Ryan Guy attempts to shield the ball from Rodney Wallace during the New England Revolution's match with the Portland Timbers. New England went on to win 1-0. Photo credit: Samuel West Hiser, hiserfotograf.com
I don't know about you guys, but I am still buzzing from Saturday. The image of the team coming onto the field after the match and applauding the fans still lingers blissfully at the front of my mind. I can still see the ball bouncing between the ground and the crossbar from Saer Sene's goal. It was really a game to remember, for me at least, not because it was particularly exciting or eventful, but because I needed this win--we needed it.
After two games of trying to find some bright spots from the Revs' losses, it is a pleasure to write this piece today. I think that for the first time this season we can officially say that we have seen the difference that Jay Heaps is having on this team. Could a Steve Nicol-led Revolution team hold onto a 1-0 lead for 89 minutes? Maybe. But I tend to lean towards probably not. Out on the pitch on Saturday night I saw a team that trusted each other and trusted Jay Heaps. I think that is the difference so far--trust. And it is a relief to see that.
Without getting too wishy washy about the win, let's get into the nitty gritty, shall we?
First of all, I have got to give it up to our captain Shalrie Joseph and his performance at center back. It was a great outing for Joseph who had two below average outings to start the season. What I take away most though is that he can slot into CB easily and I think that we can feel good about him there moving forward. Hell, I might even go as far as to say that maybe he should be playing back there more often, even with healthy CB's on the roster. At the same time, though, I do have to wonder if we might have had more than one goal with Shalrie pulling the strings in the midfield.
Ryan Guy and Lee Nguyen helped keep the midfield disciplined, balanced, and dangerous. I thought they were particularly effective when helping to cover on defensive duties. Although Benny Feilhaber was not featured in this one due to injury, I think that this midfield combination is one that can and will win more games. Although I still think that we have a bit of a crowded midfield, it is reassuring to know that we have a lot of quality in our midfield depth and that injuries, such as Benny's, aren't nearly as catastrophic as they once would have been.
We still need to figure things out up top, though. Saer Sene had, in my opinion, an excellent game. Aside from his goal (which you can vote for goal of the week at MLSsoccer.com), Sene showed composure on the ball, made good runs, and generally played smart, effective soccer. I'll be looking forward to seeing him play when he is 100% match-fit.
Blake Brettschneider, on the other hand, leaves plenty more to be desired. He showed a lot of strength in the attacking third and even made some good runs as well, but was inconsistent and at times completely MIA. I don't think that Brettschneider is a bad player by any means, but I think that the Revs need someone more dangerous to pair with Sene (in a 4-4-2 at least). Maybe that someone is Jose Moreno, who knows.
Poor Kevin Alston. True story: earlier on in the game I had said to some friends I was sitting with, "I'll give this to him, Kevin Alston never shies away from a header." And then not 15 minutes later he took a kick to the face. I know we can be hard on him, but you've got to feel bad for the guy on that one. That was a doozy (and another image from Saturday sticking out in my mind). It seems his availability for at least the match against the LA Galaxy might be in question, so perhaps we will get to see Florian Lechner with the start. That would be nice.
To wrap up, I am still riding high on this win. It really feels great. And like I said earlier, it was sorely needed. I think for the fans, for the players, and for Jay Heaps, it was needed. From here we need to be able to build on the positives, fix the negatives, and ride the momentum. I'm looking forward to it, which is a nice change of pace.