"The game never caught rhythm," Jay Heaps said post-game. "It was shameful to be honest with you."
I don't think anyone can argue with coach Heaps on that one--the rhythm was really never there for the Revs. And it seems to all tie back to the 2nd minute injury to Stephen McCarthy. With McCarthy down, Shalrie Joseph was called into action. Fresh off a knee injury that had been plaguing him for the past two weeks, and only having played center back 2 other times thus far this season, Joseph came in cold and tried to adapt as best he could.
But, let's break down the events that occurred a bit deeper. Firstly, if Shalrie was truly cold on the bench, why wasn't Darrius Barnes warmed up and sent in? Barnes, who hasn't been on the injury report all season, may have very well been the better option than Shalrie. Or even Florian Lechner, who has past experience playing CB and has even featured there for the Revs in recent reserve games, might have been a more effective option.
In the locker room, A.J. Soares said, "It's a hard situation for someone to come in cold to a game. Anytime Shalrie's on the field we're going to be better. Not that he's better there than Macca, but it's good to have your captain out there. So, it wasn't the end of the world." But, here's where I think I disagree, and where the crux of my argument lies: are the Revs really better when Shalrie is on the field?
Now, please don't misconstrue what I'm trying to say here. I am absolutely a fan of Shalrie Joseph and I think he is a stellar player. But, at 34 years old, can he really be expected to jump into a game in the situation he did last night? You saw how out of sync he was in the first half. I would argue that it wasn't until the second half that he really got comfortable out there. And by that point, it almost seemed as though the Revs were going with a hybrid 3-man back-line where Shalrie and Clyde Simms were playing deep-midfield and both occasionally providing some additional cover on the Toronto counter-attack. Where was the Shalrie who anchored the back-line against the Portland Timbers?
Certainly there are a lot of questions surrounding the Revs last night, and it's not easy to determine just went wrong. But if it really all stems from McCarthy's injury, and if the Revolution can't make a center back substitution and resume business as usual, then that is where I take issue. Why? Because, frankly, I just don't think it should be that hard to do.
Initial rumors of Davide Zoboli being in Foxboro this week may have been originally met with head-scratches and raised eyebrows, but maybe now we can all agree that a reliable CB is indeed a desperate need for the Revolution.
Moving on to the midfield, can we talk about Fernando Cardenas for a minute? The position-less Colombian was all-over the place last night. He couldn't really get involved and more often than not killed the Revs' attacks. I don't think that he and Kevin Alston have much chemistry, or at least didn't last night, and thus the right-side of the pitch was virtually death-row for New England's attacks; all speed but with basically nothing to show for it. Haven't we already established that Cardenas is best used as a second-half sub? For me, Ryan Guy would have been the preferred choice there. I would have liked to see how the first half played out with Guy on the right wing in place of Cardenas. But, hey, that's just me.
Up top, Blake Brettschneider and Saer Sene each had pretty forgettable games. Brettschneider in particular was pretty useless, to be blunt. I can't recall any productive play from the second-year man. Sene had a couple of opportunities, and provided a few decent passes (specifically one to Lee Nguyen in the second half which looked destined to be a goal), but he too fell short of our expectations of him. Is it Heaps' new 4-2-3-1 formation that is throwing him off? He was scoring goals pretty consistently in the 4-4-2, but seems to be entering somewhat of a drought lately (minus the off-side goal that he got away with against Seattle). Formation troubles or not, one has to ask: what is going on with Saer Sene?
Heaps mentioned post-game that Jerry Bengtson is still being brought up to speed and that the Revolution's short week of training wasn't the best environment to prepare him for a start against Toronto. So, even though he had a relatively pedestrian second half, I think we need to withhold judgment for the time being. Although, it's hard not to be at least a little bit disappointed by his second Revolution showing.
This game may have been one of the worst of the season for New England. I think the most disappointing part is that it came at a time when the Revs were just starting to look like they had it all figured out. The real test now will be for the Revs to pick themselves up by their bootstraps and secure three points against the Montreal Impact on Wednesday, which has now become basically a must-win for the Revs. A complete, 90-minute performance is needed to help everyone write-off this TFC game as a fluke, and a win is needed in order to keep up with everyone else in the race for the 5th playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.