It's amazing what a little home cooking (and width on the field) will do for the chances of a struggling team. In front of the boisterous support of over 18,000 fans at Gillette Stadium, the Revs went back to what made them so exciting in early 2012 and finally found an attacking flow, as well as three points.
Are the answers easy to point out? Well, a little. There's no denying that with the extra speed and width on the wings, as well as a different configuration in the center midfield, that the Revs just simply flowed better on Saturday night.
While the result was a good one, and quelled a lot of "Heaps Out" type sentiment (for now), there's still much work to be done to get this team consistently competing at a high level every week.
Let's take a look at Saturday Night, and see if we can break down where the Revs' fortunes began turning around!
REVOLUTION LINEUP vs PHILLY: SHUTTLEWORTH, FARRELL, McCARTHY, GONÇALVES, TIERNEY; CISSE; GUY, NGUYEN, ROWE, FAGUNDEZ; BENGTSON
First and foremost, you notice the realignment in the midfield, as well as the inclusion of Guy and Fagundez on the wings providing width and speed. Loved the move. It's exactly what the team had been lacking in recent weeks, and I particularly liked Ryan Guy getting a look as I felt his work rate would also help cover Tierney on the left flank as well.
One of the things that really stood out was Heaps' decision to sit Juan Toja, and move Nguyen and Rowe more centrally, a move I'd been calling for both here at TBM and on the Midnight Ride Podcast as well. It puts both players in spots on the field where they are more comfortable, which ultimately allows the team to flow much more smoothly and dangerously.
Defensively, I wasn't surprised at the alignment at all. If Jay Heaps was going to play someone other than McCarthy for the injured A.J. Soares, you would have seen it last week. Macca was called upon frequently last year, and I was pleased to see him continue to get Heaps' vote of confidence.
GAME PLAN AND STYLE OF PLAY
Bent Musket fearless leader Steve Stoehr pointed out early on that the formation really ended up playing like a 4-1-4-1 with Cisse holding down the "anchor" position on the pitch, which is a role I think he relishes and excels at. Cisse has more than enough aggression and "teeth" to add a little edge to the Revolution midfield, and I'm also particularly impressed with his ability to not just win a ball, but distribute as well.
As for the midfield, you could see that the inclusion of Guy and Fagundez was to widen the attack, and to create that attack with speed. I felt that both players did a magnificent job with carrying out the game plan, and hope to see more of this style from the Revs as the season wears on. I pleaded for Heaps to just "go for it" against Philly, and given how feverishly they attacked all night, I think he did just that.
As for the center of the field, Rowe and Nguyen proved to be quite the pair as they worked together quite well in unlocking the Philadelphia defenses, and I'd personally like to see this duo paired together more often. Their similar playing styles complement each other much more than when Toja is on the field. Kelyn and Lee are both quick, incisive players and I felt like when they were paired with Toja in the center, too often the offensive play was bogged down and slow. With this alignment, the Revs are seemingly much more dangerous.
At the back, Gonçalves continues to be an intelligent, brute force in the center, and with Andrew Farrell continuing to learn quickly, the defense is progressing nicely. HOWEVER, the one thing I'd like to point out, was that with the Revs pushing for goals so aggressively, there were several odd-man breaks and counter attacks by Philadelphia, especially in the second half. Pushing for goals is great, but a better offensive team may have capitalized on the mistakes the Revs were making in allowing so much space to the Union attackers.
SAER SENE for RYAN GUY (61)
DIMITRY IMBONGO for JERRY BENGTSON (74)
SCOTT CALDWELL for LEE NGUYEN (89)
Some folks were a little surprised by the attacking minded substitutions, especially later on. In my mind, I felt like Saer Sene was coming on for Guy all along, and at that particular point, no matter what. Loved seeing the Frenchman getting a longer run, and looking forward to more from him soon.
The Imbongo sub, for me, was a message sent to Bengtson. This was probably the best the Revs' attack had looked all season, and quite frankly, not much of that had to do with Jerry. Imbongo was given an opportunity here to show Heaps' a little something, and I was pleased that he got the look.
Much, MUCH better from the Revolution attack this week. Quick passes, good runs off the ball, and a wider, more dynamic shape. It'll be interesting to see if Heaps' sticks with this lineup on Thursday in Portland, and I, for one, think he should. Portland are very fast on the counter, and playing these two speedy wingers may help slow down the TImbers' attack.
The Revs will have to be careful on Thursday night not to get too stretched while pushing the attack, a lesson I'm sure they learned last week, and I'm also pretty confident in saying that Coach Heaps brought it up once or twice in training since then. With the defensive depth getting tested in the coming weeks, the Revs will have to stay hungry and disciplined if the upward trend is to continue.
All in all, a good result from a struggling team backed into a corner. I called out several players, including Lee Nguyen, and I'm the first guy to give credit when it's due, and this week, there's plenty of credit to go around. The Revolution are simply better when their playmakers like Lee Nguyen and Kelyn Rowe are firing on all cylinders, and if they can continue to get contributions from Diego Fagundez like they did on Saturday night, not only will the Revs earn more results, they'll be more dynamic and unpredictable going forward.
Take the victory and enjoy it, but one thing is for sure, it's a week to week league, and the most important factor in earning your points, is sustaining momentum and form through long periods of time. Let's see if our beloved Revs have it in them.