New England Soccer Today

Technically Speaking: #NEvCLB

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

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

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

NESoccerToday: With Scott Caldwell under the weather, were you surprised to see Femi Hollinger-Janzen in the midfield rather than, say, Daigo Kobayashi?

Rick: Overall, Daigo Kobayashi is a better player than Femi. He is more experienced, a better passer, and shoots quite well with both feet. So, yes, I was a little surprised to see Femi on the field in this important game. Maybe Jay Heaps wanted Femi in there because he is more of a striker than Daigo, and he was concerned by Juan Agudelo’s absence.

In their selection of their starting eleven, coaches often think less about who’s the better player than about who “fits” into their strategic plan. I’m guessing that may have been behind Heaps’ selection of Femi.

Given Jay Heaps’ preference for the 4-4-2, I would probably have set up the front six with Kei Kamara up top and Kobayashi as striker but a little bit withdrawn, in a play-making role. Then the midfield the same as they did.

What impressed you the most about the way the Revs played after Ola Kamara’s opening goal?

Rick: The Revs were put under pressure from the beginning of the game until the 22nd minute, especially down the left side of their defense. I counted five times this happened—in the 1st, 5th, 8th, 13th, and 22nd minutes, the last being 2 minutes after Ola Kamara’s goal.

After this, though, and for the rest of the half, the Revs defended much better simply by falling back and playing more defensively. They occasionally had up to nine men behind the ball and thereby reduced the problems they had down the flanks.

What obviously helped the Revs tremendously was the psychological lift from the two goals they were able to score. On the first, they were able to take advantage of a bad defensive giveaway by Wil Trapp (who earlier made the great pass on the Kamara’s goal) to mount an excellent passing attack that culminated in Diego Fagundez’s easy push-in. Diego Fagundez’s thrilling run before his second goal further inspired the Revs in their overall play, helping them to curtail Crew SC’s offense. Case in point: Federico Higuain and Justin Meram just did not have the success they had in the game two weeks ago.

Two weeks ago, the Revs seemed lost against a Crew SC side that essentially outplayed them in Columbus. Where have you seen the biggest improvement since that game?

Rick: Diego Fagundez is playing with more confidence with each successive game. He can run with the ball at his feet seemingly faster than opposing players without the ball, and this was shown when he scored his second goal. He appears to be becoming a real threat, consistently, down the left flank.

The Revs also kept Crew SC’s leading threats, Higuan and Meram, from getting a goal or an assist—no mean feat.

I must say, nonetheless, that the time span between the 78th minute and the 85th minute was not comfortable for the Revs. Columbus had some excellent scoring chances —a result of good play on their part and some defensive gaffes from the Revs —that could easily have resulted in a tie game.

What stood out the most about Sunday’s win?

Rick: Crew SC had the better of the play from a statistical standpoint—ball possession, corner kicks, shots, shots on goal, but all that advantage goes for naught if you don’t score enough goals to get a result. The Revs struggled for about the first 20 minutes of the game but did find a style of play (defense + counterattack) that kept them in the game and gave them a win. This reminded me in a way of what the Leicester City team did last year in the English Premier League. They ran away with the league while maintaining only 40% of ball possession—all games—for the whole season.

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