Jun 23, 2012; Toronto, ON, Canada; New England Revolution defender Kevin Alston (30) settles the ball against Toronto FC at BMO Field. The FC tied the Revolution 2-2. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE
Well that was exciting, eh? If you follow me on Twitter you know that I really had a feeling that TFC's second win was coming at our expense. For about 93 minutes, I was right. Fielding an injury-forced lineup (with some interesting choices) the Revs not only mustered up a gutsy performance, but stole a big point on the road.
Everyone knows that points on the road in this league are hard to come by, and quite frankly I don't want to hear the nay-sayers about how terrible Toronto FC's season has been up to this point. If you've caught any of their matches, you know they're talented, and often times, very unlucky. That trip up North is never easy, and as I sit here on Monday morning, I'm very content with the point.
That being said, what could have been done differently? Could the Revs won this matchup? Even without Shalrie Joseph and Jose Moreno, this club has done such a good job building depth that they still had enough in the tank to come out on top.
In this week's Couch Captain it's time to ask some questions about this team. New England may be unbeaten in their last three, and may be only two points out of the last playoff spot, but with transfer rumors heating up all over the league and the race tightening up, do the Revolution have what it takes to make a run? After the jump, we get at it!
NE Injury Report - June 22, 2012
The obvious loss is the team captain, Shalrie Joseph. HOWEVER, I had mentioned that because Clyde Simms has been so good (and expected to play), the loss wasn't going to be felt completely.
Jose Moreno, one could argue, was a bigger loss for the team, as I feel like he's the team's clear #2, however given his already spotty injury history with the club, and how well Blake Brettschneider has played, that title may be up for grabs.
Really, the only glaring inclusion was Diego Fagundez. The undersized teenager had only seen sparse minutes coming off the bench, but it seems like the loss of Moreno and Runstrom, as well as what could be viewed as a weaker opponent, gave way to Diego earning the start. Not what I envisioned, or even wanted, but if they're going to give away posters, shirts, and bobble heads with the kid's likeness, we may as well see what he can do.
The defense remains unchanged, to no one's surprise, but now with Florian Lechner back healthy, the depth is stronger than ever. While the back four has jelled together, it's nice to know that they've got quality behind them to push their performance.
COACHES CHALKBOARD AND STYLE OF PLAY
It seemed to many knowledgable Revs fans and pundits that Saer Sene was cast more as a target FW in this match with the inclusion of Diego Fagundez in the starting XI. While Sene has been effective this season, it's been in a different role, playing more as a second striker in a 4-4-2 system. I truly believe Sene is better having a strong, hold-up type striker next to him (like, say, I don't know, Blake Brettschneider). Diego isn't that type of player. He's shifty, dynamic, and quick, but won't win you many dogfights, which is why you saw the Revs struggle in the first half.
The midfield didn't seem to miss a beat with Simms inserted in Shalrie's absence. I am still conflicted as to who I prefer on the right in the 4-4-2 formation, because unite frankly, Rowe/Cardenas/Guy have all shown me something at different points. From this point forward I think it's up to Coach Heaps to play the hot hand in each matchup. Going forward, I still can't wait to see how Heaps is going to handle Simms and Joseph at the same time. Eventually, the team is going to be healthy, and there will be decisions to be made.
Defensively...oh defensively. I don't know, coming off two clean sheets I was happy with where this defense was headed, and then the old problems reared their ugly heads on Saturday. I'm not blaming Soares for the first goal, I'm putting it on Matt Reis. Once again the keeper was caught between two minds, started to come out, realized he couldn't make it, and then retreated back, let Koevermans win the ball, and got beat. Reis HAS to be more decisive and in control at the back. He's the rock of this team, and is the general of that back line, and if he hesitates or wavers, good things don't usually follow.
On the second goal, the Revs lacked what seemed like communication and conviction. There were 5 Revs in the box, yet their loose shape was taken advantage of by a somewhat broken play. One man shouldn't be able to fly in and finish the goal if the defense is communicating and know who's covering which runner. Again, better communication, better positioning and awareness are needed going forward for this defense or else this will be a continuing pattern throughout the summer.
SUBSTITUTIONS AND COACHES' DECISIONS
All three subs were used, and I feel all three players made an impact on the match:
Flo Lechner for Kevin Alston 40'
Blake Brettschneider for Clyde Simms 63'
Fernando Cardenas for Diego Fagundez 70'
First off, the first of the three subs had to do with Alston coming off with an injury. After having several injury-riddled seasons, Alston has been an iron man for the Revs. Really hope this is just a little knock and not something serious, as Alston has been great for the Revs in 2012. Lechner played extremely well in his appearance, and quite frankly I think we were all a little quick in writing him off after his poor beginnings in New England.
I didn't understand the Brettschneider sub. Not because of Blake, but because of the fact it was Simms who came out. The match definitely needed fresh legs and a striker, but I was wary of how a Fagundez-Sene-Brettschneider pairing was going to play out. I would have been fine with taking out Diego at this point, who had seemed to run out of ideas.
Cardenas added exactly what Heaps want out of him , and it is great to see Fernando getting used in the right situations. I think Coach Heaps has a really good handle of how to use him in matches, and you saw that here. Again, I was fine with taking out Diego a this point, and it maybe should had come along with the Brettschneider sub.
New England is still in the thick of things in the Eastern Conference only two points out of the last spot, however, with Montreal Impact playing as well as they are, the Revs need to take it to the next level to keep pace with the rest of the East. The pieces are still there, but is it enough? Saer Sene has cooled off, and now Joseph and Alston are struggling with injury. If the Revs are to continue their unbeaten run at home on Saturday against Seattle, other players are going to have to step up in a big way and play well.
Could a formation change be in the works in the near future? Several fans are calling for a 4-3-3 formation, utilizing the dynamic speed and wing play this club possess, while others are calling for a 4-5-1 with the surplus of midfield talent. The 4-4-2 has been kind to the Revs (currently tied for 7th in scoring with 20 goals) and I don't see a change in the near future, but injuries and form change many things, so you shouldn't be surprised if things change a little bit over the next few weeks.
With the always-entertaining and enigmatic Seattle Sounders coming to Foxboro on Saturday the unbeaten is in danger. Presumably without Alston, and perhaps even Joseph, this team is going to have to get big performances from their star players. Feilhaber has to continue his great run of form, and it's time for Lee Nguyen to hit the score sheet again, as well as Saer Sene. Role players have stepped up quite a bit for this club in many ways, Chris Tierney and Brettschneider being the obvious heroes on Saturday, but the stars have to do their part too.
Expect the injury report to play a huge role on Saturday. Lechner has earned a start if Alston can't go, and we'e already seen what the squad looks like without Shalrie. If Moreno continues to be out I don't think it will be all that bad given how well Brettschneider played on Saturday. The Revs will have to be better defensively against a very talented Seattle team, and may have to win a shootout type of game.
It's too early for a lineup prediction, but like I said, expect Lechner for Alston, Brettschneider for Moreno, and the rest to remain unchanged if Shalrie can't go. With Shalrie in the lineup, your guess is as good as mine because this team is clearly better with Benny at CAM. If Simms and Joseph both play, you might see the much-maligned 4-5-1.
PREDICTION - SOUNDERS 3 - REVS 2