New England Soccer Today

Technically Speaking: #CHIvNE

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

Welcome to the latest installment 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.


1. Jay Heaps called Saturday’s game a tale of two halves. But there were instances in which the Fire found great opportunities in the first half, as well. What do you think was the Revs’ biggest issue on defense?

Rick: I wouldn’t call this game a tale of two halves, despite the fact that the Revs led 1-0 at halftime before allowing three second-half goals. The outcome of the first half was obviously much better for the Revs than the outcome of the second half – but the quality of play in the first half was only marginally better than that in the second half. In my view, the writing was on the wall almost from the first whistle.

For one thing, the Revs got badly beaten on the dribble over and over in the first half. Chris Tierney was beaten by Patrick Nyarko on a give-and-go and was forced to give him a hip check in the 24th minute to stop him (a foul that could easily have resulted in a yellow card). The same Nyarko in the 44th minute coasted by Tierney and crossed to David Accam for a header over the goal. In the 8th minute Kelyn Rowe overcommitted on a tackle and was run around by Joevin Jones, leading to a Fire scoring chance. Beaten again in the 28th minute near midfield, Rowe opted to grab Jones’s shoulder (a sloppy foul that also could have occasioned a yellow card). In the 9th minute Accam basically walked around Jermaine Jones just outside the Revs’ penalty area. And Andrew Farrell simply was not quick enough to stay in Accam’s way before his 21st-minute shot, forcing a fine save by Bobby Shuttleworth.

Offensively, recurrent sloppiness in first-half was a presage of worse to come in the second half. I think particularly of Lee Nguyen’s two careless passes in quick succession in the 9th minute, Scott Caldwell’s giveaway leading to Gilberto’s three excellent scoring chances from the 28th to the 30th minutes, and the interception of a very loose Farrell pass that culminated in Accam’s rocket 21st-minute shot. These (and other) slipshod passes took a real toll on the Revs possession game, which should have had more of an impact in this half.

2. What were some of the things that impressed you about the way the Fire, who really have nothing to play for at this point in the season, played against the Revs?

Rick: The Fire have some pretty good and experienced players. Gilberto (a Brazilian goalscorer) and Razvan Cocis (Romanian international) could play on any team in the league. David Accam, a speedy and skillful winger (the Fire’s star, along with Gilberto) seemingly effortlessly exposed the Revs’ lack of speed on the flanks, as did Patrick Nyarko and Joevin Jones upon occasion. Daniel Cyrus and former Rev Jeff Larentowicz made a pretty good pair at center back. They were embarrassed only twice in the game – when Rowe got off his 44th-minute shot that hit the crossbar, and in the double whammy of the 66th and 67th minutes, when Juan Agudelo’s miss from about seven yards was followed by a shot from Rowe that had to be denied by goalie Jon Busch. The Revs’ score was the result of a slick Tierney cross to Agudelo’s head that would have been difficult for any defense to deny.

Generally, the Fire had the jump on the Revs for pretty much the whole game. This “jump” resulted in a late-game spiral into bad fouls (add on Teal Bunbury’s 89th- and Jermaine Jones 95th-minute yellow cards), bad giveaways (note especially Gilberto’s steal from Chris Tierney in the 85th minute), and missed tackles.

3. When you watch a game like Saturday’s, knowing that the Fire are a team that’s struggled all season, who is more at fault for the result: the Revs’ defense by allowing three goals after the break, or the Revs’ offense, which was relatively quiet?

Rick: It’s a toss-up, but on balance, I would have to say the defense – not only the back four and the holding midfielders, but also the forwards, who were beaten too easily on defense. The Revs had big problems with the Fire’s team speed all night, as with Gilberto’s skill. The Revs were lucky he didn’t score at least two goals.

As for the Revs’ offense, the counterattack hardly existed. Combine the absence of a fast-break threat with their sub-par possession game, and the Fire defense had a pretty easy time maintaining good order in terms of their positioning.

4. When the Revs perform as poorly as they did on Saturday, and doing so in a game in which a playoff berth is on the line, how much of that is on the team’s leaders to get their teammates motivated for this game?

Rick: Professional soccer players should be self-motivating, and all the Rev players were surely aware of what was at stake in this game. The best way for the coaching staff to prevent a counter-productive onset of nerves and get the players ready for the game, both mentally and physically, is to form an effective game plan. The way things turned out, it’s hard to tell if that was done or not.

The Revs have two players whose goal (and normal role) is to dictate the flow of the game by controlling it, deciding whether to speed it up or to slow it down. These are midfielders Jermaine Jones and Lee Nguyen. They are the on-the-field team leaders, with the responsibility, through their play, to organize and thereby inspire their teammates. Both had, arguably, their worst games of the season.  Jones especially did not seem up to his usual level of play and leadership.

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

Rick: The Fire had to see themselves as the underdogs in this game. Paradoxically, this may be why they gave the Revs more than they could handle. Playing an opponent who is better than you are is always a strong motivational factor for a competitive athlete. Evidently, playing for pride was also a better motivator than playing to secure a playoff spot.

The strong wind was an equalizing factor. Any negative field conditions help the weaker team. Better conditions would have made it easier for Jones and Nguyen in to dictate the flow of the game and would have, at the very least, made the overall play more attractive.

The Revs have got to find a way to get both Davies and Agudelo on the pitch at the same time, to increase scoring. A possible solution? Center forward: Charlie Davies. Offensive midfield: Juan Agudelo. Box-to-box midfielder: Lee Nguyen. Defensive (holding) midfielder: Jermaine Jones. Centerbacks: Andrew Farrell and Jose Goncalves. Left and right back and left and right midfield? Coaches’ decision. I would prioritize the defense.

A humorous aside: it was funny to see Gilberto and Cocis, both savvy internationals, laid out on the pitch in the 73rd minute, as if unconscious or dead, thereby giving their team a needed rest. Immediately after that, Scott Caldwell, who had been knocked about pretty aggressively by Jeff Larentowicz, immediately popped up again. Is there a lesson here that Americans should learn?

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