The cardiac kids were at it again on Saturday night as the Revs scored the tying goal late in stoppage time to keep their unbeaten streak alive. New England is now unbeaten in their last four matches, and with more home matches on the horizon, the near future looks good for Jay Heaps' side.
Saturday night marked the first match in quite some time where Revs fans saw both Clyde Simms and Shalrie Joseph in the starting lineup in the middle of the midfield, which was something everyone wanted to see play out. While the results were mixed, it was good to see Heaps use both of his stellar midfielders in addition to his playmaker, Benny Feilhaber.
While it's good to come away with points from every match, it's just as important to take three points at home whenever you can. With the Eastern Conference foes ahead of the Revs in the standings continuing to put up wins, draws may not be good enough to keep this club in the hunt for the playoffs in the long run.
What should he Revs be doing differently to get over the hump? The time for a run is now, and while a four match unbeaten streak is vey solid and a good foundation, fighting and clawing for draws at home won't help you play late into the fall months. In this week's Couch Captain we look at the state of the Revs, their new formation, and where they are headed as we enter the month of July.
OUT: Kevin Alston (L Hamstring Tightness), Zak Boggs (DL - R ankle sprain), Jose Moreno (L ankle sprain), Tim Murray (L Knee Menisectomy), Bjorn Runstrom (R knee inflammation), Jeremiah White (R ankle sprain)
A long "out" list this week forced several key decisions with the lineup, but the biggest news on the injury front was the Simms and Joseph were both available for selection. The loss of Alston meant Flo Lechner was going to get a chance to follow up his performance in Toronto, and without Moreno, it looked like Blake Brettschneider would be seeing more minutes as well.
Quick note: Runstrom and White were on the 6/29 injury report, but as we have all learned, they will no longer be with the Revs.
JAY HEAPS LINEUP vs. SEATTLE: REIS; LECHNER, SOARES, MCCARTHY, TIERNEY; NGUYEN, SIMMS, JOSEPH, FEILHABER; SENE, BRETTSCHNEIDER
While it may have looked like a typical 4-4-2 on paper (I even tweeted about questioning why Feilhaber a out wide) it was actually a hybrid look to a 4-2-3-1. Brettschneider was the lone target man up top, and Saer Sene was used along the right flank, which allowed Feilhaber to continue to patrol the middle of the field as the team's best playmaker.
The lineup decisions were very solid, and while it was a bit odd to see both Sene and Brettschneider in the lineup with Heaps playing what looked like a one striker formation, you couldn't argue with the choices because the players that had been performing well were the ones getting the start.
My only gripe (which we will get more into in the chalkboard session) is how well this team looked in the second half in Toronto, and how good they looked late on Saturday night as well. Perhaps the lineup we see there should be the lineup that starts the match? It's not always that cut and dry, but it at least deserves to be asked.
COACHES CHALKBOARD AND STYLE OF PLAY
For the sake of conversation, I'm just going to go ahead and call it a 4-2-3-1, because that is certainly what it looked like while watching the match. Saer was out wide right and cutting into the middle of the field on his patented left foot, while Blake was the "target" man in the box. Benny was kept in his creative CAM role, which as I've said all along was where he was best.
The answer to the question about Simms and Joseph both being available? Play them both as CDM in the system, which, in theory, would lock down the center of the midfield. I have no problem proclaiming that trio (Benny, Simms, Shalrie) may be the best in the league in the center of any formation. However, as you watched the match progress I began to wonder if Simms and Shalrie are too similar a player, and that if playing them together in the same role actually didn't play out as well as you'd hoped?
While the tactical change seemed to stymie Seattle for about 15-20 minutes, even resulting in the opening goal, it was clear that once the Sounders cracked the code to the new formation, they knew how to attack it. Saer drifted into the center of the field frequently, and left literally nothing out on the right flank, save for a few overlapping runs from Lechner. In addition to that, With Sene coming to the middle, Benny playing CAM, and Simms/Joseph in the defensive mid role, it felt at times the Revs were very clogged through the middle, making them much easier to defend.
Now, if you watch this team play after the inclusion of Rowe, Cardenas, and Fagundez (and the subtraction of BB, Simms, and Lechner) it's a completely different looking side. Fast, dynamic, and even dangerous. The Revs went from a more methodical, tactical style in the first half, to an all-out speed fest in the second. Personally, I like the latter style immensely. With all of the talent on that field for the last 10-15 minutes it didn't look or feel like the Revs were playing a tactically genius style of soccer, they were just playing. Everyone was working towards that final goal, and it showed. No overbearing tactics or formations, just all out high-octane attack.
Going forward, maybe the Revs should just realize they're better when they're constantly hungry and going forward. We saw a lot of that in the preseason and early stages of the regular season, and while the defensive lapses came frequently back then, I feel like with the maturation process going so well for this back four, maybe it's time to go back to the original game plan: WE WILL ATTACK.
SUBSTITUTIONS AND COACHES DECISIONS
With the Revs trailing in the second half all three subs were made for an offensive boost, and all three subs came through with just that.
Kelyn Rowe for Clyde Simms 46'
Fernando Cardenas for Blake Brettschneider 71'
Diego Fagundez for Flo Lechner 81'
You can attribute the Simms sub to Clyde just regaining his match fitness and coming off an injury. However, I'm saying that this sub was needed because the middle of the field was too clogged. The Revs needed width and pace down the right flank, and with Saer coming into the middle of the field often, this sub was needed to give the side a better shape.
I felt like the Cardenas sub was ten minutes too late. BB had a rough night, didn't seem to link up with the midfield well (I can recall a couple of occasions where Benny showed his frustrations with the runs BB was making) and this sub was definitely waiting to be made. Cardenas rewarded Heaps when he supplied the cross for the game-tying goal, and the super sub once again did his job.
I might have to ease up on my analysis of Diego, because he just seems to prove me wrong quite a bit. Obviously this doesn't mean he's the greatest player in club history, but you cannot deny his impact when he plays, especially at home. He looks a little bigger also, which must have helped him win the ball through all that traffic on the goal. With a better output than Moreno, we might have to see a little more Diego on the field to continue with the attack-minded, speedy team philosophy.
There's tons to talk about with this side going forward. I liked that the Revs switched things up a bit with the formation to try to get the best players on the field at once. Even more so, I liked Jay Heaps' ability to change things up on the fly and produce the result. However, it's only going to get more difficult with the lineup decisions with so many players producing and playing well (not a terrible problem to have). I really feel like there are 14-15 guys on any given night that could start for this team, which will only help the club going forward.
Sunday night is one of my favorite matches of the season: New York at home. The Red Bulls are playing well, and if the Revs want to defend their home field, it's going to be difficult. While I know New York is incredibly talented, let's see if the Revs can hang in a back and forth kind of affair. They've got the horses, the talent, and the depth, so why not take the game to New York and see how they deal with an all out attack. The defense is better than it was when they dropped the 1-0 decision in New Jersey, so it's time to see how much the club has improved since then.