New England Soccer Today

Technically Speaking: #CHIvNE

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

Welcome back to another edition of “Technically Speaking,” where our resident coach and former pro Rick Sewall dissects the Revolution’s latest performance.

Have a question for Rick? Feel free to ask in the comments section!

NEST: What were your initial thoughts when you saw Je-Vaughn Watson at left back instead of Kelyn Rowe, who you mentioned handled himself well last week vs Houston?

Rick: I was disappointed because I was curious to see whether Kelyn Rowe could put two good games together at the LB position against what was very likely going to be better attacking players than he faced vs Houston. I would have worked extensively with him at practice at lateral movement, turning, getting in the way of the dribbler, and doing what he could to block crosses (it is better to concede a corner than it is to let the ball go in front of the goalmouth in the run of play). Unfortunately, when he did go in, his failure to block a cross led to the second goal. It takes a lot of concentration to prevent this. You need training, and you can’t be casual.

I don’t know what goes on in Revs’ practices, so it’s certainly possible Jay Heaps had a good reason to start Je-Vaughn Watson. I understand he said in an interview he was hoping to maximize midfield ball-winning. The Watson choice obviously backfired, so I’m kind of Monday-morning-quarterbacking to say I don’t really see this as enough reason to make this choice. I would have started Diego Fagundez at left midfield and told him to go out and do as much damage as he could. With his energy, the ball winning would have had a good chance of happening, without unsettling the back five. I would have started with the cohesive starting XI that did well against Houston.

I hope Rowe gets another shot at left back. I still think it may be best for him and the team, especially if they put in the effort to train him up.

After going down to 10 men due to Watson’s dismissal, what could the Revs have done better to stay in the game and possibly get a point?

Rick: To succeed while a man down, a team should try to play possession soccer for as long as they can before resorting to just kicking the ball away to safety. As it was, kicking the ball to safety was the Revs’ go-to strategy. They seemed to have no inclination to hold the ball as a team, often kicking the ball upfield as if with the sole object of belting it as far as they possibly could. Even when they did pass the ball purposely, it was to advance the ball, rarely toward their own goal or laterally, for possession. Too often this style of play resulted in easy turnovers.

In 1994, the U.S. Men’s National Team played Brazil in the Round of 16 at the World Cup. Because of the infamous Leonardo cold-cock of Tab Ramos, Brazil played a man down for the whole second half. Nonetheless, they controlled the play in terms of possession, scored a goal, and won the game 1-0 (and went on to win the World Cup). Of course, a big part of why they won the game was because they had better players. But after the game they did say that they frequently practiced playing a man down.

What did you make of the second half subs? Was Jay Heaps still trying to get a result, or was he saving legs for Wednesday’s game?

Rick: Because Heaps used all three subs fairly early in the second half, taking out his best three scoring prospects (Juan Agudelo, Kei Kamara, and Lee Nguyen)—the last one at the 66th minute—I would say he had to have been concerned to save legs for the next game. In fact, in my view, the Revs were out of the game when well before the 26th-minute red card, right from the moment Bastian Schweinsteiger made that great pass to the right wing in the 12th minute. That’s about when the Chicago possession-dominance really started.

I think Heaps recognized early that the Chicago midfield of Dax McCarty, Juninho, and Schweinsteiger was too much for the Revs to handle. Any result was at best a remote possibility, so I can’t fault Heaps’ decision to sub early.

A lot was said about how this game was going to be decided in the midfield. Prior to Watson’s dismissal, how did you think the Revs’ midfield performed against Chicago’s?

Rick: The trio of McCarty, Juninho, and Schweinsteiger was impressive, to say the least—not surprising considering that they are all bona fide prime MLS players. The Revs began pretty well, but it wasn’t long before Chicago took full control. The Revs’ midfield possession after the 15th minute was so limited you could hardly tell much difference before and after the 26th-minute red card. The only conclusion I can come up with is that the Revs were outclassed.

What stood out the most about Saturday’s loss?

Rick: Anyone who saw the ending of the LA-Orlando City game could have seen what the Revs are currently missing—a true field-generalissimo who sees 360 degrees of play, can make the long pass, can shoot from outside the area, and makes his teammates better players. In other words, they lack a Jermaine Jones. In Orlando, Jones made a magnificent long pass to a forward who dribbled and scored the tying goal. The Revs have never recovered from his departure. Nguyen can’t take his place, but with someone like Jones at his back, I’m betting Nguyen’s play can revert to much more competitive levels.

Right now, Chicago is enjoying the presence of someone in the same class as Jones in Schweinsteiger, a player with equal if not more skill than the former Revs midfielder, and with fewer emotional liabilities. After sitting on the bench at Manchester United for about eight months, Schweinsteiger is not in 100% game shape, but he will be soon.

David Accam is fast. The Revs absolutely need a winger close to his caliber.

Professional coaches are always comparing the talent they have with that on other teams. The Revs are falling way behind in this area. To catch up, a Revs’ staff member needs to put some money in his pocket, buy a plane ticket to Europe, find a slightly past-his-prime midfield general, and bring him to New England. While he’s at it, let’s try for a top winger, too.


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