While much was made of the Revs' trip down to New Jersey to take on RBNY, it certainly didn't feel like the rivalry match we had all hoped for. Coming off a bye week and a bit of a layoff, New England came out flat and were punished for it in only the 7th minute, when Thierry Henry scored the only goal RBNY would need to defeat the Revs, 1-0.
While the style of play seems to continue to improve and build, so do the glaring problems this club possesses as well. For what seems like the umpteenth time, a wingback made a fruitless run forward (Alston), was caught out of position, and a talented striker was left one on one with a CB (McCarthy), which led to the game winning goal. This happened in San Jose, at home to D.C. United, and now away to New York.
Are the Revs beating their collective heads on the wall? Does the attack need to be a bit more cautious? To be fair, after the goal, and then the following injury to Henry, the Revs dominated the match for very long stretches of time. Saer Sene was dynamic in attack, making several dribbling runs into the box, and Lee Nguyen continued to provide a spark, however, it was once again the lack of defensive discipline that led to this team's defeat.
On a slightly controversial note, a seemingly-fit Benny Feilhaber did not start for the Revs, and it was once again rookie midfielder Kelyn Rowe on the right flank. Did Jay Heaps take into account the Revs 0-0-3 record with Feilhaber in the lineup? With Rowe struggling, the move raised a lot of eyebrows in the soccer community, and only created more questions for the head coach, and we're going to try to answer those questions after the jump!
FRIDAY'S INJURY REPORT:
strain), Jeremiah White (concussion)
Not too much changed on the injury report, and with the return of Feilhaber to full strength, as well as John Lozano, it seemed like New England was heading to Red Bull Arena with a healthy squad.
JAY HEAPS' LINEUP (4-4-2): Matt Reis, Chris Tierney, A.J. Soares, Stephen McCarthy, Kevin Alston, Lee Nguyen, Shalrie Joseph , Clyde Simms, Kelyn Rowe, Saer Sène, Jose Moreno
Two differences here: McCarthy over Lozano, Rowe over Feilhaber. Obviously I disagree with both, so let's take them separately.
As I stated earlier, McCarthy has done a very impressive job filling in on short notice, learning a new position. He's helped solidify a back line that has seen quite a bit of turnover, and was at least providing some consistency. That being said, Lozano was brought to New England to start. He's a CB by trade, and is better than McCarthy. If both are fit, Lozano should play. The fact it was McCarthy that got beat for the goal only strengthens my case here.
Nobody rags on Benny Feilhaber more than i do. It's true. I think at times he can be emotionally as well as mentally void in matches. He gets frustrated, argues, and yells at his teammates. I haven't been cool with him since he scored a goal last year and frowned while his teammates congratulated him. However, when happily motivated, Benny Feilhaber is the best attack minded midfielder on this team without question. I don't know if Heaps is trying to send a message, or if he's trying to stamp his authority, but playing a struggling Kelyn Rowe over a healthy Benny has got to have some sort of underlying meaning behind closed doors.
COACHES' CHALKBOARD AND STYLE OF PLAY
The team's outlook in attack remained unchanged. However, it's tough to impose your philosophy on your opponent when your being bossed all over the field in the opening minutes. It was easy to see that Hans Backe knew where the Revs' troubles lay: attack the weak flanks, and exploit it with speed.
Dane Richards made Chris Tierney extremely uncomfortable all day, creating chances as well as forcing Tierney into several giveaways in his defensive half. Kevin Alston was caught upfield once again and left McCarthy out to dry on the goal which ended up being the winner, and once Henry went out of the match, NYRB went into defensive shell mode and held on for dear life.
New England finally began to put their stamp on the game towards the end of the first half and into the second, and it comes as no surprise it's through their playmakers in Sene, Moreno, and Nguyen. Simms and Joseph did a good job winning tackles, and while the distribution from the two wasn't as good as we've grown accustomed to, it still gave the Revs' attack several chances at the tying goal.
The Revs play their best soccer when they knock the ball around the field with tight, precise passes, and get the ball to their talented players in attack mode. WIth two strong strikers up top with power and height, I'd like to see some more crossing into the box, as we've seen Sene can score with his head in the air, and Moreno absolutely has the physical tools to win aerial battles.
Saer Sene looked good again, dribbling his way into the box on several occasions, and I am certain that if he possessed a right foot, he would have scored at least once. Jay Heaps has found his strike team up top, and fans should expect goals some time soon as the pair continue to grow together.
SUBSTITUTIONS AND COACHES' DECISIONS
Feilhaber for Rowe 46'
Bjorn Runstrom for Moreno 76'
Alec Purdie for Tierney 87'
While I feel that the substitution for Rowe never should have been needed because Benny needed to start the match, I was pleased that Heaps made the switch this early. Rowe was struggling once again, and was having trouble keeping pace, so introducing Feilhaber at the half was great in that it gave him a full 45 minutes to make a difference.
It was said on the telecast that Jay Heaps was quoted as saying that Runstrom was fit and "in form", so I guess the sub makes a little sense, substituting similar players, but this match with NYRB struggling at the back, was PERFECT for Fernando Cardenas. Dynamic, game-breaking speed going at a tired, thin back line may have been the difference. Runstrom did nothing to impress me or impose on the outcome of the game.
The final sub came far too late, as it seemed Tierney wasn't contributing the way the team needed, and it has to be said that the squad actually looked a little better once Purdie came on. Again, I wanted to see Cardenas in this match, and I can't seem to understand his exclusion from a match like this against a depleted opponent, down a goal.
LOOKING AHEAD FOR NEW ENGLAND
This is one of the toughest stretches of the season for New England, as they travel back home and play Colorado in only two days, and then head out to Salt Lake City to play RSL, where they've never played well, on Saturday. It's an eight day stretch with three league matches and is sure to test the team's depth and character, especially after this tough loss.
Expect to see more than a little lineup shuffling on Wednesday, particularly at the back and midfield. I'd expect to see Moreno and Sene again, but with Tierney, Alston, and McCarthy all struggling, someone may be getting the night off. There's also no way Benny Feilhaber doesn't start on Wednesday night. If Benny isn't on the starting lineup, you KNOW something else is going on.
With that being said, how about a predicted lineup and score?
COUCH CAPTAIN'S LINEUP vs. COLORADO RAPIDS (4-4-2): Reis; Alston, Lozano, Soares, Barnes; Nguyen, Simms, Joseph, Feilhaber; Sene, Moreno
Let's switch things up at the back a bit. Let these guys know that you EARN your minutes on this team. Darrius Barnes filled in at left back last year, and I'd like to see if his inclusion would solidify the defense. Lozano should have played on Saturday to begin with, so he should certainly see minutes here.
The front six remain unchanged, although you could make a case for Cardenas to get a start somewhere if anyone needed a rest. As it is, this lineup is more than capable, and with a good bench as well, they should pull off the result at home.
PREDICTION: REVS 2, RAPIDS 1