New England Soccer Today

Technically Speaking: #NEvORL

Photo credit: Jeff Bernstein

Photo credit: Jeff Bernstein

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 it about the way Lee Nguyen played that allowed him to be such a factor in the Revs attack on Saturday?

Rick: Lee made three beautiful assists on Saturday, and he came very close to getting several more. He has great vision and ability to pass the ball, joined with exceptional dribbling and penetrating skills. His play in this game was devastating – all three goals were essentially of his creation. The question raised by his sparkling performance is whether he has raised his level of play to the point that he should be playing in a more competitive league. That question can’t be answered on the basis of this game, unfortunately, as Orlando as a team was astonishingly passive on defense, ceding the run of play to the Revs for long stretches in both halves. You don’t often see a team park the bus as resolutely as Orlando did in this game, especially from the 15-minute mark to the end of the first half.

Another important factor in Lee’s success is the Revs’ well-oiled team passing attack. Occasionally, the communication and combination of play involving Lee and Diego was spectacular. Daigo Kobayashi, Scott Caldwell, Charlie Davies, Kelyn Rowe, and Chris Tierney are also at least above-average passers, with Jose Goncalves, Andrew Farrell, and Jeremy Hall holding steady as defenders. This overall team competence, combined with the lack of assertiveness in the Orlando defense, gave Lee the freedom to shine.

What have you seen from Diego Fagundez over the past few weeks that’s made him even more dangerous on the attack?

Rick: Diego’s body seems to be doing exactly what his mind (or muscle memory) is telling it to do. He seems never to be second-guessing himself. In other words, he is playing with a ton of confidence. This is a big change over his sporadic play in the first half of the season, when he often saw little of the ball. I hope he can continue this progress when playing against the stronger teams in the division.

Jay Heaps has often said the improvement to his team’s shape on the field has been one of the biggest reasons for their recent resurgence. What are some tell-tale signs that a team’s shape is sound?

Rick: First, and probably most important, is the level of coordination in play between the two center-backs and between the two defensive midfielders. When one center-back goes forward to challenge, for example, is the other moving a bit behind him to give support? Are they working well as a pair, rather than separating and playing like independent contractors? The same harmonization is required of the two defensive midfielders. If this is lost, team shape and cohesion will suffer. Also, are the defensive midfielders making defense their priority?

Next, are the offensive midfielders coming back on defense properly, fulfilling their responsibility to mark the overlapping left and right backs? Are all the forwards putting appropriate pressure on the opposing backline and midfielders in order to deter their progress and occasionally steal a ball?

Are all opposing forwards being marked off in the penalty area, without too much ball-watching?

The Revs’ recent clean-sheet record indicates that they are doing pretty well in the team shape department.

How would you assess the way Daigo Kobayashi and Scott Caldwell played in Jermaine Jones’ absence?

Rick: If there ever was a game Jermaine Jones could miss, this probably was the one. The Rev possession game didn’t suffer one whit with Daigo playing in Jermaine’s place. He and Scott Caldwell worked beautifully together, with both making real contributions to the Rev attack with their considerable passing talents. Although I think of Daigo as by nature more an offensive midfielder than a defensive one, his efforts on defense were plenty sufficient for this game.

What stood out the most about Saturday’s match?

Rick: Orlando was playing without five players, four (most notably Kaka and Cyle Larin) as a result of national team duty, Brek Shea due to injury. This situation may have contributed to coach Adrian Heath’s flaccid and unaggressive approach to the game. Bobby Shuttleworth’s 87th-minute save was Orlando’s only real challenge, and at that time they were down by two goals.

The lack of speed up front for Orlando made it an easy decision for Goncalves and Farrell to challenge – and win – a lot of balls. Fast forwards prevent this problem.

The big question for this game is: were the Revs as good as they seemed, or was Orlando as bad as they looked? My guess is it was somewhere in between.

Despite what some have suggested, I saw absolutely nothing wrong with the natural grass. In fact, I think it was instrumental in the Revs’ control of the game, as artificial turf is often an equalizing factor for the weaker team. I hope the players enjoyed it.

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