In what could be described as an early season three pointer, the Revs dropped a disappointing decision to hated rivals D.C. United on Saturday afternoon 2-1. Rivalry matches seem to always bring out higher scrutiny, bigger pressure, and heated debate, and this one is certainly no different.
Once again the Revs had their hands a bit tied with injuries (Lozano, Feilhaber) and suspensions (Shalrie), so it was up to coach Jay Heaps to get creative and try to put forth a game plan that would garner three points at home. While New England seemed to possess the needed skill and philosophy to earn the result (as evidenced by the early goal), they were once again revisited by some old demons that ultimately led to their demise.
For the first time this season, there are rumblings about decisions being made by the Revolution coaching staff. Is the team OVER-committing to the attack? Are there better options off the bench than what we have been seeing?
To be fair, the Revs played more than well enough to earn at least a point on Saturday, so the over-reactions may be a bit much, but coming up empty-handed at home to a conference rival is never a good thing. What can this team do going forward to continue their improvement in this rebuilding year? In this week's Couch Captain we break it all down and see where this squad is headed in the near future, and we see what went wrong on Saturday in Foxboro.
PROBABLE: Kevin Alston (L hamstring tightness), Matt Reis (L knee swelling), Clyde Simms (R calf tightness)
QUESTIONABLE: Benny Feilhaber (L peroneal strain)
OUT: Zak Boggs (DL - R ankle sprain), Florian Lechner (R 5th
metatarsal fracture), Sainey Nyassi (DL - R hamstring strain), Jeremiah White (headache)
Quite the injury list on Friday afternoon heading into the match. The players listed as OUT weren't really a surprise, and after his performance against FC Dallas, Lechner wasn't deemed a huge loss.
The biggest question facing New England was the health of Benny Feilhaber. With Shalrie Joseph facing suspension, the Revs were going to need offensive creativity, but also didn't want to rush Benny back either. It was certainly a delicate situation, and perhaps a bench role was the safest play.
The three probable players were all expected to play and start, which they did, and that certainly boosted the club's chances.
COUCH CAPTAIN'S LINEUP (4-4-2) : Matt Reis; Kevin Alston, John Lozano, A.J. Soares, Chris Tierney; Lee Nguyen, Clyde Simms, Kelyn Rowe, Ryan Guy; Saer Sene, Jose Moreno
The thinking at the back four was that I assumed Lozano was ready to play a full 90 after going 70+ minutes in the reserve match last week. While Stephen McCarthy was filling in well enough and progressing quickly, it was always Lozano's job.
The midfield was a bit more difficult to figure out. Simms was playing his usual role, but with Feilhaber really not 100% I didn't want to start him right away. I like Rowe in the middle of the field using his creativity, and felt that Guy and Nguyen were more effective on the wings than Rowe could potentially be.
It was time to see what this highly-touted strike partnership could do. Moreno had enough time to settle in and get his legs, and Sene has been the starter pretty much all season to begin with. Their dynamic pairing had me salivating.
JAY HEAPS' LINEUP (4-4-2): Reis; Alston, McCarthy, Soares, Tierney; Guy, Rowe, Simms, Nguyen; Sene, Moreno
The only difference you saw on Saturday was Heaps' inclusion of McCarthy at CB. As previously mentioned, I absolutely think Macca has done a much better job than any of us expected at the start, and I'm completely fine with him getting the nod over Lozano. This is where actually being the coach helps, because clearly, Heaps knew that Lozano wasn't quite ready to go.
COACHES' CHALKBOARD AND STYLE OF PLAY
Much to Heaps' credit, this team has found its identity, and absolutely swears to stick to it. The attack-minded philosophy seems like it is here to stay, and seeing how quickly the Revs jumped out on op on Saturday, who could argue?
In dissecting the goal a little further, the greatest thing that you can take away from the play is just how good Saer Sene is at distributing the ball. We've seen him finish with his head very well, but to see an in-swinging cross off his left foot to a wide open Moreno for the goal is something very encouraging. These two have a great opportunity to become a very potent partnership, the defense just needs to back them up.
Which brings me to my next question: Is the attack-minded philosophy hurting this team defensively? I'll give D.C. huge credit on the first goal as it was just a great feat of athleticism and skill, but the second? Once again, a wing back gets caught in transition and a slower CB gets beat for the goal. I'm all for defenders getting involved on over-lapping runs to create crossing chances, but let's face it, if it impedes on your defensive responsibilities, you've got to re-evaluate.
It's not that I want this team to bunker down defensively, but perhaps become slightly more selective with its forays into the offensive half of the field. Kevin Alston possesses the speed to track back on defense, and we've seen him do it repeatedly, but Tierney does not. While Tierney is better offensively than Alston, I think the two of them need to be a bit more cautious when going forward. This team has far too often given up late goals with extremely similar highlights.
SUBSTITUTIONS AND COACHES' DECISIONS
Benny Feilhaber for Lee Nguyen 55'
Bjorn Runstrom for Jose Moreno 79'
Fernando Cardenas for Kevin Alston 86'
Feilhaber was subbed at the right time, for the wrong person. Lee Nguyen has been your best offesnive weapon in Feilhaber's absence, so it came as a bit of a surprise to me. Barring some sort of injury problem, I would have liked to see either Guy or Rowe, two less effective and less experienced players, be the ones to come off.
Moreno put in Yeoman's like work for his first start. Good, strong challenges and really impressed me, mostly due to my low expectations. I was cool with seeing Runstrom I suppose, given the other options Heaps had for a straight striker.
Cardenas came on WAY too late. That's not his role. It's almost like Jay was throwing darts at that point. Cardenas is an effective weapon late in matches, but not 86 minutes into a match. You could have even subbed him for Moreno, really.
It's almost like the late D.C. winner kicked the Revs in the mouth and they didn't know how to respond. Also, after Sene and Moreno, the depth behind them at striker seems like a huge question mark. Going forward, this squad needs to figure out who that third guy is going to be, or perhaps one of the talented midfielders will get the call to play up top if the team continues with the 4-4-2.
Defensively, this team needs to be much smarter and communicate better when going forward. It cannot be assumed that studs like Soares and Simms are going to be able to hold off every attack. McCarthy isn't a true CB, and it also seems like when the wingbacks get caught out, it's the likes of Macca who are getting taken advantage of.
The squad has taken shape quite nicely, and it's pretty evident at full strength who is going to play. As it is in every season, the team needs to stay healthy and off the referee's book, if they want to continue to progress in building something special in Foxboro.