New England Soccer Today

Technically Speaking: #TORvNE

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

Welcome back to the latest 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 did you make of the decision to slot Andrew Farrell at left back?

Rick: The ideal outside back contributes to the team effort in two ways. He stops the opposing team’s offensive attack down his side of the field, and he supports his own offense by overlapping. Of these two, Andrew Farrell is clearly better at the defensive part. He has never done too much on offense (he hasn’t scored a goal in five years), but he’s fast and has a good work rate on defense.

My guess is that Jay Heaps felt he needed to strengthen his defensive effort on the left side, as Chris Tierney (despite his great left foot and overlapping potential) is not fully reliable as a defender. Toronto’s right side, consisting of Tsubasa Endoh, Armando Cooper, and Jason Hernandez, is dangerous, especially when receiving assertive passes from Victor Vasquez. Heaps may have also felt that Je-Vaughn Watson needed support from behind. (If this was part of his thinking, he was proven prescient when Watson was badly beaten by Cooper before Toronto’s first goal.

Unfortunately, Farrell seemed to have lost track of the playbook at that moment: instead of providing Watson with immediate support like a good left back, he was hanging out in front of the goal as if he were still a center back. Gershon Koffie could also have tried harder to stop Cooper’s cross before the goal. Overall, a bad performance before the first goal.)

It is getting to be obvious that the Revs need defensive help at the outside back positions. They really need a guy like Kemar Lawrence of the Red Bulls – one who is sound in terms of his positional play and fast enough to recover from any slight mistake.

Right back London Woodberry’s 9th-minute error when trying to cover Justin Morrow wasn’t a pleasant sight either and could easily have resulted in another Toronto goal.

What did you see from the central midfield partnership of Gershon Koffie and Je-Vaughn Watson?

Rick: Koffie and Watson were, for the most part, playing alongside each other as defensive midfielders, with Rowe (nominally at right midfield) moving a bit forward of them on offense. As such, one of the pair’s main jobs was to establish team possession of the ball and build a controlled attack, much the way Vasquez did all game long for a tired Toronto team (which had played a very competitive game only two days earlier). This Rev midfield pairing performed adequately on defense, considering the fact that the Revs held Toronto to one goal for over 90 minutes, but they did not have the savvy to anchor and organize a well-structured and logical offense. When the Revs got the ball up the field – as they did a fair number of times, to create some good scoring chances – it was more or less by hook or by crook. I never got the idea their attack was orchestrated the way the Toronto attack was, especially in the first 20 minutes of the game.

As the years go on, more and more MLS teams are seeking and finding that a key team organizer (what I often call the midfield generalissimo), Bastian Schweinsteiger of Chicago being the latest example. Victor Vasquez is playing a similar role for Toronto. Interesting that both these players are over 30. There must be one or two affordable players of this type (Vasquez’s salary is a bargain basement $700,000) somewhere in the world that the Revs could hire.

Why do you think the Revs offense struggled to create chances?

Rick: That good passing midfielder is sorely absent from the Rev team. They also have a problem getting behind the back four of the opposing defense to create chances, which means that they need more effective wing play. Diego Fagundez is getting better at this as a left winger, but I don’t see this quality on the right side of the Rev offense.

Kelyn Rowe’s and Gershon Koffie’s long-distance shots in the 20th and 21st minutes were both off target. At least one of them should have been on. Why weren’t they? Mediocre shooting technique by both players. Overall, the Revs took 12 shots, with only 3 going on target. They should aspire to have at least half their shots on net.

Any team that pays its players around $20 million is going to have an overall talent advantage over yours, if you pay your players about a quarter of that amount. The funny thing is that it wouldn’t take the Revs too much to overcome Toronto’s salary advantage. The Revs have a pretty good core of players, and if they supplemented this core with some speed at the corners and a smart over-the-hill midfielder or two they could compete with Toronto on a fairly even basis. I don’t think it would break the bank to acquire these players.

What did you make of Jay Heaps’ substitutions?

Rick: Kei Kamara in, Je-Vaughn Watson out, in the 54th minute. I was, and still am, surprised that Kei didn’t start. I see no reason that he and Juan Agudelo couldn’t work well together. I can concede that Jay Heaps, with his closer-up focus, may have had a good reason for not starting Kei, despite his being a better overall player than Je-Vaughn. But I’d really like to see Kamara and Agudelo given a chance to work together.

Anyway, by the 54th minute, the Revs were down a goal and obviously needed an answering one. It was a good idea to put Kamara in, especially as Je-Vaughn was not playing a critical role in this game.

Chris Tierney in, London Woodberry out, in the 70th minute. To my mind, Tierney should have come in maybe 10 minutes earlier. Although he’s a little iffy defensively, he’s a strong overlapper, and the Revs’ top priority at that moment had to be to score. My main question is whether it might have been better to sub out Farrell instead of Woodberry, who is a better offensive contributor than Farrell. The way Farrell is kicking the ball, he’s unlikely to score or assist any time soon. Woodberry, on the other hand, is pretty fast running up and down the wing, so keeping him in might have been a viable option.

Teal Bunbury in, Toni Delamea out, in the 80th minute. Toni obviously had to leave the game after his head-to-head collision with Koffie, and at that point in the game subbing in a forward for a center back made ultimate sense. What I question, though, is why Teal was kept out of the game for so long. He can be a force on the wing, whether running, crossing, or shooting with either foot. His late-game header came within an eyelash of tying the game, forcing keeper Alex Bono to make a truly great save.

What stood out the most from Friday’s game?

Rick: Victor Vasquez’s play and how he influenced the game. He knew he had to guide a team that played 48 hours earlier and had to find a style of play that could be effective despite fatigue. As the game went on, he was smart enough to make adjustments, especially after the first 20 minutes when the Revs began to climb back into the game.

If I were on the Revs, I would be pretty happy about how my team competed with the biggest MLS money team, even without points to show for it. In this league, parity is the name of the game, meaning that the difference in quality between the top and bottom teams is likely to be less than in any other top league worldwide. The Revs may be a little behind, but it wouldn’t take too much for them to catch up.


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