As the Revs head down the home stretch in this 2012 campaign, it's plain to see that things still haven't quite clicked. While New England continues to remain competitive, and find themselves in the middle of every match they play, they still lack that final instinct to earn results.
Saturday Night was a perfect example of how just a few moments of indecision and lack of concentration have undone this Revs squad all season long. They may lose matches, but it's not like they get blown out, or are completely inept. It's just these little flashes of "what were you thinking?" that have seemed to be their bugaboo all year.
New England were in the match on Saturday for all of the 70-plus minutes leading up to the goal. They created chances, looked lively, and even maintained a pretty fair shape. However, with the match beginning to boil, and the pressure mounting, one mistake of losing a marker leads to another dropped opportunity.
In this week's Couch Captain, we take a look at the Revs loss in Philly, and look ahead to their home finale against the red-hot Chicago Fire.
JAY HEAPS LINEUP vs. UNION: Shuttleworth - Alston, Soares, Barnes, Guy - Purdie, Simms, Feilhaber, Rowe - Fagundez, Bengtson
With Stephen McCarthy listed as OUT due to a concussion, it was Ryan Guy getting the nod at the back for Heaps. With Macca unavailable, Darrius Barnes slotted into the center back role alongside A.J. Soares, giving the Revs a strong middle pairing.
In the midfield, we finally got a good look at Alec Purdie, who made the start on the left flank with Lee Nguyen done for the season. Benny Feilhaber got another start alongside Clyde Simms, who, despite being listed as doubtful, passed another late fitness test and was named in the starting lineup. Rookie Kelyn Rowe continued to gain valuable first team minutes down the stretch and started on the right flank.
I loved the idea of giving Purdie a run-out here late in the season. It's about that time of year where Heaps is going to have to take a look ahead to 2013 and figure out who deserves to stay, so getting a look at Purdie on Saturday Night certainly had a lot riding on it.
Up top, it was Diego Fagundez pairing with Jerry Bengtson, as Heaps continues to search for a serviceable third striker in his squad for 2013. Fagundez does bring a different dynamic when he's up top, and with Philadelphia not being an overly physical team, it wasn't terribly shocking to see the youngster get minutes.
COACHES CHALKBOARD AND SYLE OF PLAY
One thing sticks out defensively, and that was how well the flanks were shut down with so much speed on the wings for New England. With Kevin Alston and Ryan Guy on the outside, Philadelphia found it very difficult to beat the Revs down the flank. However, although the speed was great, the lack of size and physical presence from Guy ultimately doomed the Revs, with Guy getting beat back post off a free kick for the wining header.
In the midfield, it was Benny's show once again, and the quality chances continued. While the Revs may not have the quality in the final third to finish the opportunities set up by their talented midfield, you could still see the difference in the midfield play with Benny running the show.
Alec Purdie acquainted himself rather well I thought considering he doesn't get first team play. With the season coming to a close, you have to wonder, however if it's enough to keep him around in 2013. I personally like his game, and thought there were a couple of nights he could have seen the field in 2012, so hopefully he's back with the Revs in the preseason.
Things are always going to look a little different when it's Diego Fagundez paired up top with Bengtson. Diego is more apt to dribble upfield and take the attack right at the defense, which is something the Revs really haven't seen much out of their strikers. His solid dribbling skills as well as shifty pace make the offense look a little more lively and dangerous, instead of the usual misguided cross or poor through-ball. While his lack of size and physicality are well documented, I still feel like with the right matchup he can be effective going forward.
SUBSTITUTIONS AND COACHES DECISIONS
Fernando Cardenas for A.J. Soares 61'
Juan Toja for Diego Fagundez 64'
Dimitry Imbongo for Kelyn Rowe 77'
Three subs. Three offensive minded changes. At this point you can't fault Jay Heaps going for broke and trying to win matches, because, let's face it, a draw doesn't really do much for you.
The substitution for A.J was due to Soares picking up a knock and limping off, but instead of a defensive minded replacement, Heaps went with Cardenas, and switched to what looked like a 4-4-1-1 when Toja came on in the 64th. Fagundez had seemingly run his course, and bringing on the veteran presence in Toja seemed like a good move.
Finally, with the Revs trailing and he rookie running out of gas, DImitry Imbongo was brought in to try and up the pressure and tempo of the match. Given what Heaps had left at that point I was satisfied with the move, especially after the team had given up the eventual game winner.
Well, what can you say that hasn't already been said? The Revs entered with a game plan, seemingly executed it quite well, but were undone by one moment of uncertainty and lack of concentration.
Players are still giving it a go for Jay, which is a great sign. There's no indication of this team lying down, which is an outstanding testament to Heaps and his staff. However, there's no denying the fact that someone wearing a jersey needs to step up and play the leader of this team.
After watching Benny Feilhaber throw yet another toddler temper tantrum and getting himself sent off, it's clear this team needs a leader on the field. If you think Benny would pop off like that if Shalrie Joseph, or Joe Franchino, or Taylor Twellman were still around, you're crazy. There's no unquestioned leader on the field when Matt Reis isn't between the pipes, and it shows.
Is the answer that simple? No, not even close, but I do feel like the lack of on-field leadership has a lot to do with these little lapses in concentration that seem to be undoing the Revs.