New England Soccer Today

Technically Speaking: #CHIvNE

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.


The Revolution played noticeably better in Chicago than they did at Dallas and New York in their last two road games. What was the biggest change you saw between those two games and the way the Revs played on Saturday?

Rick: Playing a last-place team has to have been a factor, but with players like Razvan Cocis, David Accam, and Shaun Maloney on the Fire, I don’t think rankings in and of theselves made too much of a difference. The Revs’ midfield play was much improved over their performance against the Red Bulls and Dallas. The combination of Lee Nguyen, Daigo Kobayashi, Diego Fagundez, Scott Caldwell, Chris Tierney was active and lively, dominating over large stretches of the first half and fairly even in the second.

Even though the effort of Accam (Chicago’s main offensive threat) resulted in their first goal, the Revs contained him much better than they did the speed merchants on Dallas and New York. While he definitely put pressure on the Revs’ defense, they played him smart, giving him some space and thereby containing him. Laying back a step, as Jeremy Hall did, to an extent negated his speed.

What could Jose Goncalves have done differently on his challenge on Accam in the 43rd minute, which led to a penalty for the Fire?

Rick: Jose was presented with a predicament on this play. He had a choice of tackling – always a chancey option in the penalty area – or letting Accam have the ball and trying as best he could to stay between him and the goal, hoping for defensive help or a save by Brad Knighton. These were, essentially, two bad alternatives. I can’t blame him for choosing the first.

Revs fans may claim that the tackle was not a clear foul, but the referee saw it otherwise. If Jose had been able to kick the ball past the 18-yard line toward midfield this would have probably persuaded the referee that he had first contact on the ball. The combination of the harshness of the tackle with the fact that the ball just floated off to the side led the ref to whistle the penalty.

Even if Goncalves had chosen the conservative alternative, letting Accam have the ball and marking him in hope of reinforcements, things might have turned out equally negatively for the Revs. Accam is fast, quick, and skillful and had momentum as he approached the ball. It would have been difficult for any defender to stay with him well enough to deny him a shot. This is a classic centerback quandary: risk getting beaten or risk the penalty. I wouldn’t blame Goncalves for either choice.

Based upon what you saw from Brad Knighton over the last 2 games, would it be wise for coach Jay Heaps to continue to keep him as the starting keeper?

Rick: Brad is certainly capable of doing a more than adequate job in goal at this level. He also has the advantage at this moment of the sharpness gained from having played well in the last two games. As for whether he or Shuttleworth should start the next game, that’s a function of Bobby’s health and a whole variety of considerations that Heaps is in a better position than I to evaluate.

What could the Revolution have done better to defend the corner kicks that led to each of Chicago’s goals?

Rick: The Revs’ deficient defense on corners resulted in both Chicago goals, and they very nearly conceded another on a corner in the 23rd minute. The Revs have a regrettable propensity for letting the ball drop in the area: this problem has to be corrected through a proper balance of zonal and man-to-man marking.

I would begin by going over the basics: 1) put yourself in the correct position, understanding that if you are only one half step out of position, you are out of position; 2) pay equal attention to opposition players and the ball; 3) have the sense of urgency merited by recognition that a corner is a prime chance for the other team to score.

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

Rick: When the Revs are playing with their core of midfielders – even without Jermaine Jones – they can create great scoring chances through possession soccer, even absent the blazing speed of other teams. It is great to see defenders come on the overlap and put a devastating ball across the goal-mouth.

It was mentioned on Comcast TV, fairly extensively, that the Revs have been awarded only one penalty shot this year, versus eight conceded. The suggestion is that they have been prey to bad luck or something more sinister. If I were the Revs, I would throw off this victim’s mindset. It’s distracting and self-perpetuating.

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