There's nothing better than breaking down victories on a Monday. Through the pouring rain, slick field, and in spite of the injuries, Jay Heaps rallied the lads and emerged with a 2-0 victory on Saturday night.
When the weather plays such a factor in a match it's always difficult to break it all down with the same standards, but one thing is perfectly clear: the 2012 New England Revolution are not only winning at a better pace, they're getting better with every match.
It's going to be tough to nit-pick this week with a nearly full-health squad (although, the absence of Clyde Simms still stings) and such a great result, so this week's Couch Captain is going to be something most Revs fans aren't used to: predominantly positive.
After the jump, we re-hash the victory over Chicago (who doesn't enjoy reveling in a victory over the Fire?) and take a look at what Jay Heaps did so well on Saturday night to get such a great result!
REVS INJURY REPORT: QUESTIONABLE: Bjorn Runstrom (R knee inflammation)
OUT: Zak Boggs (R ankle sprain), Ryan Guy (R calf tightness), Flo Lechner (R 5th metatarsal fracture), Tim Murray (L knee arthroscopy), Sainey Nyassi (R hamstring strain), Clyde Simms (L ankle tendonitis)
Ryan Guy was added to the list after re-injuring his calf in D.C. on Saturday night, so the quality depth was taking a hit given the fact that he was joining Clyde Simms who had yet to recover from his left ankle injury. The loss of both players hurt the squad quite a bit given the fact several players were coming off of Tuesday's loss in the USOC.
COUCH CAPTAIN'S LINEUP vs. CHICAGO FIRE: Reis; Tierney, McCarthy, Soares, Alston; Nguyen, Simms, Joseph, Feilhaber; Sene, Brettschneider
JAY HEAPS' LINEUP: Matt Reis, Chris Tierney, A.J. Soares, Stephen McCarthy, Kevin Alston, Lee Nguyen, Benny Feilhaber, Shalrie Joseph ©, Fernando Cardenas, Saer Sène, Jose Moreno
My lineup was written on Monday as it usually is before the final injury report came out so naturally I included Simms, and assumed Moreno wouldn't be fit enough coming off both an injury and minutes played on Tuesday night. If you caught my twitter feed (@mattyjollie) pre-game, I had said that given the weather reports, I wasn't shocked at all that Simms didn't play. The last thing you want a player coming off a tender ankle issue to do is play in a sloppy, wet, slippery match with poor footing.
Nguyen and Feilhaber are proving incredibly dangerous, but more importantly Jay Heaps seemingly got the memo that Shalrie Joseph is the best CDM in team history and played him there. This move was big for two reasons: Shalrie was in his comfort zone, and it unleashed Benny Feilhaber into the role that suits him best. Obviously, given the result and Benny's play, this lineup was well thought out.
COACHES' CHALKBOARD AND STYLE OF PLAY
The biggest concern coming into this match was how New England was going to cope with the blazing speed of Chicago's flank players. Patrick Nyarko is an absolute dynamo, and Dominic Oduro is always dangerous, and you could see Heaps tailor his game plan to containing the Fire's speed by matching it with speed of his own on the wings in Cardenas and Nguyen, and playing Shalrie at CDM, taking away big chunks of the middle of the field.
It's hard to analyze such a sloppy match, but it was perfectly clear that the Revs were still going to attack. With such a strong lineup on the field, Jay Heaps knew that if they could find a way to contain the Fire attack (which, save for two big stops by the post, I feel like they did) they could come away with three points.
While Cardenas and Nguyen contributed to the attack on the flanks, both did a really good job of making sure they didn't allow the counter attack after advancing forward. Good tracking back to the defensive third coupled with some timely fouls to slow down play, the Revs were able to take control in the second half and keep the Fire off the scoresheet.
Even though Twitter was against him it seemed, Jose Moreno is absolutely the partner for Saer Sene up front. For lack of better terms, Moreno is Brettschneider 2.0. He does all the dirty work, bulls his way into offensive positions, and at least it seems he's slimming down and getting a little quicker. Most importantly, his vision and creativity is a little better than his other striker partners. His hold up play and vision is the perfect complement to the dynamic play of Sene. Speaking of Sene, kudos to the Frenchman for attempting a right-footed shot. While the effort was blocked, at least other teams will see that he can do that to keep them honest.
Defensively the team was better on the night. Set pieces were more organized, and Matt Reis seemed more decisive in the box and took control of the back line. While Tierney stills gives the ball away a bunch, and McCarthy's passes out of the back give me heart attacks at times, this defense has come a long way from training camp. Everything needs to continue to improve, and the organization still needs to be better. The talent is there, next comes the focus.
SUBSTITUTIONS AND COACHES' DECISIONS
Two subs on the night, and both were solid choices:
Kelyn Rowe for Fernando Cardenas 64'
Blake Brettschneider for Jose Moreno 77'
Kelyn Rowe was a huge impact on the match from the moment he came in. Perhaps the time off as well getting sat down for a little bit has re-invigorated the rookie and he's performing better with a clearer head. Rowe looked downright dangerous on Saturday night, and after a good 60 minute shift, Cardenas looked ready to come off.
I didn't feel particularly biased one way or the other on this switch but I'll tell you what I did like: how aggravated and angry Moreno seemed when he had to come off. That's actually a great sign. It means the big Colombian is gaining his fitness and he knows it, and wants to continue to play. If Moreno stays healthy and continues to gain fitness, this could be a very good strike partnership.
LOOKING AHEAD FOR THE REVS
REST AND RELAXATION. The Revs are off until the 16th when they play Columbus in Foxboro, and the break should serve as a great time to recharge the batteries, reflect on everything that has passed both good and bad, and most importantly, get everyone back to full strength.
The break will be good for guys like Joseph and Feilhaber who have been playing a lot of minutes, and it will be good to get Clyde Simms and Ryan Guy healthy. The best part about the break for the Revs is that they SHOULD be going into the Columbus match completely rested and almost completely healthy.
With the team at near 100% going into a pivotal home match against an Eastern Conference foe that's ahead of them in the standings, you should expect nothing less than a squad firing on ALL cylinders and taking all three points.