This weekend I had the pleasure and privilege of traveling with the Rebellion and the Midnight Riders to Harrison, NJ to see the New England Revolution take on the New York Red Bulls. Unfortunately, we lost, in case you didn’t hear. But the trip was an incredible experience and I want to begin this piece by thanking all those who organized this epic journey, including The Bent Musket’s very own Brendan Schimmel, for their hard work and tireless efforts to ensure a righteous time for all who went.
Now, about the match… what a mess. I think the best way to sum up the Revs in the first half is rusty. Sloppy passing, poor positioning, and a general lack of urgency seemed to dictate their play and it led to plenty of opportunities for the Red Bulls, including one that resulted in the game-winning goal.
To start on the defensive side of things, it became evident very soon into the game that the Dane Richards vs. Chris Tierney match up was going to be a problem. Tierney in general looked rattled and slow. A.J. Soares, on the other hand, was able to pick up a lot of the slack for Tierney and others and shut down runs from Richards and Kenny Cooper. Thank God for A.J. Soares. Stephen McCarthy had a below average performance and, personally, I think we need to give John Lozano or Darrius Barnes a shot.
I wasn’t terribly impressed by Kevin Alston either, who also had his fair share of giveaways. Kevin does well to get forward and involved in the attack, but I think that at times he leaves McCarthy too exposed, which leads to those one-on-one situations like we saw when Henry scored. Look, we’ve got depth on defense now, so all I’m saying is that we should start playing around with our different options.
Now, on to the midfield. The play in the first half was not the greatest, but we were able to string together some passes and make some chances. Kelyn Rowe seemed to be having quite the off-day, so it wasn’t much of a surprise that he was replaced by Benny Feilhaber in the second half. Benny, however, seemed out of place on the right wing. With a propensity to drift into the center of the midfield, he risks leaving the right side of the field empty, save for an advancing Kevin Alston at times. For me, it just felt like there were too many cooks in the kitchen on our attacks, leading to miscommunication and a lack of finish. Sure, there was some great passing in the second half, but it felt a bit too shapeless and disorganized. I would like to see Benny take to the RM position, but it doesn’t seem natural.
I thought that Shalrie Joseph was tamer than usual, which was probably due to the yellow card. But he also just looked a step or two slow at times. Although, his second half was markedly better, particularly when he was pushing forward into the attack. Still, I think that Shalrie might fit best into Jay Heaps’ team on the back line pairing up with A.J. Soares. By moving him there, we can kill two birds with one stone. First, the back-line needs a veteran to lean on and learn from, someone to be a mentor (although I would argue that Soares is a very mature player for an MLS sophomore with a lot of great leadership qualities). But also, by moving Joseph to CB, Feilhaber has the CM gig all to himself. I think the only way we can successfully operate with both Shalrie and Benny in the midfield is if we play a 4-3-3 or a 4-5-1 with Clyde Simms right in front of the back-line. And that’s my two cents on that.
Saer Sene and Jose Moreno appear to need more time to get on the same page, despite the 2 week break. At times they seemed to play well off each other. But the two were mistiming their passes and their runs and were just simply not able to click like we saw on the goal against D.C. United. Moreno in particular appeared frustrated with Sene, as evident after a failed attack in the second half when he was shouting at Sene and motioning with his hands for him to follow through on a run (not sure if you were able to see that on TV). Does Jay Heaps give Bjorn Runstrom a start in place of one of them? I want to say that he should, but Runstrom was also entirely ineffective against New York on Saturday. So, who knows.
Now that it’s all said and done, I guess we have no choice but to move on. This one was a pretty big disappointment though, and I’m not saying that just because I went all the way to New Jersey for it. The Red Bulls played with a patchwork back-line and no Thierry Henry for 65 minutes. That should have amounted to three points, plain and simple. Any maybe that’s what the Revs are missing right now—keeping it simple.