New England Soccer Today

Technically Speaking: #NEvLA

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.

After Sunday’s game, Jay Heaps said he was particularly frustrated by his team’s form after the first 12 minutes. What did you see from the Revs after the 12-minute mark that probably gave Heaps fits?

Rick: Teal Bunbury scored for the Revs early, following nifty passes from Juan Agudelo to Scott Caldwell, and Caldwell to Bunbury. But from about the 12th minute to the 50th minute, the Revs’ possession game took a vacation, and statistics clearly show this. During this period the Revs could not complete four consecutive passes, and indeed completed three in a row only three times. This failure resulted in part from aggressive play by the Galaxy forwards, and in part, from some pretty good possession play in the Galaxy’s own right, all of which was rewarded by two well-deserved goals in the 18th and 27th minutes.

Galaxy pressure also caused some sloppy play for the Revs – poor marking in the penalty area, London Woodberry getting easily beaten down the Galaxy left flank, a botched back pass to Bobby Shuttleworth which could easily have resulted in a goal, and even a foul throw by Diego Fagundez.

I don’t blame coach Heaps one bit for being disturbed by this slapdash performance. Thankfully, the team recovered when, around the 50th minute, they strung together nine passes. From then on, the game was played on a fairly even basis.

Sunday’s match was the fifth straight game in which the Revolution have blown a lead. What do you think could be the root of the problem?

Rick: Bobby Shuttleworth has played very consistently this year, so this means that the field players will take most of the heat for this problem – the forwards for not scoring for bigger leads and the defenders for allowing the opposition to score and tie. This is a hard question to answer, as by one interpretation the blowing of the lead could be a defensive problem, by another an offensive one. Whatever the root cause, the easier way to remedy it is to beef up the defense – because, as they say in soccer, it is easier to destroy than to create.

Looking at the Revs’ present back four, I worry about left and right back. Woodberry and Tierney are both fine offensively, but their defense can cause problems. They just aren’t fast enough. Tierney has adjusted pretty well to this deficiency by learning to lay off the forward by a step or step and a half, deterring him from beating him to the outside. Woodberry still has this lesson to learn and falls too often into overcommitting.

What do you think prevented both sides from getting the go-ahead goal during the second half?

Rick: The combination of the artificial turf and the heavy rain obviously had something to do with it, but I think the main problem for both teams was that they were missing key players: Tierney, Lee Nguyen, and Jermaine Jones for the Revs; Robbie Keane for the Galaxy. These are all experienced players who could have made the difference playing under difficult conditions. Still, both keepers had to make very good saves to prevent more scoring.

While Diego Fagundez was able to hit a great free kick through, he seemed to get lost during many stretches of the match. What does he need to do better in order to return the player we saw two years ago?

Rick: I would have liked to see more from Diego in this game, because he was subbing in at offensive mid for the red-carded Lee Nguyen, and I suspect that may actually be his best position. On the wing, he lacks the moves and acceleration to beat a man toward the end line. But he’s got good ability to pass the ball, which suits him to a center mid position. Yet he was not awfully effective there in this game:

• He was unnecessarily dispossessed at least a couple of times. Knowing where defenders are is critical to keep this from happening.

• If were him, I would have played deeper in this game, especially when the team was struggling. I would have positioned myself closer to the ball, and passed as quickly as possible to a teammate.

• If I were him, I would also watch films of Carlos Valderrama, a player who had rock-solid technique with the inside and outside of both feet and unusually good field vision and awareness, virtues which made him an outstanding one-touch player. Diego may not become another Carlos (very few players will) but watching him play could help his development.

One last point: In Diego’s first year with the Revs, I was excited to see him execute an absolutely proper instep shot, something I have not seen from him since. I hope he remembers this technique, and works on it.

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

Rick: The nearly 40-minute lapse from the Revs in the first half and into the second half was strange, and easily could have resulted in a Galaxy win. At least they bounced back. And the fact that they did points up one of their best qualities as a team – that they so often to have it in them to overcome adversity. They just don’t give up.

Gyasi Zardes was Man of the Match. He put in an excellent effort.

Playing in a rainstorm, and on artificial turf, makes the game too much of a dogfight. A proper soccer stadium for the Revs is getting more and more imperative.


  1. BWG

    June 3, 2015 at 8:13 pm


    Great analysis again! Following up on your points about fagundez, I must say I agree long term that is the position for him. That said I hear and read a lot of critism about the need for him to develop consistency in his game. It’s not at all clear to me how fans and analysts expect him to do this without getting consistent and sustained playing time in order to correct those deficiencies in game settings at a high level. I’d also argue he might be able to accomplish it with a strong coach wi a history of player development and tactical knowledge in practice. (No offense to heaps but he isn’t that). Going on loan imho to a place like Rochester simply wont do it for him as the quality isn’t good enough. It is a bit chicken and egg. If he were in Europe the solution would be easier second division or a league with focus on development etc. so the question is what would you do if you were coaching him or managing the front office? Play him keeping in mind there will be growing pains but in the long run the potential upside is greater? Give him spot starts and limited sub appearances (status quo)? Try and loan him once the season and preseason starts again to your European partner with one of the renown player development systems in the world (sporting) or to some similar team? Or something different? Thanks again for the time

  2. Rick Sewall

    June 4, 2015 at 8:20 pm

    BWG, you ask excellent questions.

    Solid individual technique is the foundation of effective play in soccer (technical breakdowns are a no-no in professional soccer), so the first thing I would do would be to test Diego in detail to diagnose his strengths and weaknesses in ball control, passing, and shooting. I would then try to correct his weaknesses (he has them – in particular, in shooting and the use of his left foot), and I would start from the beginning (from a pedagogical standpoint) to make sure he appreciates how critical proper foot control is and how he can best execute it. As he appears to be a player who is open-minded and receptive to instruction, my belief is that he would buy into the very effective step-by-step method I use.

    Probably the best time for this intensive training to take place would be during the off-season. It would pay off, if only because a player’s field vision and consequent awareness, an absolute necessity for a midfield player, would improve with increased technical proficiency. This awareness would, obviously, have a positive effect on Diego’s tactical play.

    I agree that the current status quo of Diego’s development is disappointing, as he is lacking confidence as a starter. He did better two years ago, and I worry that, as the Revs’ boat has generally floated higher, this very young and formable player has been (and will continue to be) to some extent left behind. His energy has been a boost to the team when he enters late in a game, but playing the whole game at a fairly high level would clearly do more for his personal development. And his personal development would, in turn, help the team in the long run – one of the central midfielder’s main jobs is to establish the team’s possession game, and on Sunday it seemed as if Diego was at a loss how to do this.

    So generally, he isn’t playing enough. Winning soccer games and player improvement unfortunately often do not go together, a problem all professional staffs are aware of. Here is where the Catch 22 comes in.

    I am sure that the current Rev coaching staff are good tactical instructors. They probably burn the midnight oil devising new and interesting ways to develop individual tactics and team strategies. But I would also bet that, like just about all the professional, college, and even high school coaches I’ve observed over the years, they skimp on technical instruction, assuming (over-hopefully) that their players have arrived onto the team technically-proficient. Most often, though, even the pros arrive with technical deficiencies. Nonetheless, little or no technical instruction, practice, or even advice is imparted by the coaches. Training is based solely on conditioning, tactics, and team strategy. This emphasis on non-technical aspects of soccer training is slowing and in some cases even stopping player development in the US. North America is not the only continent with this problem (though it might be the worst). In sum, as a second-string Rev, Diego is not too likely to get what he needs to develop into a first-stringer.

    Nonetheless, he’s very young, quite talented, and to all appearances eager to improve.

    If I were in the Rev front office, I would seriously consider loaning him out to Sporting or a similar European club, on the clear understanding that he would be trained as a central midfielder, even if playing on a lower team. I would prefer to make this arrangement in the confidence that I was giving Sporting a player with solid technique in all areas, and that in return he would get experience he needs to become a key Rev player.

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