New England Soccer Today

Technically Speaking: #PHIvNE

Photo credit: Paul Rudderow/Philly Soccer Page

Photo credit: Paul Rudderow/Philly Soccer Page

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.

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NEST: What were your thoughts on the tactical approach when you saw Teal Bunbury stationed up top, Kelyn Rowe on the wing and Juan Agudelo on the bench to start the game?

Rick: At the beginning of the game I would have preferred Juan Agudelo up top, with Teal Bunbury running up and down the field on the right wing. Kelyn Rowe cannot beat a back to the endline, and, because he doesn’t use his left foot, his opportunities to go to goal and shoot are restricted when he’s playing on the right side. He does better in that respect when he’s at left wing, but (as I’ve said before) to me he’s fundamentally out of position on either wing. When he plays, he should play midfield, probably defensive.

Also, he defended poorly on the second goal by letting Warren Creavalle slip by him so easily before crossing. I don’t think Bunbury would have been so easily fooled.

Unlucky deflections aside, what could the Revolution have done better on both of C.J. Sapong’s goals?

Rick: On the first goal: Gershon Koffie should have made more of an effort to stop Fabinho’s cross. It looked like he simply gave up trying to block it. Second, it is the defensive job of a midfielder-winger to mark the overlapping back. I would have liked to see Rowe tucking into this defensive work, with Koffie supporting Farrell and Goncalves by marking Sapong in front of the goalmouth. Sapong is, after all, the Union center forward, and (as this game proved in spades), a real scoring threat who deserves a lot of defensive attention.

On the second  goal: as previously mentioned, Kelyn Rowe was easily buffaloed by Warren Creavalle before the cross to an unmarked Sapong. Then, once a player with Sapong’s quality gets into the penalty area, he has to be closely watched, ideally by either of the two Rev defensive midfielders (Caldwell or Koffie). As it was, both these players were mere spectators. Goncalves could also be criticized for ball-watching.

You’ve long been a supporter of proper shooting technique, so I have to ask: how did Ilsinho and Sebastian Le Toux both manage to botch their penalty tries?

Rick: I wouldn’t fault either of them on shooting technique. Penalty kicks are rarely executed with a pure instep drive, because the instep as the point of contact (though unparalleled for power) is small enough to create problems with accuracy. Ilsinho appropriately used the inside, hitting the ball with a lot of authority, and nice and low. Fortunately for the Revs, his aim was a little off. The ball fell short of the corner, letting Bobby make a nice save after correctly guessing which side the shot was going to.

(Parenthetically, to me, the better call on this first penalty would have been an indirect free kick from the spot of the foul. I saw it as more of an obstruction infraction than a direct-kick infraction — but them’s the breaks.)

On the second penalty, Le Toux correctly guessed that Shuttleworth would dive one way or the other and decided to shoot for the middle of the goal. His problem was that he didn’t shoot the ball high enough. This allowed Shuttleworth to save the ball with his shins after diving.

We saw replay after replay of the tackle that sent Je-Vaughn Watson to the showers early. When a defender makes a tackle like that after his team goes down two goals, do you think it’s frustration or just carelessness, plain and simple?

Rick: Probably frustration and carelessness were both contributing factors to a degree, but it is difficult to know exactly what is in the mind of any player. What a coach will worry about is if a dumb foul bespeaks an ingrained temperamental problem, rather than just a momentary lapse.

I was very concerned when Watson was yellow-carded in the opening game at Houston for a completely unnecessary foul. He could have easily run with the winger (he’s fast enough), instead of bowling him over.

To then be red-carded only two games later, with your team down two goals, hints (at the very least) at an inveterate lack of judgment. The coaching staff needs to work with Watson to make sure he gets it that he has to play in control.

What stood out the most to you about Sunday’s match?

Rick: Except for the waning moments of the game, when they more or less fell apart, the Revs played very well for the last hour of the game, despite being down a man. Although Shuttleworth (Man of the match for the Revs, in my opinion) had to bail them out a few times (a second save of a penalty, for example), I would not have been surprised if the Revs had scored. They came fairly close a few times, especially after Agudelo entered the game, most notably with his shot in the 88th minute. He made an immediate positive impact.

I hope the Revs begin with Agudelo next game as a withdrawn striker with Davies up top. Newsflash: Goalscoring is important. Thus, it would behoove any coach to have two of his best scorers on the field at the same time.

The Revs need to improve their wing play. Neither Rowe nor Fagundez contributed very much in this game. I can’t recall either one having a shot on goal or a centering pass, for that matter.

Partially as a result of not having strong wingers, the Revs fall into overusing their left and right backs (Tierney and Watson) as offensive forces. You want your outside backs to be on the lookout for the overlap – but the trap the Revs are falling into is that, when the other team gets a turnover combined with a fast break, the Revs will have only three or four players defending. Often I see the wing-backs too far upfield to provide defensive support. With stronger wingers, and with all four backs playing with primary attention to their defensive responsibilities, they could cover with at least five men (a defensive midfielder included) when the other team has a fast break.

One area many goalkeepers could improve on is their goal kicks. Andre Blake, although a great shot saver, strangely goes down on his left knee after kicking, a weird habit that results in his kicks barely clearing midfield. Shuttleworth’s goal kicks are adequate in terms of length but they usually travel the same exact distance, with the same exact floating trajectory, making them too predictable. He should also add his left foot to his repertoire.

One of the factors in Leicester City’s present success in the English Premier League is the offensive contribution keeper Kasper Schmeichel makes through his goal kicks. He can float the ball or kick a line drive (baseball’s “blue dart”) that can send the ball very near to the opposing penalty area. The first thing he looks for when he is able to take a quick goal kick is whether or not Jamie Vardy is open. If he is, the blue dart is ‘on.’ This is a great attacking weapon, in part because opposing teams have to guard against it, thereby opening up play for Leicester in other areas of the field. Variety is the name of the game, from the goalie on forward.

Almost all keepers could learn to kick with authority and variation, as gifted full-time professionals who train daily. All they would need is someone to teach them how.

Walter Zenga – the Spider-Man himself – was another great shot-saver who couldn’t kick a ball from the ground worth a lick. Too often, his goal kicks stayed on the ground, resulting in defensive problems for the Revs.

2 Comments

  1. Adrian Martin

    March 22, 2016 at 4:16 pm

    Rick’s comment on Teal’s (only) shot that went for a throw-in?

  2. Rick Sewall

    March 22, 2016 at 7:35 pm

    Last season Teal scored an excellent left- footed goal, curling the ball inside the far post.

    On Sunday’s left -footed shot he appeared to have no idea what he was doing. All aspects of proper technique were lacking- his balance (shown by his almost falling backward after kicking), swing, foot control, and lack of proper follow through all dictated that the ball was going to go where it finally went. Not often does one see a shot at goal go over the sideline.

    This shot is another indication that the Revs should pay more attention to proper shooting technique.

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