If ties are like kissing your sister, 0-0 draws have got to be like kissing your grandmother. Saturday night in Foxboro left a lot to be desired even though it got off to a flying start for the Revs when Benny Feilhaber narrowly missed putting the Revs in front after only mere minutes.
The match, however, didn't continue to follow that pattern at all. Offensive chances were very hard to come by, and the Revolution missed a huge opportunity to stake their claim to a playoff spot by only taking one point from a match at home.
Revolution head man Jay Heaps named a strong lineup and the game plan was similar to what it's been all year, but in this week's Couch Captain we take a deeper look into what he could have done to spark that all important goal to give the Revs the victory.
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION -- OUT: FW Zak Boggs (R ankle sprain); MF Ryan Guy (R calf tightness); GK Tim Murray (L knee arthroscopy); QUESTIONABLE: MF Sainey Nyassi (R hamstring strain); FW Michael Roach (L adductor tightness); MF Clyde Simms (L ankle tendonitis)
Something to think about: with Clyde Simms seemingly very close to returning (he had limited minutes in the reserves match on Sunday morning) who's the odd man out in the Revs midfield? I say it's Cardenas/Rowe but here's some food for thought: with neither Jose Moreno or Blake Brettschneider really contributing, is it time for the Revs to go to a five man midfield?
In other injury news, Sainey Nyassi scored the only goal in the reserves match. Could he play up top with Sene?
COUCH CAPTAIN'S LINEUP vs. COLUMBUS CREW: (4-4-2): Reis; Alston, McCarthy, Soares, Tierney; Nguyen, Joseph, Feilhaber, Rowe; Sene, Moreno
JAY HEAPS' LINEUP vs. COLUMBUS CREW: Reis; Alston, McCarthy, Soares, Tierney; Nguyen, Joseph, Feilhaber, Cardenas; Sene, Moreno
Slightly surprised to see Cardenas get the nod over Rowe on Saturday night after Kelyn changed the dynamic of the Chicago match the week prior. However, given that Rowe DID come off the bench in that effort, maybe Coach Heaps was looking for that same spark again in the Columbus match.
It's pretty much a foregone conclusion that John Lozano just isn't going to see the field if all CB's are healthy, and neither is Darrius Barnes for that matter. It's a bit surprising after seeing what they're paying Lozano for a salary. McCarthy has played well, and his performance against Chicago earned him another start, and I also preferred him to play against a strong striker like Renteria.
COACHES' CHALKBOARD AND STYLE OF PLAY
With Simms out the Revs have fielded a solid 4-4-2 formation with Shalrie at CDM and Benny at CAM. It's a great lineup, given the strength through the middle of the park, as well as the dynamic speed on the outer wings as well. Saturday night was no different, as Cardenas stepped into the RM role, giving the Revs blazing speed down that flank with Alston at RB.
The more you watch this team, the more you notice they really aren't a "cross it in the box" type of unit. They use their speed and skill on the outside to break down the defenders, but typically are now cutting into the middle of the field and trying to break things down that way. With Saer Sene's aerial ability, as well as the brute strength of Moreno (and even Brettschneider wins headers often too) I'd like to see a little more old-fashioned soccer from these guys sometimes. They've got the speed to get open down the flank, let's see if the service can follow.
Defensively, the Revs are getting better at organization. Things like that do take time, and seeing as this back four has remained unchanged for most of the season, you're starting to see the results. Back to back clean sheets at home is a great way to start garnering some respect as well as points in the standings. Alston still has the freedom to roam, but it's his attention to his defensive responsibilities that has gotten better. McCarthy and Soares are gelling quite well and offer up a strong center of defense. Chris Tierney continues to develop, and needs to work on the distribution a little more as he's giving it away a little too frequently, but his ownership of his defensive qualities is great to see.
SUBSTITUTIONS AND COACHES' DECISIONS
Two subs on the night, one injury related and one tactical:
Blake Brettschneider for Jose Moreno (HT)
Kelyn Rowe for Fernando Cardenas 61'
Moreno was subbed at the half after complaining about an ankle knock he took in the first half. I can actually remember the play that it happened, as after he took the knock he immediately waved and pointed at his foot to the bench. Not good, as Jose looked lively on the night, even breaking away 1v1 on one occasion. Hopefully the knock isn't too serious.
Jay Heaps tried to capture lightning in a bottle again on Saturday night calling Rowe's number at the 60 minute mark. Cardenas had a solid shift, but sometimes fresh legs and a new perspective can change things. It was the right call seeing as the game was so defensively oriented.
LOOKING AHEAD FOR THE REVS
The schedule gets a bit easier for New England as they travel to 1-10-0 Toronto FC on Saturday afternoon. With the club in turmoil and under a new head coach, rough times are ahead for the Canadian side, and it's absolutely imperative the Revs take advantage of a weak opponent.
I touched on it earlier, but with Clyde Simms almost on his way back, you have to wonder where this team is headed with their lineup. Shalrie Joseph makes this team better when he's at CDM, and we all have seen how much Benny Feilhaber prefers to play CAM, so I'm proposing the move to the five-man midfield if Heaps wants to play Simms, Feilhaber, and Joseph simultaneously. SImms and Joseph are similar players, and Feilhaber is wasted playing out wide, so at least with a five man midifield you could play Joseph AND Simms at CDM, essentially locking down the center of the park.
I personally don't think it's time to deploy that just yet, as Simms only played limited minutes in the reserves match, and I don't think Heaps would make him travel to Toronto if he's not 100%. Expect an unchanged lineup from the one you saw Saturday night, barring anything serious going on with Moreno's ankle.
PREDICTION: Revs break out in a big way, 3-0.