Prepared. Communicative. In-sync. Those are three ways I would describe the New England Revolution on Saturday night. Everyone seemed to know their role, and it really showed. It may be too early to say most things I feel like saying right now, but I will say this: Jay Heaps has changed this team.
Admittedly, I fully expected the Revs to lose this one. Not that I expected them to play poorly, but I just thought there was no way we could get three points against the Galaxy at the Home Depot Center--one point maybe, but not three. But, I guess that's what it looks like when a team has a game plan, believes in the game plan, and, most importantly, sticks to the game plan. Bye-bye, bunker ball!
So, that being said, let's chat..
Left back is Chris Tierney's job to lose. This match against the Galaxy was really a brilliant showcase of just how far he has progressed as a player, and in his role as a team leader. Tierney is playing inspired soccer, and while he is far from perfect, he is making things happen. He may have netted only one goal, but he was close to three against LA. That's nothing to sneeze at. I think that it'll take an injury, or an absolute nightmare of a game for Tierney to be replaced on the backline. And that is just fine by me. He has earned the spot.
On the other side of the field, our forward situation doesn't seem so scary anymore. Saer Sene makes a big difference (pun intended). The Frenchman really seems to be playing best when partnered up top, and he is fitting into the team and the Jay Heaps philosophy rather nicely. Maybe it was his familiarity with the Galaxy from pre-season, but Sene put in a very nice game, and I fully expect more of the same moving forward. It will be interesting to see if anything changes once Jose Moreno is fully fit. Sene's spot in the Starting XI, however, should be pretty safe--at least for the time being.
And speaking of forwards, how about Ryan Guy's game on Saturday? Guy was conducting the offense for 90 minutes, during which time we saw just about every element of his game: his pace on and off the ball, his vision of the midfield and in the attack, his ability to cut into the box, his ability to provide service from the wing (Sene's 65' goal), etc. I wouldn't even hesitate putting him in that same role again in the future. From what I saw, his insertion as a withdrawn forward allowed the Revs to constantly morph their formation; at times it was a 4-4-2 and at other times it was a 4-5-1. The big question, however, is how Guy factors into the lineup one Benny Feilhaber returns from injury.
Benny's return will actually present a lot of questions for the Revs. Namely, who will get bumped down to the bench? Will it be Guy, who has shown consistency, leadership, and provided spark to the offense? Or will it be the rookie Kelyn Rowe who has been somewhat less consistent but may have just turned a corner this weekend? And Jay Heaps would have to be crazy to bench Lee Nguyen or Clyde Simms, right? Do we shift Shalrie back to central defense to make room in the midfield? Lots of questions indeed.
It's funny, usually I'm writing this piece and saying things like "come on, guys, it's not that bad" or "hey, at least we did this even if we didn't do this." But today I have the pleasure of writing about Jay Heaps' predicament of which talented midfielder he may have to bench. What a delightful change of pace!
The task ahead, however, is bigger than one might think. Thursday's match against FC Dallas will be watched under a microscope by the rest of the league to determine whether Saturday was a fluke, or if the Revs are the real deal. Any points in Frisco would be a successful result.
I wrote last week that the Revs are playing like a team that trusts each other and trusts Jay Heaps. I think that was even more evident on Saturday night. With the players behind their new gaffer, it's time for the fans to follow suit. It's time to #BelieveInHeaps