New England Soccer Today

Five Things We Learned: #PHIvNE

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

The good news about Sunday’s loss in Philadelphia: it could’ve been worse. Much worse. Like 5-0 or 6-0 worse.

Thanks to a combination of terribly-hit penalty tries that Bobby Shuttleworth denied and some obvious communication issues on the part of the hosts, the Revolution fell in defeat by the semi-respectable score of 3-0 against the Union on Sunday at Talen Energy Stadium.

Yes, there were plenty of mistakes committed by both sides. It just so happened that the Union made fewer of them. And in a sport in which the side that makes the fewest errors often prevails, the Union’s victory was well-deserved – even if they caught a break or two (or three or four).

If it wasn’t for bad luck, the Revolution wouldn’t have had any luck at all on Sunday. So let’s take a look back to see what we learned – you know, aside from the fact that Andre Blake has two of the friendliest posts in the league.

1. The back line has a long way to go before we can classify it as “reliable.” Between Andrew Farrell’s botched acrobatic clearance and foul on Ilsinho, the gaping space Jose Goncalves gave to Sapong on goal no. 2 before manhandling him in the box later on, the generous giveaway from Je-Vaughn Watson to set up goal no. 1 (which, it should be noted, came before his ejection), and the 67.4 percent passing accuracy stat registered by Chris Tierney, it was clear that the Revolution have #seriousbacklineproblems. The troubling thing: there’s really no excuse for it. This is a veteran and savvy group from left to right, though judging by Sunday’s performance, it was often hard to tell that.

2. The Bunbury at Striker experiment isn’t working. We all saw how good Bunbury looked during the preseason. Three goals, an assist, and one shiny Desert Diamond Cup MVP trophy. All impressive developments in their own right. But here’s the thing about the preseason: it’s the preseason. Yes, there was some interchange between Bunbury, Kelyn Rowe and Diego Fagundez. And yes, the former Sporting striker boasts remarkable pace. But let’s not forget: Bunbury as the 9 didn’t work when he was first acquired two years ago. Hence, the eventual switch to the wing. So why would it work now?

3. Seeing Juan Agudelo on the bench was puzzling, to say the least. With Charlie Davies sidelined, an inexperienced center back pairing, and a young (albeit talented) goalkeeper on the other side of the pitch, Sunday should’ve been the perfect occasion to start Juan Agudelo up top. Or not. Instead, we saw Bunbury at striker and Rowe – who showed only passing interest in defending – out on the right all the while Agudelo watched from the bench for the first 62 minutes. Just to be clear: one of the squad’s best scorers was left on the bench in a six-pointer. Unless he’s nursing another unreported knock, Agudelo’s absence from the XI in Philly has to be the oddest personnel decision we’ve seen through the first three games.

4. The refereeing isn’t the problem. It’s easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment; we get that. We get that Jay Heaps, who’s as fiery as they come, isn’t going to remain seated with a cup of tea for 90 minutes. We know this. What we don’t understand is why every borderline decision seems to elicit a lengthy objection. Not surprisingly,the Revolution boss went into beast mode with a rookie referee on hand. What’s confounding is that Heaps is one of the smartest coaches in MLS. He preaches the “worry about what’s in your control” mantra. So to see Heaps take Nima Saghafi to task time after time, then throw shade at him after the match is a perplexing development that benefits the Revolution in no way, shape, or form.

5. Barring the unexpected, the Revolution will have a tough time getting a result at Yankee Stadium on Saturday. If anyone happened to catch Friday’s game between the Cities (Orlando and New York), you’ll know that the Light Blues (if that’s what we’re calling them) have firepower for days.  Under normal circumstances, the possibility of facing Andrea Pirlo, David Villa, and the blossoming former Pioneer himself – Tommy McNamara – on the road would pose a serious issue for a full-strength Revolution. But with Watson and Nguyen both out due to international duty, the task of getting a point in the Bronx on Saturday might be the Revolution’s greatest challenge to date.

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