The second half of the 2012 MLS Season has really not gotten off to a great start in Foxboro, as the Revolution dropped a sloppy 2-1 decision in Montreal last night. The loss dropped New England to 1-7-1 on the road this season, and with the loss came another sobering fact: the Revs have fallen to seventh in the Eastern Conference.
After a five-game unbeaten run that saw the Revs climb to within a few points of the playoffs, they've only managed to score one goal in their last two matches, and the bad habits on the defensive end have returned. Poor communication, indecision, and ignoring responsibilities have all contributed to this recent slide, and with another road test against Eastern Conference-leading Sporting Kansas City on the horizon, the solutions need to get here quickly.
The lineup last night obviously looked a little disjointed, with Stephen McCarthy out due to his concussion-like symptoms and even more shockingly, the loss of captain Shalrie Joseph to "waking up with back stiffness". Teams are only as good as the heart of their formation, and when you lose a starting CB, as well as your captain and starting CDM, you already find yourself behind the 8-ball.
Coupled with the losses in the lineup was the return of Matt Reis, and while Reis didn't play particularly bad on the night, the defense didn't look quite as sharp as it had recently. Now, part of that is being shorthanded, part of that is the lack of solidarity on the goalkeeping front in recent weeks. However, where this team struggled last night was in it's organization and communication, as was evident on the game winning goal from Sanna Nyassi, when SIX Revolution players couldn't find a way to make the man at the far post.
It is becoming increasingly evident the side is having trouble linking from the midfield to the strikers up top, and most of that has to do with the Revs not having a serviceable partner for Saer Sene. While Sene himself has shown that he can be incredibly limited at times, the fact that he has been paired with several different partners cannot bode well for the Frenchman's form and confidence. Hopefully, Jerry Bengston is the answer to the problem, however the worry to Revs fans is that the team could be too far behind in the standings by the time he gets back from the Olympics.
Finally, a little bit of a brighter note, is the play of the midfield for New England. Clyde Simms continues to patrol the center of the field, winning balls and controlling the pace of play when needed. Even more impressive, has been the play of Lee Nguyen. Not only has Nguyen turned into the team's most dangerous attacking player, he's beginning to garner league-wide recognition with his play in recent matches. Last night's goal was spectacular, and while he absolutely got some help from Donovan Ricketts, the long-range blast was a sight to be seen.
With Benny Feilhaber playing at his usual high level, New England is downright loaded with talent in the midfield, but the club's recent propensity to lack any true width going forward and clogging the center of the field is truly limiting their attack. The Revs need to find their permanent answer at right midfield, whether it be Kelyn Rowe, Fernando Cardenas, Sainey Nyassi, or even Ryan Guy. Teams are now realizing the offense is running through Lee Nguyen, and if the Revs continue to ignore the right side of the field, opposing defenses are going to find it rather easy to shut down a one-sided attack.
It's still early to count this team out of any type of playoffs talk, but right now there are far more questions than answers. Players need to get healthy and in their right mind (I'm looking at you, Jose Moreno) for this team to succeed, and it needs to happen sooner than later.