insightful question, and don’t worry about whether it qualifies as ‘technical.’ I’ve got pronounced opinions on every aspect of the game and am always happy to weigh in on them.

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