New England Soccer Today

Technically Speaking: #NEvNYC

Photo credit: Chris Aduama/aduamaphotography.ocm

Photo credit: Chris Aduama/aduamaphotography.ocm

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.


What was the biggest difference in the way the Revolution played as compared to their previous two contests?

Rick: Their overall defensive organization was improved. Jay Heaps saw the obvious, and seems to have made sure that every player had a clear understanding of what his defensive responsibilities were. The back four played with a sense of urgency throughout the game, and the defensive efforts of generally offensively-minded players like Diego Fagundez, Teal Bunbury, and Daigo Kobayashi were especially impressive. All three could be seen often in and around the penalty area contributing usefully to team defense. Fagundez’s 81st-minute block of a New York City cross (even though he conceded a corner on it) exemplified the disciplined defense the Revs displayed for the whole game.

Were you surprised that a makeshift backline and a backup goalkeeper were able to keep the sheet clean?

Rick: New York City had really only one very dangerous player (David Villa). Despite his creation of an excellent scoring opportunity as early as the secnd minute with an elegant back-heel, the Revs were generally able to keep the Spanish star in check, thereby preserving the clean sheet. I was impressed with how well London Woodberry played center back, and the same for Jeremy Hall at right back. In goal, Brad Knighton is no beginner. He was notably effective in overtime, catching a Chris Wingert shot and a Kwadwo Poku cross, and punching a Villa free kick well away. He was focused throughout the game, and his play gave his defense a lot of confidence.

I am not too surprised that this Revs’ group was able to get the clean sheet. Any group of professional defenders who concentrate for 90 minutes are capable of this sort of performance. To be realistic, though, it’s also clear that NYCFC did not present the Revs with the offensive challenge that FC Dallas and the Red Bulls did.

How would you assess the way Diego Fagundez played, and how can he keep up that level of play?

Rick: Diego was understandably man of the match. His pinpoint pass on the Nguyen goal, his many spectacular forays into the penalty area, highlighted by his 39th-minute cross to Charlie Davies and his many defensive efforts made him a deserved honoree.

Diego would keep up and even raise his level of play if he learned to shoot the ball consistently on target with both feet from outside the area. This would be an eminently doable task for him, given appropriate instruction. His dribbling, ability to pass the ball, and knowledge of the game are more than adequate.

The Revs have a problem, though. Where should he play? Currently they are lining him up as a left midfielder-winger, but he is lacking a good move to the outside and to the endline to cross the ball. Even if he could add such a move to his repertoire, he doesn’t have the reliable left foot to finish this play. His habit, when receiving a ball in the offensive half, is to dribble toward the middle of the field to shoot or to make a play.

Diego could be effective at offensive midfield, but that’s a position where the Revs already have a traffic jam of fine players. Same problem at defensive midfield. Right wing? That’s where Teal Bunbury plays. It’s a puzzlement, as Yul Brynner sang in The King and I.

As good as the Revolution offense looked, Heaps said they left too many chances on the table. How can the coaching staff improve upon that in training?

Rick: There are two general ways a coaching staff can help a team put the ball in the net. First, they can build the players’ tactical competence (both individually and as a team), putting them in a position to create more and more scoring opportunities. Second, they can make sure they have the technical competence to finish. In my view, the Revs’ staff has been successful at the first of these tasks. The team can really cook on offense; they create numerous golden chances and should have won this game by more than one goal.

On the other hand – and I know I’m at risk of becoming a Johnny-One-Note on this point – without a technical overhaul, the Revs are unlikely to stop leaving chances on the table. Deficiencies in shooting technique result in the ball going over the bar way too often, whereas shooting properly with the instep drive does not. Nguyen scored the game’s single goal off a low shot (the ball even bounced before going in the goal), but his two succeeding shots soared well over the bar (and unnecessarily so), because they were poorly hit from a technical standpoint. Teal Bunbury and Chris Tierney had high shots that had to be tipped over the bar by keeper Josh Saunders but were technically dubious (Bunbury shot without locking his ankle, Tierney’s swing was too circular). Shaky technique usually results in a ball hit high.

I don’t recall the Revs ever scoring from a deflection. A low shot, on target, will increase the chances of a lucky bounce. Soccer is by nature a low-scoring game. The team that is capable of peppering the goal in a variety of ways will have an advantage over a team that does not.

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

Rick: The Revs may have been imperfect at times, but they came out playing like a unit and loaded for bear. Any team in the league would have been challenged by this Rev performance.

At the same time, I kept finding myself fast-forwarding in imagination to a match-up between a Revs’ line-up anchored by Nguyen, Davies, Jermaine Jones and Jose Goncalves and an NYCFC with Villa bolstered by Andrea Pirlo, Frank Lampard, and Mix Diskerud. What a great game that will be!


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