New England Soccer Today

Technically Speaking: #PORvNE

Photo credit: Corbin Elliot/Prost Amerika

Photo credit: Corbin Elliot/Prost Amerika

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.


Looking at the overall possession stats alone, you would think that this was a back-and–forth game when, in reality, the Timbers dominated much of it. What allowed them to really take the game by the horns, not only early, but for much of the second half?

Rick: The Timbers have good team speed and aggressiveness, especially as demonstrated by the play of center forward Maxi Urruti (in my opinion, runner-up Man of the Match after Fanendo Adi, who scored both goals). As a center back, I would not like to have someone harass me the way he did against the Revs’ defenders for pretty much the whole game. Although he never should have taken the yellow card for bad sportsmanship toward the referee, his hounding of Andrew Farrell just before the card was something I would like to see more Revs forwards do. This style was typical of the overall Timber play throughout much of the game.

Many times, when the Timbers won the ball, they attacked the Revs’ goal like gangbusters and created many good scoring chances. Not only that, this sssertive play resulted in the Timbers having a 19 to 4 shooting advantage for the whole game, despite the nearly 50-50 ball possession percentages.

The Revs put in a good effort, but the Timber clearly came out loaded for bear. The cozy stadium and the very loud and passionate home crowd surely had a lot to do with their success.

In the shot department, the Revolution were hardly dangerous, with only four total shots taken. What was missing from the Revolution offense that kept them from becoming more dangerous?

Rick: The Revs, with the exception of Teal Bunbury and Charlie Davies (who had a great cross from the end line in the second half), do not have the ability to beat opposing backs to the end line before crossing. This takes speed. with an emphasis on quick acceleration and dribbling skill. Both wingers and overlapping left and right backs should have this talent to some extent; these outside positions are the ones that require speed, more so than those in the middle of the field.

In addition, to become more dangerous against a set defense, a team needs to be a threat to score from outside the area. This is a team weakness for the Revs, and the reason is largely technical. The shooting style currently in vogue is that championed by Cristiano Ronaldo. He likes to use the inside of his foot (mostly the inside of the big toe) when executing the power shot, whether on set pieces or in the run of play. When he makes the contact he wants, and the ball is shot on target, I won’t deny that this method can be very effective, with a non-spinning ball swerving dramatically. The trouble is that this method of kicking is inconsistent when compared to the full instep method, simply because the instep shooter has much better control of the direction of the shot, as the shooting surface on the foot is larger, and the leg follow through is in in the intended direction of the shot.

I would guess that, when shooting from about 30 yards, the shooter, in the run of play, will hit the target about three times in ten attempts using the Ronaldo method because, even if only slightly mis-hit, the ball will likely go over the crossbar. By contrast, I’d lay odds on the shooter who uses the instep method to hit the target six of ten times, if not more.The shooter, simply, will have more confidence in his accuracy using this method, and consequently will not be reluctant to shoot from distance more often.

Because the Revs did not get many counterattacks, they were generally in the position of having to beat a packed defense. This is when effective shooting from outside the area is critical. Goals can result from deflections off defenders and rebounds off the woodwork or the keeper; the ball can also sneak into a corner of the goal despite being slightly mis-hit. In addition, the follow-through straight toward the goal (in place of the cross-legged follow-through with the Ronaldo method) helps, rather than hinders, the shooter’s momentum toward the target, so he has a better chance of capitalizing on a rebound.

How much of Saturday’s performance do you think was attributable to the absence of Jermaine Jones?

Rick: A healthy and fit Jermaine Jones would have made a real difference in this game. As it was, the team definitely missed his settling influence and the offensive thrust he supplies. Andy Dorman did OK in the first half, but clearly ran out of gas in the second. Substitute Daigo Kobayashi didn’t have the speed to stop the second Adi goal. Caldwell also played OK, but it was a bad omen for the Revs when, within the first 15 seconds of the game, he was stripped of the ball, causing a good scoring chance for the Timbers. Neither did he pull off the effective penetrating passes he has in previous games.

But let us not forget the absence of Juan Agudelo as well. He was called up for national team duty because Juregn Klinsmann knows full well that, with his ability to break down defenses, he can be a game changer. Who’s to say he might not have done this for the Revs on Saturday?

What do you think was the Revolution’s fatal flaw?

Rick: The aforementioned deficit of speed on the flanks.  Tierney, Woodberry, and Rowe are good players in their own right, and all make undeniable contributions to the success of the team. But these outside positions require special speed and quickness. These deficiencies were highlighted by Portland’s aggressive style of play.

Sub-par marking on both Portland goals was a secondary flaw.

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

Rick: A few years ago, my wife and I went to a baseball game at this very same stadium, when Portland had a minor league ball club. I might quibble with the artificial turf and the field dimensions for a soccer pitch, but everything else about it is terrific, especially its location so close to Portland’s center (a short walk for us back to the Hilton hotel). A team with a playing situation like that can develop a devoted fan base and a symbiosis between players and aficionados that can affect home-game outcomes.

Beyond that, to have a reasonable chance in a game with an opponent like Portland, you need to have all your key players. Jones and Agudelo are two of the Revs’ best players, and they were sorely missed.

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