New England Soccer Today

Technically Speaking: #NEvVAN

Photo credit: Chris Aduama/

Photo credit: Chris Aduama/

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.


We all saw the replay of Andrew Farrell’s foul on Christian Techera, which led to a PK and a red card for Farrell. What could have Farrell done better in that situation?

Rick: First, he should never have reached out with his left arm and touched Techera’s left shoulder when the two were well into the penalty box. This is just plain asking for trouble, and the Revs got it two-fold, with Farrell’s eviction (for denying a Whitecap scoring opportunity), and the resulting successful penalty kick. Even in the midst of scrambling urgently to neutralize a defensive lapse that was not of his own making, he has to know that that sort of body position will be a (justifiable) red flag to a ref. Either he really knocked Techera to the ground and completely deserves the red card, or his attempted grab gave Techera enough pretext to fall and claim the foul. Either way, Farrell has to expect to pay the piper.

If I were Jay Heaps, I would forget about the call, and focus on the negligent way Chris Tierney and Jose Goncalves let the wily Techera scoot between them to scoop up a sweet through pass and create havoc in the penalty area. Goncalves looked completely unaware of Techera’s run; he could have seen it coming if he had lined himself up two or three steps deeper. Tierney (who, as left fullback, had primary responsibility for covering right winger Techera) might have at least tried to catch him instead of hopelessly raising his hand in an unwarranted claim of off-side.

From what you saw in the first 28 minutes prior to the red card, do you think the red card changed the outcome the game, or was victory deserved for the Whitecaps?

Rick: The way the game was played for the first 28 minutes, the Revs, with their three prime scoring chances, could easily have ended up the winning team. Sadly for the Revs, the 18th-minute ‘Cap goal was the only piece of first-half-hour play that made it to the scoreboard. Without the red card, though, and with the teams playing even at 11 v. 11, the final result would have been a toss-up.

Did the Whitecaps deserve the win? The Whitecaps are a good team, but so are the Revs – and the Revs were made all the more determined by the red card. I felt as if the Whitecaps made a mistake by falling into a defensive mode once they had the two-goal lead. They gave the Revs too many chances by falling back, looking for the counter, and relying on their red-hot goalkeeper, David Ousted. They got away with it, but not without many threatening moments.

If they had been ahead by only one goal after 28 minutes, and the teams had stayed even in personnel, the Whitecaps would have played more offensively, and it’s hard to say how the chips would have fallen. As it was, the red card definitely was the deciding factor – though the Revs struggled nobly to rise above it.

Lesson for the Revs? Get men back in the area when being attacked, know where the dangerous opposing forwards are, and play simple defense by marking carefully and clearing the ball. It is too bad they were burned by two basic defensive mistakes.

Also, forget the ref. After the foul, Bobby Shuttleworth was lucky not to get a yellow for some pretty serious dissent.

What do you make of the Revolution’s response after they went down to 10 men, especially during the second half?

Rick: The Revs seemed like a team firmly determined not to embarrass themselves any more after conceding the two bad first-half goals. They played the Whitecaps on at least even terms for the remainder of the game, and if the second-half 12-to-7 Rev shooting advantage statistic means anything, it could easily be argued that they were the better team. It is nice to watch a game when an undermanned team is playing inspired soccer and not giving up.

After the match, Jay Heaps criticized the way the game was refereed because of what he called “inconsistency.” How difficult is it for a player to perform when the game is called in that fashion?

Rick: It depends. It’s easy, if he is able (whether temperamentally, or by training) to accept referee calls as a part of the game that is not within his control and to focus instead on what is in his control: the game itself and what he can do to win it. On the other hand, players who let themselves be psyched out by calls they think are unfair can find it more difficult to perform well because their concentration is distracted away from the game itself.

This is not an unusual occurrence. An occasional athlete (tennis great John MacEnroe leaps to mind) consciously, and deliberately, feeds off conflict to raise his own testosterone levels – and being down a man can lead to inspired play (as I discussed in the previous question) – but more often than not focusing on bad calls (or calls perceived as bad) has a demoralizing and negative effect on a player or team’s performance.

In the post-game show for the Vancouver match, much of the conversation centered on Saturday’s man in the middle, Allen Chapman. It turns out that the Revs have quite a history – mostly negative – with this referee. With the whistle in his hands, the Revs have two wins and six losses, with a majority of the penalty kicks in those games going to the opposition.

Whatever that history, Heaps is carrying it too far by playing the victim, charging the ref with “inconsistency” (a code word for “incompetence,” “bias,” or both) and very clearly implying that he has cost him wins in the past. To say this publicly, on TV, is a sportsmanship no-no. And I personally thought Chapman was doing a creditable job of calling the game both ways.

From the time they are in elementary school, players are taught not to complain about what they consider to be bad calls by a referee. For their own mental health, as well as for individual and team performance, professionals should be taught the same way. The coach would do best to tell his players to leave the refs alone and concentrate only on winning the game.

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

Rick: Three aspects –

First, the remarkable Rev team performance after Farrell’s red card, playing a man down for the remainder of the game. It goes to show, I think, that playing with ten can inspire a team.

Second, that two bad defensive mistakes are enough to determine the outcome of a game, as they did in this one.

Third, harping on the capabilities of a referee is a bad coaching strategy. Jay Heaps is a good coach, but he’d be a better one if he dropped his obsession with what he considers bad refereeing. As Sylvester Stallone said in First Blood:Let it go.”

Stirring up a feud with a particular ref is never a good idea. It’s counter-productive for the team and bad for the league. No one likes watching petty squabbles played out in public.

One Comment

Leave a Reply