New England Soccer Today

Five Things We Learned: #CHIvNE

Photo credit: Chris Aduama/

Photo credit: Chris Aduama/

Do we have a full-fledged goalkeeper controversy on our hands?

A week after helping the Revolution snap a five-game losing streak with a shutout win over New York City, backup Brad Knighton was back in goal for the Revolution on Saturday at Chicago. This, even though starter Bobby Shuttleworth was cleared to play earlier in the week.

According to coach Jay Heaps, Knighton was given the start over Shuttleworth because of the “good momentum” created from the win over City. And, let’s be honest, who could blame him?

During the course of the club’s midsummer struggles, the Revolution were in dire need of a spark. A player who’d step up when called upon. A player who’d lift the rest of the team in any measurable way. It’s fair to say that Knighton provided that spark against City, and did so again with the Fire needing a dubious penalty call to deny the Revolution of maximum points.

We’re not saying Knighton is the savior of the Revolution’s season. After all, that’s Jermaine Jones’ job. But Knighton may have done enough at the right place, and at the right time, to take away the goalkeeping chores from Shuttleworth, at least for the near future, not only because of his goalkeeping skills, but because of his ability to inspire his teammates, as well.

It’ll be interesting to see if Knighton will be back between the sticks when Toronto comes to town on Saturday. In the meantime, let’s take a look at what we learned from the Revolution’s performance at Toyota Park.

1. The Revolution’s swagger is back. While last week’s win over City was an encouraging development on its own, there’s even more reason to believe that the Revolution’s struggles are over based upon Saturday’s performance. Determined to avoid the slow starts that doomed them in Dallas and New York, the locals came out in attack-mode right after Ricardo Salazar blew the opening whistle. After a couple of speculative long balls, the offense started to work methodically through the midfield to put the Fire on its heels. It all paid off when Scott Caldwell’s cross found Lee Nguyen at the far post to put the Revolution ahead early. The score itself was welcome development for the locals of course, but it was the way in which it was worked that truly showed the Revolution’s collective confidence was back.

2. If the Revolution are going to make another late-season run, they’ll probably have to do it without receiving the benefit of the doubt from PRO referees. “Snakebitten” might be putting it mildly to describe the way in which the Revolution have continued to find themselves on the wrong side of penalty calls this year, and that trend continued on Saturday. With his club hoping to hold onto its one-goal lead going into the break, Jose Goncalves went in on a challenge against David Accam in the box, and was rewarded for his efforts by Salazar pointing the spot. Replays of the moment in question showed that the Revolution center appeared to get nothing but ball on his tackle, but that mattered little as the locals had officially conceded their eighth penalty of the year. By the way, the eight penalties conceded is seven more than the number the Revolution have received in their favor. Making matters worse, there was an obvious Fire handball in their own area during the 89th minute that wasn’t called. We’re not saying there’s some sort of league-wide conspiracy afoot here, but it is troubling to see the disparity continue to widen.

3. The marking on set pieces will probably be a point of emphasis in training this week. If there was one thing Heaps probably won’t like when he sees the tape, it’s his squad’s inability to clear the ball out of danger on the buildup to both goals. Prior to the penalty call, Eric Gehrig was able to get in front of Scott Caldwell to flick Shaun Maloney’s corner on frame, forcing a quick save from Knighton before the rebound spilled into the area. In the sequence leading to Razvan Cocis’ strike, Andrew Farrell’s botched clearance kept the play alive for the Fire. Moments later, Farrell was beaten on the cross from Matt Watson to Cocis. While Revolution fans may rue the 43rd minute penalty call for the Fiore, the fact is the Revolution could’ve done better to avoid that scenario, as well as the one that allowed Cocis to score.

4. Lee Nguyen may be catching fire at the right time. Don’t look now, but last year’s MVP candidate looks to be in a strong patch as of late. Last week, we saw Nguyen score inside of 12 minutes to secure a lead the Revolution were able to protect at the end. On Saturday, it was Nguyen again, and not only on his goal-scoring sequence. In the 14th minute, he ripped a shot from outside that area that Sean Johnson needed to pluck out of the air to deny. All told, he fired a team-high three shots on target, and was fouled four times by the Fire, who struggled to keep pace with the shifty midfielder. Note: when Nguyen is getting fouled more than his fair share, it usually means he’s on his game. With Jermaine Jones set to return soon, the Nguyen should get more breathing room, which may allow him to channel his 2014 self.

5. Diego Fagundez will be the starter at right midfield until further notice. Just when you thought Fagundez wouldn’t be able to top his performance against City, he goes off in Saturday’s game and, in some respects, plays even better. Not only was he a threat going forward, but he made sure to involved himself on the defense end for the second straight week. What’s more: he completed 93.8 percent of his passes, a sure sign that his confidence is only growing. And when Fagundez is playing with that kind of swagger, that’s a good thing for the Revolution, and a very bad thing for opposing defenses.

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