New England Soccer Today

Technically Speaking: #NEvMIN

Photo credit: Chris Aduama/

With Saturday’s Revolution-Loons match in the books, NESoccerToday’s resident coach and former pro Rick Sewall gives his perspective on what stood out the most about the wild 5-2 win for the locals.

1) Adrian Heath’s approach to Saturday’s contest was very interesting.

After losing by lopsided scores to both Portland and Atlanta, the Minnesota managed a result in their third game, a 2-2 tie at Colorado. One could argue that getting one point in their first three games is not too bad for an expansion team, but the Loons had a major crisis on their hands with the Revolution on tap.

Going into Saturday’s game, they would be missing six starters— four to national team duty, one to suspension, and their first-string keeper to injury. As a result, they were outmanned by a very motivated Revs team, who were playing their home opener, hungry for a victory after two losses, and basically “loaded for bear.”

Under these circumstances — a weakened squad vs. an inspired and capable foe — some coaches would have parked the bus on defense and looked for a fast break for a possible goal (a tie would have been a great result). But Coach Heath had different ideas.

My first intimation that something was afoot when I saw Minnesota keeper Bobby Shuttleworth repeatedly roll the ball to defenders and midfielders, with the idea of playing from the back—trying to keep possession and advancing the ball up the field under control. Indeed, I don’t think Shuttleworth punted the ball even once in this game. And he only kicked the ball from the ground past midfield maybe two or three times. Every other goalkeeper distribution was aimed at pure possession.

Based on this, I am guessing that Coach Heath made a conscious (and to me, admirable) decision to play this game as if it were a pre-season or friendly game—in other words, for team improvement and future development.

Playing a blood and guts defensive game still probably would’ve resulted in a loss—maybe 3-0 instead of 5-2—but a coach learns a lot more about his players when they are instructed to pass the ball. And interestingly, the possession game helped the team to improve as the game went on. They gradually got better at holding the ball and made fewer glaring mistakes as time passed.

2) Diego Fagundez returns to form against the lowly Loons.

Paul Mariner named Diego Fagundez Man of the Match, a choice I don’t have a major quarrel with. He had a strong game, as he so often does when playing against weaker opposition. The Revs had free sailing, especially in the first half, and Fagundez stands out in these conditions because he can run at speed with the ball, in full control. Add to this quality a great work rate and an ability to pass the ball, and you will find a player who’ll routinely put himself in the MOTM conversation.

The problem is that, when playing against stronger opposition, Fagundez has a tendency to disappear. He has a reluctance to take on a defender on the flank, which suggests that he may be out of position. It is up to the coaching staff to find him a place on the field.

3) The Revolution’s collective power-kicking struggles continued.

Kelyn Rowe’s 81st minute shot taken near the edge of the penalty area went well over the crossbar. He had the time and space to do much better. He should have, at the bare minimum, hit the target. There was no problem in seeing that his technique was, at best, poor—no foot control, very little leg follow-through, not enough mental focus on the ball.

Cody Cropper is a big, strong guy who should be adding 15 to 20 yards (maybe more) onto the distance of his goal kicks. Why isn’t he? Because his follow-through stops dead after a foot or two. If he learned to follow through at least thigh-high, with ankle appropriately locked, he would add a game-changing weapon to his arsenal. Long-range line-drive-type goal kicks can catch a defense off-balance, especially a defense that likes to attack via the overlap.

Andrew Farrell had zero scoring chances Saturday despite playing right back, an offensive position in Jay Heaps’ scheme. My guess is that he has little confidence in his shot. Those who do (Jermaine Jones, for example) are always looking for chances to shoot from distance. If Farrell was more aggressive, he could have created numerous opportunities against the depleted Minnesota team the Revs faced Saturday.

Proper shooting is a necessity and an attraction in soccer for two reasons: 1) it scores goals and wins games, and 2) fans thrill to a good shot. I wish the organization would put more emphasis on instruction in this vital technique.

Put it this way—before you learn the curveball, you’ve gotta learn the fastball. True in soccer as well in baseball.

Two points to conclude. First, after reading the recent posts here on why the Revs were not scoring, my wife said the best way to score goals is to play a weak team. She was proven correct.

Second, rarely (if ever) does one end a game with only one minute of stoppage time. It’s usually a sign of an extremely one-sided affair, and that’s what exactly what referee Ricardo Salazar seemed to decide when he kept stoppage time to 60 seconds.

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