New England Soccer Today

Technically Speaking: #NEvTOR

Photo credit: Chris Aduama/

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: What was the key aspect behind the Revs performance that allowed them to beat the best team in the east?

Rick: The old adage “win at home “ is as timely today as it was fifty years ago, and the Revs responded to this challenge by coming out loaded for bear. They played with a lot of energy and were essentially in control throughout. This was probably the most important factor in their game, but there were others.

First, the tactic they chronically used to beat Toronto’s three-man back line (a defensive line-up I find intrinsically vulnerable) – kicking the long ball into spaces to create a chasing situation that the defense will usually win, but not always – created problems for Toronto’s defense. The Revs had only a handful of crosses from the wings, far fewer than normal, but they got many chances resulting from this chasing style.

Second, of course, one cannot discount the fact that Toronto was missing two of its three hotshot players (Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley) to national team duty. These two vital USMNT players have been key to Toronto’s capturing the most points in the MLS. Missing Altidore also helped neutralize Sebastian Giovinco, because the defense could focus on him alone rather than having to cope with the duo of him and Altidore.

Giovinco’s plight in this game was similar to that of the Galaxy’s Gyasi Zardes, whose goal total has declined with the departure of his partner Robbie Keane (a coach-on-the-field type if there ever was one). The situation when Jermaine Jones left the Revs is another example. Let us just say that the absence of key players often has a ripple effect throughout their teams.

For the second straight game, Kei Kamara was subbed off after a largely silent performance. What do you think is wrong with Kamara’s performances as of late?

Rick: I think the team’s kick-and-chase game plan had a lot to do with it. It minimized crosses from the wings (for example, Andrew Farrell had, I think, only one cross, kicking the ball over the end line). Because Kei Kamara scores many of his goals by positioning himself in the penalty area and scoring on a cross from there, as he did vs NYCFC with an unusually good header, this game plan was not his cup of tea.

At the same time, I have to say he didn’t seem to have the energy as his teammates, so I wonder if fatigue may have been a factor.

How would you assess Gershon Koffie’s performance in light of Xavier Kouassi’s absence at defensive midfielder?

Rick: Gershon Koffie is a very professional player who appears to be aware that his main job is to stay back to protect the center backs, not to run all over the field the way Benny Feilhaber and Sharlie Joseph used to do, often causing a gap of between 20 and 30 yards between them and the center backs. The most critical aspect playing defensive midfield is to know where to be at all times and to be selective as to when you go on the attack.

Do you think Benjamin Angoua has turned a corner on his early-season struggles?

Rick: Like Koffie, Benjamin Angoua is an experienced pro who I think has turned the corner after alternating starts with Josh Smith. His transition has been facilitated by playing next to another experienced hand in Toni Delamea. I cannot overestimate the importance, in developing an effective defense, of almost-instinctive communication between the center back pair and (secondarily) the defensive midfielder(s). We will never know how things would have turned out in this game if Altidore and Bradley had been playing, but I would say we should be encouraged by how well the trio of Koffie, Angoua, and Delamea synchronized in this game.

What stood out the most about Saturday’s win?

Rick: The Revolution’s consistent effort and focus for the full 90 minutes was impressive and resulted in a well-deserved win.

Side notes on shooting from outside the area:

First, the objective is to get the ball on target only, not to aim for corners of the goal.

a) Occasionally, when a Revs player shoots the ball over the crossbar, color commentator Paul Mariner will say that such-and-such a player did not have his body over the ball and will be upset with himself for missing badly. I say that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

The main problem is that the players are in the habit of using the inside part of the foot, instead of the instep, when shooting, even for power. Because the upper body remains erect when you pass with the inside of the foot, this body behavior tends to carry over when you shoot for power using the inside. In other words, it’s almost contradictory to tell someone who’s shooting with the inside of the foot to keep his head and body over the ball.

When shooting with the instep, by contrast, the upper body can more naturally come forward and over the ball, with the head staying down and the leg follow-through going in the intended direction of the ball.

A player with good instep technique will shoot under defensive pressure very well. He will keep focusing on the ball and shorten and quicken his swing in close quarters. Gerd Muller, who played for West Germany in the 1960’s and 70’s, was the master of this skill. He could turn and shoot in a crowd of defenders.

b) While in the DC area this past week, I saw United play on Wednesday (vs. Orlando) and last Saturday (vs. LA). They failed to score in both games, despite having numerous chances. Their huge problem was an obvious inability to shoot the ball on target, even from close range. Lesson one in scoring goals is to get the ball on target.

c) An in-control follow-through is essential for effective shooting. Lee Nguyen’s approach on his 33rd minute shot was almost embarrassing. Can you imagine a pro golfer or tennis player with a skewy follow-through like that? I know soccer players are often moving pretty quickly when shooting, and this makes body control more difficult, but Nguyen & Co. don’t seem fully aware of the importance of a controlled follow-through.

d) As goalkeepers have plenty of time and space to execute a goal kick, there is no reason why they should not sometimes use a proper power kick with the instep. If they did they would have a useful weapon in their quiver. Adding 20 yards onto your kick at the right time could be a game- changer.

5) Real Madrid’s first two goals in Saturday’s Champions League final went in because of deflections. This is not luck. Get the ball on target, and good things will happen.


Leave a Reply