FOXBORO, MA - JUNE 15: Stefan Frei #24 of Toronto FC makes a save against the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium on June 15, 2011 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Gail Oskin/Getty Images)
In a word: disappointing. Considering I ditched the majority of my friends back in Boston and trekked down to Foxboro, through commuter traffic and all, to see the Revs play out to a 0-0 draw against Toronto while the Bruins were off winning the Stanley Cup, I was quite disheartened last night. And I still am. That's not to say that it wasn't a good game. Both sides played with a decent amount of energy and kept my attention, which is more than I can say for the kids' soccer team in the row in front of me (cotton candy and hot dogs and wet willies were WAY more important, it seemed). But I wanted more than just a good game. I wanted three points.
Since I was there at the game, I didn't exactly take any notes (unless you count spending $30 on 3 beers as "taking notes"). But I do recall plenty from the match. Firstly, I can't believe that we couldn't make anything of the eleven corners we got. In the first 30 minutes alone I saw Chris Tierney sail at least 7 right in front of the Toronto FC net. Set pieces appear to be a big issue lately. The worst part is that I really believe Tierney is GREAT at set pieces, and I really don't think I'd want anyone else taking those kicks. It's the other end of the ball where we are struggling. Maybe it's that we aren't getting in good positions or maybe we just keep getting beat to headers, but the chances and opportunities are clearly there. Chris Tierney is a cog that I don't think this team could work without right now.
Next up: shots. No, not the Jagerbombs you were having last night after the B's sealed the deal. I mean the nineteen shots that we had-none of which found the back of the net. Now, listen, I can give credit where credit is due; Stefan Frei had a pretty good game. He really stopped us in our tracks, despite generating some offense in the new 4-4-2, which fans were begging Nicol to give us (got our wish, right?). Two notable shots that I recall are Tierney's around the 20th minute (what a laser) and Shalrie Joseph's blast towards the end, which was unfortunately right to the chest of Frei. These were shots that stood out to me-shots from our midfielders. While it is clear that the offensive third is getting better and there are more opportunities being created, there are still pieces missing; one of those pieces being a reliable striker and finisher.
At the risk of beating a dead horse, the Revs have got to get someone to finish the job up top. Which brings me to Rajko Lekic. Now, I try real hard not to be too down on the guy. After all, he's playing in a new league with a new team for a new coach, and all of that certainly takes some adjusting to. My problem with Rajko is his inability to score. Plain and simple. For someone who was touted as a bona fide scoring machine, there is much left to be desired from his performances on the pitch lately. A prime example in this game was the cross from Kenny Mansally in the 70th minute which floated right in front of Lekic but who couldn't get his foot on it to guide it past Frei. Smart plays like that are the kind that he should be all over, or at least that's what I was led to believe. It's sink or swim time for the Revolution. I just hope that Lekic starts swimming out there sometime soon.
Missed opportunities aside, I think that it is quite clear that the 4-4-2 formation is a big improvement and should be how this offense is geared moving forward. Lekic and Kenny Mansally looked like a dangerous duo, with help from the wings as well as Shalrie Joseph in the middle. It all looked to me to be an effective formula. The substitution of Sainey Nyassi in the second half for Zak Boggs was an understandable decision since Boggs didn't seem to be on his game in the first. Nyassi provided even more offensive spark and, most importantly, speed, which helped the Revs dictate the pace of the game for certain periods of time. And, frankly, Nyassi just straight-up worked is ass off trying to get the ball up the field and to the feet of our playmakers. However, falling short continues to plague us in the attacking third (broken record time again).
Other brief notes: Ryan Cochrane was pretty quiet throughout most of the game. I didn't see it entirely necessary to sub him out for Franco Coria. But I'm glad to see Coria getting more time, I think he and AJ Soares pair up well. On Toronto's side, Alan Gordon looked especially dangerous, not unlike his performance over the weekend against the Los Angeles Galaxy. I thought that Matt Reis and our defense handled him and the speedy Joao Plata well, although maybe we got a few lucky breaks. But luck was on Toronto's side, too.
Moving forward, I hope to see Mansally up front with Lekic some more, or perhaps Zack Schilawski paired with Lekic instead-whatever is going to create goals. To reiterate, though, the 4-4-2 formation will be a big part of seeing if this team can shake off this winless streak and perhaps even still make a run for the playoffs. All that should have started with this Toronto game. So, instead, let's say it starts with Chicago on Saturday.
How about you? What did you take away from the game? Did you see the Revs build on their impressive second half effort against New York? Or are they still missing the pieces they need to make something happen? Leave your thoughts in the comments. Go ahead... feel free to vent. We're all friends here.