FOXBORO, MA - JUNE 2: Benny Feilhaber #22 of the New England Revolution celebrates his goal with teammate Saer Sene #19 against the Chicago Fire at Gillette Stadium on June 2, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
It's hard to really say much about this match because, well, not a whole lot happened. One thing that I think was really apparent, however, is that the Revs' strength and depth at midfield was finally realized. With both Clyde Simms and Ryan Guy out due to injury, the Revolution were still able to dispatch a first string midfield. And they even were able to call upon Kelyn Rowe off the bench. Some Revs fans may have thought that Jay Heaps was crazy when he started hoarding midfielders in the off-season (I'm specifically referring to myself), but it seems to make a lot more sense now.
To be honest, I expected the Fire to be a bit livelier. The likes of Dominic Oduro and Patrick Nyarko weren't nearly as troublesome as I thought they'd be. The Revolution defense is far from perfect, as I think we would all agree, and so my thinking was that we'd cough up at least a goal by way of an errant pass or something along those lines. But, on the whole, the Chicago attack looked to be pretty tame and manageable, perhaps from the Tuesday night Open Cup game followed by travel. So, I guess we should consider ourselves lucky. The slippery turf didn't help either, I'm sure.
But, the defense is still a work in progress. Heaps seems pretty committed to the Soares-McCarthy pairing at CB, regardless of John Lozano's paycheck. And, I can live with that-I see it improving with time. But our fullbacks are starting to look like the weak links. Chris Tierney, as much as I love the guy, used to at least be stellar at dead ball situations. But, these days, I'm not even really sure we can say that about him. He has moments of brilliance, and brings a great leadership quality to the squad, but I think that eyebrows are going to continue to raise unless he starts to show some more improvement. But, hey maybe just a full year committed to LB is all he needs.
Kevin Alston has at least shown better efforts defensively as the season has progressed. He has a lot of pace, but needs to be better on the attack. He is a very dynamic player but it's too often that we see plays broken up by him instead of enhanced. Positioning looked to be better against the Chicago Fire. Still, I can't help but feel like I want to see more out of Florian Lechner-at either fullback spot, really-just to see what he has to offer. Anyone know how long the recovery typically is for a broken pinky toe?
In his press conference Saturday night after the game, Jay Heaps cited Benny Feilhaber, who was moved to the center of the midfield as opposed to his usual wide right position, as "doing everything right". And he went on to refer to his work in the middle with Shalrie Joseph as "a good balance". These kinds of comments make me wonder if Heaps will put some more thought into having Benny permanently in the center, where he prefers to be. That, of course, will be a difficult decision to make once Clyde Simms returns from injury. And when asked about his thoughts and plans moving forward when Simms is back in the picture, Heaps did not seem to have any answers yet.
If Benny is going to prosper with the Revolution and make the kind of impact this season that I think we all expect him to, I really believe that it's only going to happen with Benny in the middle as he was against the Fire. Perhaps the 2 week break will allow Heaps to play around with formations in training a bit-maybe trying a 4-5-1 like we saw against the LA Galaxy, or even a 4-3-3. Either way, it's hard to argue against Benny's excellent performance on Saturday night in the CAM position, so what happens now, if anything, will be interesting to see unfold.
In the end, 3 points is 3 points. The Revs looked like a team determined to play Jay Heaps' style of soccer, and this time it really seemed to work on just about all levels. Our lack of a clinical finish, however, is a concern. Saer Sene's quiet night and Jose Moreno's inconsistency did not do us any favors. As we get closer and closer to the summer transfer window, I can only hope that Jay Heaps and co. have their eyes on a few strikers that might be able to help the Revolution make that extra push towards a playoff position.
For now, the boys will enjoy a much needed 2 week break to refill the batteries, get some key players back from injury, and focus on the slew of Eastern Conference match-ups that lie ahead of them. Rest up, guys-you're going to need it.