So I settled in to watch the Revolution-Dynamo match but I think my DVR recorded the wrong thing because I'm pretty sure I was watching a rugby match. The jerseys were the right colors and everything, but there's no way that what I saw on that field was soccer.
New England was due for a draw, and considering I find the Dynamo to be perhaps the club's fiercest rival at the moment, the result doesn't come as a shock, as these sides always play close contests.
The match actually offered a little bit of everything and was wildly entertaining, and from a coaching standpoint, matches like the one we saw Saturday night are incredibly difficult to navigate. I felt like Jay Heaps did a solid job on the night, and made several good decisions in key moments.
After the jump, we'll break it all down from the manager's seat and see if the Revs could have perhaps avoided another late letdown!
INJURY REPORT: OUT: Zak Boggs (DL - R ankle sprain), Flo Lechner (R 5th metatarsal fracture), Sainey Nyassi (DL - R hamstring strain),Clyde Simms (L Ankle Tendonitis), Jeremiah White (concussion)
Tough loss for New England having to go without Clyde Simms on Saturday night. He has been the team's unsung hero throughout the first half of the season, and his absence certainly hurt.
COUCH CAPTAIN'S LINEUP (4-4-2): Reis; Alston, McCarthy, Soares, Tierney; Nguyen, Simms, Joseph, Feilhaber; Sene, Moreno (Brettschneider)
JAY HEAPS' LINEUP (4-4-2): Matt Reis, Chris Tierney, A.J. Soares, Stephen McCarthy, Kevin Alston, Lee Nguyen, Ryan Guy, Shalrie Joseph ©, Benny Feilhaber , Saer Sène, Blake Brettschneider
When I posted this lineup last Monday, we weren't perfectly clear on Simms as well as Jose Moreno, so their inclusion both came on the condition of their health.
I was a little surprised to see Heaps go with Ryan Guy here. I thought Fernando Cardenas has been hot lately, and Kelyn Rowe seemed like a coaches' favorite early on in the year, however, with Guy having to play Simms role, it made a little more sense given his superior defensive prowess.
Given what he had to work with, why didn't Heaps play Lozano at CB and move McCarthy to his natural CDM role? As the season wears on, and McCarthy continues to get his minutes, I continue to wonder if Lozano is as good as they made him out to be when they signed him? He was coming into camp predestined to be the starter alongside Soares, but now he can't wrestle the spot away from McCarthy, who, in fairness, has been responsible for more than a few goals on his own.
COACHES' CHALKBOARD AND STYLE OF PLAY
We knew that Guy was going to have to slide into the Simms role, which freed up Shalrie to be a little more offensive minded, but that meant the center of the field was going to be a challenge because of Houston's strong midfield, and it showed on the second goal. Without Clyde Simms the center of the midfield was completely outmatched, and it showed once again how Shalrie is beginning to get a half-step slower in the twilight of his career.
This team has always been physically tough in the center of the park, but when it turned chippy and physical, they backed down a little bit, which wasn't good considering the referee wasn't going to get the match to calm down. It's great to have speedy, dynamic midfielders on the wings, but if they can't withstand getting a little physical (anybody else think Nguyen faded a little bit after taking that really tough tackle?) it's going to be difficult to grind out tough points.
The offensive approach has become clear and direct: get the ball to your playmakers and good things will happen. Most notably, this pertains to Saer Sene. No one creates more chances on this team than he does, and often times it seems like it comes out of nowhere. Feilhaber seems to be the new RM, which I like, as I think he's the best playmaker the team has, and with solid wing play (which Rowe wasn't truly providing) this team is infinitely better.
What I liked about the defense on Saturday night was it seemed like the outside backs (Tierney and Alston) didn't get too caught up in contributing to the attack and stayed true to their defensive responsibilities. While the distribution needs to be better, and the control of possession still lacking, New England has a long way to go before it can be considered solid defensively.
SUBSTITUTIONS AND COACHING DECISIONS
Only two substitutions on the night, and they told me quite a bit about the state of the team, especially on the injury front.
Diego Fagundez for Saer Sene 74'
Fernando Cardenas for Benny Feilhaber 77'
Once again, Jay Heaps inserts the undersized teenager into an increasingly chippy and physical match in the latter stages. This obviously meant that Jose Moreno wasn't at full fitness, or at least I hope that was the case because the thought of Jay making that call with all things being equal makes me cringe. You've got to think that if Moreno were healthy enough to go, he'd have been the choice.
Interesting sub for Feilhaber, as I thought he was playing well, but at that point I guess you could have taken of either wing player. I would have subbed Nguyen personally as he seemed to disappear about after the hard tackle.
With a one goal lead late in the match, and two perfectly good CB on the bench, why wasn't there a defensive minded substitution late? I don't understand the logic, as it's perfectly evident to everyone that this team has trouble closing out matches.
LOOKING AHEAD FOR THE REVS
This is a huge stretch for New England in the coming weeks. Only two points out of fourth place in the Eastern Conference, the Revs will play only conference foes in the new four matches, beginning Saturday against one of the hottest teams in MLS in D.C. United.
If the Revs are to make a run at making the playoffs, this next month is MASSIVE. You've got to take points from every match, and close the gap between themselves and their closest foes. While it's not going to be an easy task, it certainly can be done if the team continues to play their style of soccer, and remains as close to fully healthy as possible.
Lineup wise, I think we've all come to agree on what Heaps' first choice XI is, and depending on the health of Simms and Moreno, they should be relatively close to putting that team out on the field on Saturday:
COUCH CAPTAIN'S LINEUP vs. DC UNITED (4-4-2): Reis; Alston, McCarthy, Soares, Tierney; Nguyen, SImms*, Joseph, Feilhaber; Sene, Moreno*
Obviously Simms and Moreno will depend on health, but if either of them can't go, how about we give John Lozano a start and play Macca in Simms' role, which was his role before Simms' arrival?
If Moreno is a no-go, it's pretty plain to see that Jay likes Brettschneider, and I'm ok with that, although Cardenas still looks dangerous to me.
This is going to be an extremely difficult match for New England given the impressive run of form that United have produced. However, with Sene scoring at the rate he is, and the team possibly getting closer to full health, there's no reason they can't nick a draw in a big match on the road.
PREDICTION: REVS 2 - UNITED 2.