I'm sure I speak for everyone when I say that I am ready for July. It's really the perfect month to get back on track. Especially when you're merely a single win shy of a playoff spot. Back to the drawing board, boys. Let's get back on track. Oh, right, I guess we should talk about this game first. Here goes...
I really can't say that I've been a big Scott Caldwell fan this season. By no real fault of his own, I've just never really warmed up to the idea of playing the rookie attacking playmaker in the defensive midfield spot. But after Saturday night, I can certainly say that I'm on board the Scott Caldwell train.
Yes, Chad Barrett scored the goal (we'll get to him later), and, yes, Diego Fagundez sent in the picture-perfect cross. But Caldwell was just as significant as those two in the Revolution's 88th minute equalizing goal vs. Chivas USA. His energy from the center of midfield (which was pivotal in increasing the tempo in the second half when the Revs desperately needed some new perspective and new ideas) combined with his read of the field and general soccer smarts led him to spraying the ball out wide to an unmarked Fagundez on the right wing, allowing Diego to send in the cross for the goal. A simple decision, sure, but it was arguably the first time the Revs made the simple play all night--especially in the attacking third--and it paid dividends.
New England struggled to get their game going for a number of reasons. The most basic issue was, in my opinion, that they were trying to do too much. Once the ball was in or around Chivas' 18-yard box, the final pass or shot was just not there. The Revs may have shaken off their inability to defend set-pieces (a shortcoming that haunted them for most of 2012), but they've still not truly conquered their lack of clinical finish in front of net.
Alas, cue Chad Barrett. Barrett, who was not shy about his displeasures this season in watching Jerry Bengtson start game after game not scoring while he himself sat on the sidelines (or sometimes even further away from the pitch than that) watching, stepped in and showed Jay Heaps exactly why he needs to be playing, and probably starting. In the ‘put up or shut up' situation with Barrett, he put up Saturday night. Now the ball is in Heaps' court.
Barrett, who now has 2 goals and 1 assist in 110 minutes of action (actually, according to Jeff Lemieux, in just his last 34 minutes alone), is making his case, further mystifying the ever-so-uncertain future of the aforementioned Bengtson. What's more, if Juan Agudelo (who is apparently injured) is sidelined for any significant amount of time, it will be hard not to look Barrett's way after this most recent development.
The Revs suffered from some individual foibles as well, particularly in their attacking corps. Bengtson barely touched the ball and was caught offside on his best chance on goal, while Saer Sene looked rusty as ever. For Sene, this was a game that really needed him to take control, particularly without Agudelo in the mix. Sene, who was deployed on the right wing, struggled to find any room to maneuver and therefore was forced to lay off simple passes or take first time, easy-to-handle shots rather than take on defenders and get a good look on goal. Again, even the simple things were missing, such as passing (61%)
However, on the other side of the ball, there was a decently solid looking defense that withstood a great deal of pressure and attack from Chivas. Despite letting up a goal and adding yet another blemish to their previously immaculate shut-out streak, the backline did well to only allow the one goal. Not only that, but they were hugely influential in the Revs' attack towards the end of the match. Chris Tierney, in particular, impressed me this match. The Massachusetts native and MLS veteran tallied an impressive 77% passing rating, linking up with the midfielders and overlapping well while not neglecting his defensive duties. In the attack, Tierney served up five successful crosses and Opta credits him with a team-leading four key passes, two of which were nearly missed by Jerry Bengtson and Diego Fagundez respectively. Indeed, while we are used to singing the praises of Jose Goncalves and Andrew Farrell, Tierney showed that he can be just as effective on the backline.
All in all, it was a game to forget for the Revs. With Wednesday's US Open Cup loss to D.C. United fresh on the brain, many were hoping that the squad would seek vengeance for their midweek defeat rather than allow themselves to be haunted by it. As we always say, there's plenty still to work on for Jay Heaps' squad. And now they have a full week to get themselves back to their attention-grabbing, goal-scoring ways before the San Jose Earthquakes roll into town on Saturday.
With the MLS transfer window opening soon, I'm willing to bet that there will be some moving and shaking in Revs camp. With the playoffs still very much in reach, Revolution brass will need to find the missing pieces and get them into place as soon as possible. As of July 20th (three weeks from now), the Revolution's remaining matches will only be against Eastern Conference opponents. It's an important final stretch that Jay Heaps and his team will absolutely need to be prepared for. But, for now, it's back to the drawing board.