New England Soccer Today

Heaps: ‘We Talk About Formation Change All the Time’

Photo credit: Chris Aduama/

Photo credit: Chris Aduama/

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – With just over 20 minutes to go in the game, New England head coach Jay Heaps inserted Juan Agudelo into the lineup, replacing Gershon Koffie.

The move came at time in which the team trailed 2-0, and the substitution resulted in the formation shifting slightly, with Agudelo, a known striker, pushing up higher to give the Revs a second striker option. Diego Fagundez, a sub in the 56th minute, patrolled the left side of the field, pinching in some as left back Chris Tierney pushed up the field, essentially filling in as a midfielder.

Heaps’ well-known, traditional 4-2-3-1 formation shifted into a 3-5-2 but the Revolution were unable to capitalize with the attacking numbers and the team’s scoreless streak in league play stretched to just over 180 minutes. After the change, however, came the best pressure of the game from New England.

Two minutes after Agudelo step foot onto the field, Kei Kamara became a bit more involved with a turn and shot from inside the area that went over the bar. Less than five minutes later, Kamara went up to meet a cross, heading the ball down and beating Crew SC goalie Steve Clark but Columbus captain Michael Parkhurst made the clearance before the ball could definitively cross the line.

Were the chances a direct result of the formation change? Somewhat. Columbus was obviously more defensive minded throughout the last half hour of the game and anytime you throw numbers forward, you’re bound to create a chance or two.

But at the same time, could the 20-plus minutes be enough of a sample for Heaps and New England to make a change from the opening whistle?

“I think changing the formation, yeah we talk about it all the time,” Heaps said following the loss to Columbus Crew SC. “I think for us, right now, our exposure is defensively. Offensively, other than last week and tonight, you have to look at what you’re creating and where are you getting your chances from. If you watch our games, we switch the diamond formation quite frequently. We did it in Orlando, we did it in Toronto.”

Those formation changes in Orlando (3-1 loss) and in Toronto (4-1 loss) both came with the Revolution trailing, in an effort to produce a comeback. That begs the question what could happen if there was a variety in the formation from the beginning. Over the past two games, both at Gillette Stadium – a place the Revs have traditionally been good over the past couple of years – the visitors have found the back of the net early on.

Although there was some success in chances created with the formation change on Saturday night, it doesn’t necessarily mean the change should come in the form of adding more attacking options. It could mean sitting back deeper for the beginning of the match to get a solid start.

“Right now, where I feel like that’s letting us down is do we have the personnel to do it? We have the forwards to do it, there’s no doubt in my mind but the question is do we have the midfield to shield the back four,” Heaps said. “Right now, we’re vulnerable I feel on services and across the back. If you go to a diamond you’re going to create more service, more chances for them to score. We’ve looked at a flat four, we’ve looked at 3-5-2. I personally really strong believe that we are doing things that are creating chances, we’re just not sound enough as a group right now and that’s what’s hurting the most. We’re not confident in scoring that goal, we’re not confident in getting ourselves to start the game the right way.

“We’ve been battling uphill for the last four weeks and that’s not good enough,” Heaps said. “So no matter what formation you’re in, if you give up the goal in the first five to 10 minutes, you’re going to be battling.”

The good news for New England is Agudelo appears to be getting healthier by the week and Heaps admitted he “probably” didn’t start against Columbus was his fitness as he returns from injury.

“I thought when Juan and Diego came in, they were finding the seams a lot better,” Heaps said. “Juan is so strong physically that he can get the ball in the seam and hold the ball in the seam. And then he’s got a forward’s mentality so he’s always up and around Kei. So we really liked the way that looked and quite frankly, I think Juan’s fitness level is what’s keeping him from probably starting tonight. In terms of where Juan is, we’re really excited that he’s bringing that kind of energy and I thought he should have had a goal tonight.”

Heaps has been loyal to his formation to start games, with the biggest change coming as the triangle in the middle of the pitch flipping based on personnel. However, with the current stretch the Revs are on – a four game losing streak, three straight games surrendering a goal in the first 20 minutes, and now two straight games without a goal – a change in the formation could be the shakeup the club needs to snap out of its funk.


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