Saturday's tilt against Real Salt Lake was an all around great game to watch. It was a match filled with drama, emotion, goals and controversy. The Revs eventually fell 2-1 in what devolved into a 10v10 match. The go ahead goal came off an RSL set piece, where New England defenders again failed to trail their assignments and Alvaro Saborio, unmarked, headed it home.
One has to ask, what is up with set pieces this year?
The last minute loss at FC Dallas in April should have served as the catalyst for New England to address the issue with defending set pieces. In that game, late in extra time, a set piece floated to the back post was angled into the net by Ugo Imelhu resulting in a devastating 1-0 loss, tarnishing an otherwise fantastic road trip and robbing the Revs off a valuable point. Apparently the lesson didn't stick and some remedial teaching occurred this past Saturday in the form of an Real Salt Lake goal set up by a free kick; once again preventing the Revs from returning home with a point. In both of these situations the Revs looked frantic, disorganized and unprepared as they set up their wall and called out defensive assignments before the kick was taken. It seems basic, but the Revs inability to simply organize themselves and trail their defensive assignments on set pieces has cost them a minimum of two points so this year. Two points could be just enough to disqualify a club from the playoffs come this Fall. You have to imagine that Jay Heaps has made this a priority at this week's training.
Not only have the Revs been poor defending set pieces, but on the other side of the ball their set pieces have been toothless all season.
So far in the 2012 campaign the Revs' set pieces have lacked the lethality of previous years; years when the Revs relied heavily on dead ball situations to set up goals to win games. (Marko Perovic) At times this year, perhaps due to injury/fitness issues, we've seen a cast of characters starring Lee Nguyen, Benny Feilhaber, Kelyn Rowe, Chris Tierney and even Saer Sene over the ball for set pieces. Shouldn't the debate be over by now? Shouldn't we know who the go to shot-takers are?
Benny Feilhaber and Chris Tierney appear to be the top two candidates in my estimation, each having a unique combination of power and accuracy while giving you the flexibility of a left or right-footed shooter. If either of them aren't available, Lee Nguyen would serve as the alternate.
Turning set pieces chances into goals is more important for the Revs than most clubs.
Developing a lethal set piece is paramount for a club that has suffered the fourth most fouls overall this year. In 2011, they finished with the third most in the league. With even more small players like Nguyen and Cardenas on the roster joining the likes of Feilhaber and Fagundez, the Revs are sure to draw fouls consistently throughout matches all season. This translates into more dead ball opportunities and more chances. The club added four forwards to the roster this off-season, each of which are a minimum of six feet. These guys are genetically designed to compete for space in a crowded box, finish a cross, head a corner and find the end of a free kick. The New England Revolution improving their ability to convert set piece chances into goals could be one of the keys to releasing the goal scoring potential of this offense.
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