New England Soccer Today

Technically Speaking: #ORLvNE

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

Welcome to another 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.


NESoccerToday: Orlando City had no qualms exploiting the Je-Vaughn Watson-Andrew Farrell partnership right off the bat, as evidenced by Julio Baptista’s foray into the area inside of 14 seconds. What did you see on the foul that showed Watson and Farrell’s unfamiliarity with each other?

Rick: Whoever cooked up this opening play should be proud. Taking advantage of Brek Shea’s kicking ability, Julio Baptista’s canny experience, and a possible lack of coordinated play between Rev center backs Andrew Farrell and Je-Vaughn Watson was a very smart idea. Not often in soccer does one see a goal result from a game-starting salvo.

Give Shea credit for an excellent long pass to Baptista, making defending difficult in any case. Also, give Baptista credit for being able to take full advantage of both the long pass and miscues by Andrew Farrell and Je-Vaughn Watson.

The miscues? First, Farrell got twisted up defending against Baptista, largely as a result of the extremely well-placed long ball. He ended up on the wrong side of Baptista just before Watson’s penalty-drawing foul. More important was Watson’s miscue. All he had to do, instead of double-teaming Baptista, was to back Farrell up by getting goalside of the attacker with the idea of just getting in his way. Instead, he somehow spun around him, ended up behind him (with Farrell), and chose to foul from behind.

Even though this was the first time Watson and Farrell played together as center backs, I wouldn’t necessarily put Watson’s choice to double-team Baptista down to unfamiliarity. Maybe it signaled a lack of communication or trust, but maybe it was just a bonehead defensive decision.

Despite the early PK, the Revs seemed to respond well, with that response coming in the form of Teal Bunbury’s goal. But there were other opportunities in the second half to take the lead, only for the likes of Charlie Davies and Lee Nguyen, two players who certainly know how to finish, to flub their shots in the box. Do you think it’s psychological, or did goalkeeper Joe Bendik simply read their shots well enough to stop them?

Rick: Bendik, by coming off his line with a lot of authority, did well to stop both Nguyen’s 80th-minute shot and the one Davies got off in the 84th. In both cases, there was a lot of defensive pressure on the attacker, and Nguyen had a further disadvantage of shooting from a bad angle (the edge of the goal box, about three yards from the end line). Davies shot from near the 18-yard line, in front of the goal. Basically, the goalie did his job and stopped them both. No complaints from my end.

The one thing I would add is that ideally (and I do mean ideally – it would have been sensational if they pulled it off) I would have liked to see one or both of them have the poise to dribble around the keeper before shooting. “Boom Boom” Barbosa, a Brazilian who played for the Boston Astros in the 1970’s, could do this better than anyone I’ve seen. He would have scored every time in those old MLS one-on-one shootout tiebreakers.

Orlando seemed to put the Revs on their heels late, with Bobby Shuttleworth making a couple of crucial saves. What was Orlando City doing tactically that made it so difficult for the Revs to keep them at bay in the waning stages?

Rick: The insertion of Kevin Molino and Cyle Larin into the offensive middle of the Orlando attack and the simple move of Kaka to the left wing led to the home team’s overall control of the game for the last thirty minutes – despite three excellent Revs’ chances in the latter part of the game. Kaka had Woodberry’s number and the freedom to do nearly anything he wanted in this half hour. Molino and Larin had the skill to put the Revs’ defense under a lot of pressure.

On the other hand, never discount the advantage the strong wind was handing Orlando. It helped the Revs control the play for much of the first half, but made it tough for them at the end of the second.

For the second straight week, we saw the Revs “turn off” while disputing a non-call and surrender a goal in the process. What can a coach do to make his players less prone to mental gaffes like the ones we’ve seen?

Rick: The first thing a coach can do is to stop challenging referee calls himself. In other words, he needs to lead by example. If he doesn’t, his players will feel that they also have the right – even the obligation – to complain to the referee about questionable calls. This quickness to dispute is a sure distraction from the “business” of the game and can result in players “turning off” at critical moments to cry foul. Obviously, if a coach himself has the habit of giving the referees a hard time, as Heaps does, he will have a difficult time persuading his players not to do so – even if he knows they shouldn’t.

For players to get involved with referee calls is losing attitude. First, it diverts their mental focus from the intricate web of the game, which merits their total concentration. But second, if some players are always playing hard and others are excuse-makers, this can lead to team dissension. If I were a forward watching my defense raise their hands indignantly in the air instead of running with their men after a handball, I’d be disgusted.

If a coach has what he considers serious and substantive complaints about a particular referee or about the level of refereeing in general, he should refrain from public antics and outbursts. These will inevitably upset and embarrass those in the refereeing community and can, therefore, be counterproductive, especially if the coach gets a reputation as a complainer. Instead, he should write a letter to the appropriate league officials, voicing his concerns very specifically and courteously.

As a coach, I have always tried to win referees to my side, never complaining about questionable calls, and always being very pleasant to them at the end of games, especially when we lost. I figured that, sooner or later, this forbearance might lead a ref to give my guys the benefit of the doubt on a game-deciding call.

There are other teams in the league with as much or more talent than the Revs, so getting all their ducks in a row will be an important element in preparing them to compete for the MLS championship. These ducks include good sportsmanship, relentless focus on the game, and a civil posture toward the MLS refereeing community.

The biggest coaching no-no? Never blame a ref for a loss. The fact is, you’re the ones who didn’t win the game. Blaming the ref (or any other field condition) is sour grapes.

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

Rick: The wind had a big effect on the game, greatly helping whichever team had it at its back. There’s guesswork involved in coaching against it. I remember once playing a game on the Rhode Island seacoast during a very strong wind, when the home team (not us) won the toss and opted to go against the wind for the first half, saving the advantage for the second, when they expected to be tired. We scored a couple of goals early and ended up winning easily when the wind completely abated during halftime.

The end of the Revs’ game was disturbing to me. Clearly, the fans were out of line when they threw cans at Rev players, but coaches and players on both teams should realize that they will reap what they sow. If they lose their cool and misbehave – as they did (and very unprofessionally) – they incite the fans to follow suit and behave poorly also. It’s lucky no one got hurt.

Overall, a sorry ending to a pretty good game.

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