New England Soccer Today

Technically Speaking: #NEvPHI

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? Fire away in the comments section!

NESoccerToday: Now that the Revs offense has scored seven goals in its last 2 games, do you think the team has turned a corner on their struggles, or do you think there are tell-tale signs this run might be short-lived?

Rick: Despite scoring seven goals in two games – one of them spectacular (see: Kei Kamara’s first against the Union) – I don’t feel confident that this avalanche of goals will continue. Here’s why:

The Revs were playing two defensively-weak teams at home with LA and Philly in town. The Union back four, consisting of Giliano Wijnaldum, Oguchi Onyewu, Jack Elliott, and Raymon Gaddis, were not up to the task of preventing several clear scoring chances for two reasons.

First, a lack of speed (especially noticeable when Teal Bunbury ran past the Philly defense, only to hit the near post in the 4th minute) made it hard for the oversized central back pair of Onyewu and Elliot to keep up.

Second, the Union had some serious man-marking problems. An unmarked Diego Fagundez should have scored in the 49th minute. He was all alone in front of the goal about 3 yards from the goal line when he got the ball. This early in the second half, there was no urgency for the Union to get the equalizer. They should have concentrated on maintaining defensive numbers to hold their goal deficit to one.

Kamara is a dangerous enough striker to warrant man-marking, especially in the attacking penalty area. It may have been too much to ask to stop Kei’s goals, especially the first, but I didn’t see any real attempt on the Union’s part to mark him. Someone should have, at minimum, regularly lined up between him and the middle of the goal.

Although the Revs had the advantage in the first half, play seemed pretty even to me in the second until Philly started pressing offensively for the tying goal. At that point, the Revs capitalized on free sailing down their right side to score the two late goals (85th and 89th minutes). This is the chance you take late in the game, allowing the opposition a better chance to score in return for pressing for the equalizer yourselves.

Could the Philly defense have suffered from not playing at home? Maybe. Playing away can detract from defensive concentration, as your home fans are not right there on your case. There may be lots of encouraging fans in attendance at home, but there are also plenty of critics.

Saturday the Revs scored all their goals from within 12 yards of the goal. They had only two shots from outside the area. Only Rowe’s in the 45th minute was on target, forcing keeper John McCarthy to make a nice one-handed diving save.

In sum, if the Revs had been playing (1) away, and/or (2) against a defensively competent team, they might well have gotten fewer goals. Add in their weakness at shooting from outside and their resulting unbalanced offensive thrust, I tend to doubt their present scoring boom will last.

What did you think of Kelyn Rowe’s performance at left back?

Rick: It is hard to assess Rowe’s defensive performance because I don’t think he (or, for that matter, the entire backline) was put under much pressure by the Union attacking quartet of Chris Pontius (Rowe’s mark), C.J. Sapong, Marcus Epps, and offensive midfielder Roland Alberg. With Sapong, Philly’s only dangerous attacker, neutralized by the Rev central defense, the Revs had a relatively easy job on defense. Pontius is out of position as a winger. He is not the speedy, tricky type (like Fagundez, for example) needed to play there.

Offensively, Rowe made solid contributions: his long pass to Teal Bunbury in the 4th minute, his left-footed chip to Kamara in the 38th minute for the goal, his shot on goal in the 45th minute, and another lefty chip to Kamara in the 68th minute all made the attack that much more effective.

Do you think Teal Bunbury did enough to stay in the XI next week at Chicago?

Rick: Despite his excellent effort in the 4th minute, I feel that his second-half replacement – Juan Agudelo – should start the Chicago game on the right with Rowe’s improved crosses likely to aid him.

Agudelo, who can do some pretty darn impressive things with the ball, is one of the most skillful players league wide, and I feel that Bunbury is most effective when coming off the bench. His burst of energy can surprise the opposition and thereby create big problems for them.

What did you make of Kamara’s night?

Rick: Kamara was excellent. Besides his elegant first goal, his overall play featured dribbling, passing, and pressure on the defense. I’ve said before that Kei’s success depends on strong play from the wings, which is generally not one of the Revs’ strongest suits. So I was especially pleased to see that both his goals on Saturday came off well-placed feeds from attacking fullbacks. It remains to be seen whether or not the group can put a similar performance together against the stronger opposition they will face from Chicago.

What stood out the most about Saturday’s game?

It’s nice for the Revs to play on natural grass, as it aids and abets their style of possession play, especially in their offensive third. It benefits their “ball circulation” (as Brad Feldman calls it), passing the ball from sideline to sideline in that area, while always looking for the penetrating pass or cross that will produce a goal. I hope the Rev brass takes notice of this very obvious condition.

I’m convinced that Rowe is practicing crossing with his left foot. He keeps getting better at it. Ditto for Fagundez.

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