I'm going to try and do this as a regular feature the day after every match. Let me know what you think!
Am I alone in feeling like Sunday night's draw gave me ulcers?
Despite jumping out to an early lead with a great goal, I couldn't help but think that we were looking at the same old New England Revolution again. Los Angeles turned on the pressure from the 4th minute and didn't let off the gas until the half.
The Revs were run ragged. David Beckham and Sean Franklin repeatedly ripped apart the left flank, where Chris Tierney was repeatedly left exposed by Marko Perovic's apparent refusal to track back on defense. Even after Perovic departed with an injury, Kenny Mansally appeared unable to cope with the overlap between the two Galaxy players.
Zack Schilawski was on an island for the entire first half. Zak Boggs had several giveaways on the dribble, and rather than build up through the midfield, the defense was far too quick to lump the ball up and hope someone on the wing could run onto it.
Specifically on the topic of the long ball: I'm not against it. I see as much beauty in an inch-perfect 70-yard cross-field pass as I do in a 20-pass build-up. What I do not like to see is a defender, fullback or midfielder taking a touch on the ball, not seeing an option directly in front of him, and hurriedly hoofing it up the pitch in vain.
The player with the ball at his feet can't always be blamed; his teammates have to be active off the ball to give him the outlet he needs. That said, too often it seemed that a Revolution player on the ball made poor decisions and either resorted too quickly to a wild clearance or got himself into a situation where a giveaway was the only possible outcome.
More after the jump.
Let's be clear: getting a point on the road against an MLS Cup favorite is almost as good as a victory. Those are the games in which playoff-caliber teams get results. Poor officiating notwithstanding, to be in it with a chance to win by the end of 90 minutes is a huge accomplishment for a side that was so horrendously inconsistent through most of 2010.
On that note, this match was definitely a tale of two halves. After ceding 68% of the first-half possession, the Revs managed to put together some extended sequences of assured passing and keeping the ball in the second 45 (even though they actually had less possession). A.J. Soares especially seemed to recognize that playing the calm, easy outlet pass to Shalrie, Phelan or McCarthy out of the back could lead to extended possession and scoring chances.
It will be interesting to see how Steve Nicol handles his back line when Kevin Alston and Didier Domi return to full fitness. The one-two punch of Soares and Franco Coria worked pretty well in LA, with Soares providing the calm and distribution and Coria supplying the ferocity and hard-nosed tackling. However, Alston's return will coincide with Barnes moving back to the center, and the MLS experience of Ryan Cochrane and his incredible mustache will certainly not remain on the bench forever.
Such selection dilemmas are a good problem to have, but the answer will probably be simple. Barnes will almost certainly slot in for Soares, who is likely to get some work in the Reserve Division as well to get him more professional games. Both Barnes and Coria are assured in their positioning and calm in the tackle, but I worry for the Revs' ability to build out of the back after Coria's poor passing display on Sunday. It will be difficult to maintain possession if the midfielders are constantly bypassed by wild long-ball clearances from the defense.
For me, the story of the match was Zack Schilawski.
In the 4-3-3 that Nicol opted for, the lone striker is supposed to be supported by two advanced wingers in the attack. However, when subject to extended periods of pressure, the 4-3-3 morphs into more of a 4-5-1, leaving the striker to "plow the lone furrow."
After going ahead early, the Revs found themselves under siege for most of the match, isolating Schilawski up top. Too often Schilawski found himself trying to receive a hopeful aerial ball with three defenders hanging off his back. Normally, this would be the perfect situation to play Ilija Stolica, and going into the match that was the expected move.
Instead, Zack Schilawski took the second half into his own hands and became a quintessential target forward. Time and time again he used uncharacteristic strength to hold off Galaxy defenders and displayed a first touch he never had last season to take control of the ball and bring others into the play. It was his scuffed shot that set up Shalrie's chance in the second half that nearly gave the Revs the lead, and up until he was subbed off he made a nuisance of himself, nipping at defenders' heels and throwing his weight around.
There were plenty of positives and negatives to take from Sunday night's performance, but in the end it is important to remember that the Revs are still only at partial strength. The return of Alston will add speed and familiarity to the right back position, Domi will bring all of his experience to the left, and Dabo will help settle the midfield. Beginning the season with a point in LA is a massive coup and a great start for a team looking to get back into playoff contention.