New England Soccer Today

Lacking a plan

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – From the opening whistle on Sunday, the New England Revolution looked disjointed and unprepared for their matchup with the Philadelphia Union. The positives that team had looked to take out of their solid first half against Manchester United on Wednesday were nowhere to be found.

Midfielder Chris Tierney says the Revs "weren’t ready to play" on Sunday. (Photo by CHRIS ADUAMA/

Instead of the solid defensive effort and calm possession-based attack the Revs displayed in the opening 45 minutes against the English Premier League Champions, there was little communication among the New England players as the Union dominated the possession and sliced through the home side’s defense with ease. The Revs came flat out of the gate and never recovered, suffering a 3-0 defeat in their own stadium.

“We talked about it before the game – about growing a pair,” said head coach Steve Nicol. “And that doesn’t mean you can run fighting with people and kicking people, it means that you do the basics well and you do your own job well. To do that, part of playing the game is communication. So when you have no one on the field talking, particularly when you’re under pressure, then it just becomes twice as hard.”

For the Revs it was just another disappointing performance in a season full of them. But this one came just days after many players appeared full of hope of turning the season around after showing encouraging signs against one of the best teams in the world.

Yet the team hardly looked like one attempting to get a dreadful year back on the right track. Instead they looked more like a team that 19 games into the season still didn’t know how to play as one.

“We talked after the Salt Lake game [on July 4th] that everybody needs to take a look at themselves and we really have to get on the same page,” said veteran goalkeeper Matt Reis. “We have guys doing a bunch of different things, we’re losing goals on set pieces and it was very uninspired out there. We didn’t show all the stuff that we needed to do. We didn’t fight and all in all it was a terrible game.”

And at this point of the year with the Revs stuck at the bottom of the standings, a lack of fight will all but assure the year ends as one of, if not the, worst in club history. Somehow, 19 games into the season, the Revs still haven’t found a solution.

“We just weren’t ready to play,” said midfielder Chris Tierney. “I think we didn’t really have a game plan, we weren’t sure what we were doing, we weren’t on the same page, we couldn’t connect, we weren’t fighting and that’s the biggest thing. I think when the game starts you got to be ready to fight and there wasn’t one of us out there who really was.”

Heading into the match eight games winless and knowing every point is crucial if the squad is to make a miraculous run at the playoffs, it would seem preparedness would be high on the Revs priority list. Yet Tierney felt the team “didn’t really have a game plan”. And he wasn’t the only player to express the Revs’ problems that way. Defender Kevin Alston expressed similar sentiments.

“We didn’t come out with, I guess, a distinct game plan,” said Alston, “I guess we didn’t come out and try to put the game in our hands. We kind of just let them dictate it early.”

Of course the Revs were playing without their captain. The formidable Shalrie Joseph is the team’s leader in midfield and can’t be easily replaced.

Unfortunately for the Revs there is no time left for excuses. If the team doesn’t start finding three points, the playoffs will soon be out of reach.

The Revs needed to collectively fill the void with Joseph’s leadership and dominating presence in the center of the pitch missing. They didn’t come close.

“Any time you lose a guy like [Joseph], you’re going to miss him major and he makes a huge difference in the middle, but that’s how the game is,” said Alston. “Sometimes, you’re going to be missing players and you need to be able to step up and fill that gap and we just did a poor job of that.”

And Joseph’s absence wasn’t just noticed on the field. Even the locker room was strangely silent before the game.

“It was dead in the locker room before the game even started,” said Reis. “So for us, we’re obviously on the bottom of the heap looking up and it’s not looking good.”

Of course with Benny Feilhaber’s red card and subsequent suspension for two reckless challenges on Sunday, the Revs will have another hole to fill on Wednesday. Joseph’s vocal presence will be back, but now the team will need to fill the void left by the absence of Feilhaber’s creative talents.

Playing just one of the three teams they’ve beaten all season, the Revs will know three points are for the taking on Wednesday night. But it won’t come easy.

“We just got to get it together,” said Alston. “We need points, this is the point of the season where it’s do or die, so we just got to find a way.”

Without a victory since May 14th, the Revs will need to find a way – and a plan – in the nation’s capital just to avoid what would be their longest winless streak in club history. Do that and maybe then the team can start looking to climb their way out of the Eastern Conference cellar.

One Comment

  1. risapres

    July 19, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    unfortunately the team has quit on the coach. and the team,s player management style has created an atmosphere where no good agent will allow a player to sign a contract here. What is the solution?

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