The 3rd Yellow: Revolution vs. Houston - Dynamo's Equalizer and Kinnear's Masterstroke

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

For the majority of the game Saturday, the New England Revolution were the better team, but a quick tactical change by Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear brought a quick equalizer and a point that may have dashed New England's hopes at the postseason.

There was a huge difference on the sidelines of last week's New England Revolution - Houston Dynamo game that actually affected the outcome of the game.

That difference was the two head coaches, as Dynamo coach Dominic Kinnear pushed forward for an equalizer, and was rewarded when his tactical switch allowed Will Bruin to score late in the second half. Revs coach Jay Heaps sat back and essentially watched his season slip away, using only one of his available three substitutes in a game where his side desperately needed three points.

We'll get back to Heaps a little later, first though let's go through the disaster that was Houston's equalizer. First, remember that Kinnear has just subbed on Cam Weaver and is playing a 3-5-2, with left back Corey Ashe pushing into the midfield. Second, Brad Davis and AJ Soares have come together on a header before the highlight clip starts and Soares stays down. This is important because as Houston counters, the Revs are short in the back.


Now, here's the rule governing injury on the field: the referee is only to stop the game for an injury that requires immediate attention. Basically, any type of potential head injury, bleeding of any kind or something perceived as serious in nature like a broken leg. Exceptions include injuries to goalkeepers and incidental collisions. Other than that, unless the opposing team is nice to you and kicks the ball out of play, you're on your own.

As far as whether or not Brad Davis commits a foul on the play, I don't see it. That was a very well refereed game by Edvin Jurisevic and his crew and most importantly they were pretty consistent on allowing contact during the day. I don't see anything egregious with Davis' challenge for the ball and the contact to Soares is incidental, but he tries to milk it (you can hear him say "Ow" from the field mics on replay) and doesn't get the call. Since he's not bleeding or suffered a head injury, or any injury that requires immediate attention, and Jurisevic doesn't think the injury was caused by any type of foul, he's not required to stop the game.

And Houston, down a goal in a very important game, is under no obligation to put the ball out of play. I say this to U10s all the time, "If you actually need to be subbed out of a game, stay down." I can tell when someone's picked up a knock and it youth games it happens often, but I don't always let the youth players re-enter the game after only a minute, especially if I stopped the game because of something minor like you had your foot stepped on. If you stay down and get subbed out (unlimited subs in most youth games help as well), you're going to be sitting for a few minutes.

Now, remember how AJ Soares stayed down. This is bad for a few reasons. One, his man Will Bruin receives a pass almost uncontested going forward before Andrew Farrell slides in to cover him. Now at this point, the Revs are late tracking back. Chris Tierney is out of position and it allows Cam Weaver to take another pass uncontested, pulling Jose Goncalves out of position. At this moment, Weaver centers and it's cleared weakly by Farrell only as far as Oscar Boniek Garcia, who with the Revs backline in disarray, has time to figure out what to do.

The Revs are currently in a 5v5 situation, but there are two problems. First, both Tierney and Scott Caldwell step up on Garcia, leaving only a two man backline. Diego Fagundez has tracked back, but he's not marking anyone and is in between four Dynamo players instead of slotting in at right back with Farrell moving centrally to cover for Soares. And where are the center midfielders Kelyn Rowe and Lee Nguyen? No idea, but they're also late in arriving. That brings us to the second problem, which leaves Farrell to cover Will Bruin in the center and his own mark from the right back spot. He essentially splits the difference, allowing Garcia to slot the ball to Bruin, who finishes with a rocket off the underside of the crossbar.

But before everyone goes and blames Soares for staying down, remember that for about ten minutes the Dynamo had been playing their new 3-5-2 formation, and that the Revs hadn't yet adjusted. With two subs still available to him, Jay Heaps could've done something to solidify the backline or give Caldwell a partner in the holding midfield. So Heaps got outcoached on the equalizer, not the end of the world, he's got fifteen minutes and two subs to find a late winner and save the Revs season.

But again, Heaps does nothing. He rides out the remainder of the game with the same players and formation that started it save for one straight substitution of Dimitry Imbongo for Juan Agudelo, which was partially forced by injury. Where Dominic Kinnear made tactical changes to his formation and style to chase a much needed equalizer, Heaps chose to sit and watch his 4-1-4-1, which had generated some decent chances though mostly from set piece situations. If only the Revs had the flexibility to move their left back into the midfield like Houston did, oh wait, that's right, Chris Tierney used to be a midfielder, silly me.

With fifteen minutes left and your season on the line, playing for a draw does you no good. I would have liked to have seen at the very least, Tierney pushed up in to the midfield and Sene put up top with Agudelo in a 3-1-4-2. If very late in the game you sacrificed Caldwell for Charlie Davies or Chad Barrett for a 3-4-3 in the closing stages, I would have been fine with that too. But instead Heaps decided that the players and formation on the field were good enough. And it's that tactical inflexibility that might doom the Revolution to another playoff-less season.

Heaps' 4-1-4-1 has done very well this season, but it's not spectacular. Juan Agudelo is the only striker that regularly scores from up top and most of the goals come from Sene and Diego on the wings and long range bombs from Rowe, which is fine, unless you need to put two strikers up top to get three points and your team reacts by not knowing what to do.

The Revs in theory have the players to easily move around their formations and provide different looks to their opponents. Can Andy Dorman play holding midfielder if you asked him too? Or Lee Nguyen? I don't see why not, but I don't think I've ever seen the Revs intentionally play a 4-2-3-1. What's the Revs best 4-4-2 formation? I don't know, but I haven't seen the Revs play that since the beginning of the season, and that's the most basic formation in all of soccer.

Late in games whether defending a lead or pushing for an equalizer you have to adjust your players and your formation to keep up with what your opponent is doing. You can't sit on your hands and expect everything to go right because that rarely works, especially in a game where you've been the better side.

Except on the scoreboard.

Because for ten minutes while protecting a lead, you weren't the better side Jay Heaps. And in those ten minutes, Houston equalized. You did nothing about it then, you did nothing about it after.

That's called getting outcoached.

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