The New England Revolution finally found their way onto the scoresheet on Saturday night, but defensive mental lapses once again were their undoing in a 2-1 loss to Chicago. While the squad was relatively healthier than in recent weeks, the Revs produced yet another stale performance in running their losing streak to six games.
In yet another disappointing result, the positives were few and far between, and with yet another new look from Jay Heaps, there are certainly more questions than answers these days in Revs Land.
In this week's Couch Captain, it's more of the same, as we try to figure out where this squad has gone wrong, and what, if anything, can be done to right the sinking ship!
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION -- OUT: MF Blair Gavin (L hamstring tightness); FW Alec Purdie (L ankle sprain); GK Bobby Shuttleworth (L knee sprain); PROBABLE: DF Darrius Barnes (R ankle sprain)
Much ado about nothing on the injury report, with Blair Gavin still out (can you even trade injured players?). Darrius Barnes was listed as probable, so if needed, he could provide some quality depth at the back.
JAY HEAPS LINEUP vs. CHICAGO: Reis (c) - Tierney, Soares, McCarthy, Alston - Nguyen, Guy, Simms, Cardenas - Brettschneider, Sene
Blake Brettschneider got the start on Saturday night, given the fact that Jerry Bengtson was probably extremely tired from scoring goals for his National Team during the midweek in that absolutely meaningless game against Boca Juniors.
Aside from BB getting the nod, it was more of the same from New England with the back four remaining unchanged, but the shocker for me was Benny Feilhaber starting the match on the bench, and one can only assume it's another one of those "messages" from Coach Heaps.
I will say this, with Shalrie Joseph gone, it definitely makes the starting lineup a little easier to figure out every week. Clyde Simms is the guy at the back now, and aside from the surprise omission of Benny Feilhaber, things seem somewhat normal. Now that Guy has won the spot in the starting XI, I don't expect much to change week to week, but with Jay Heaps, you never know.
COACHES CHALKBOARD AND STYLE OF PLAY
One thing that can be viewed upon as positive when Brettschneider is in the lineup, is that the roles are a little more clearly defined up top. You know BB is going to play that hold-up, target striker position, which allows Saer Sene a litle more creative freedom to work off of him in the offensive third.
Clyde Simms still assumes his CDM role at the back, but it was Lee Nguyen seeing more time in the center of the park with the two speedy wingers in Cardenas and Guy on the field. I like Nguyen's creativity in the center of the field, but if it means that Benny can't start, I'd rather see Nguyen out right. Nguyen and Feilhaber are the two best midfielders on the team, and they need to be on the field together as much as possible.
It's really more of the same at the back, with Chris Tierney and Kevin Alston still making runs forward when warranted (truthfully, more frequently by Alston). McCarthy and Soares continue to be the stalwarts at the center of the defense, and I'll come out and say it: Stephen McCarthy is outplaying A.J. soares. Whether it's a sophomore slump, or just an aberration, A.J. Soares has struggled recently, which will only hurt the team in the long run. While it's good to see Macca progress so well, it's not quite as effective when Soares isn't performing next to him.
While it seems like the formation/lineup are always changing, the philosophy seems to have taken a back seat as well. The players seems lethargic at times, losing the ball way too frequently, and there's just no sense of urgency on offense. Perfect example: while watching the match on Saturday, my girlfriend walked into the room and watched for about 3 minutes, and her exact words were, "the other team just looks so much faster than your team, babe". The offense looks pensive, slow, and unimaginative, and if results are going to change, that certainly has to be the first improvement made.
SUBSTITUTIONS AND COACHES DECISIONS
Benny Feilhaber for Lee Nguyen (HT)
Jerry Bengtson for Blake Brettschneider (57')
Kelyn Rowe for Fernando Cardenas (67')
All three subs looked good, but I certainly wish the Nguyen sub didn't have to happen, due to it being injury related.
Bengtson came on for BB right about when I felt like he should be subbed in, so there's really nothing much to analyze here. Good sub, just wish Jerry had gotten the start, but again, he must have been exhausted.
We've seen the Rowe-Cardenas sub multiple times this year, and in both combinations, so this particular move should come as no surprise. Rowe may be a little slower, but his vision is good, and he changes the dynamic of the match, most times for the better.
The majority of my notes for this match were venomous scribbles, but there are a few points that still stick out to me that need to be touched on, so here's a few rapid-fire observations:
- There's no continuity in the lineup. The team was healthy, yet you saw Brettschneider, Guy and Cardenas on the field together, which I certainly don't see. It's great and all that Coach Heaps is making guys "earn" their spots every week, but that usually shouldn't concern your star players. The fact that Feilhaber and Bengtson didn't start drives me nuts. It's a six-game losing streak, but we're still trying to "prove" points to players.
- Where's the energy? Multiple times in the second half, players would lose the ball so easily, and then just drop their heads and track back. It just seems like there's no leadership, no accountability, and definitely not as much passion as I'd like as a fan.
- Play for your spot. The 2012 campaign is quickly slipping away, so it's becoming time to see who DESERVES to wear the shirt every week. If you want to just play out the string and get to the offseason, that's fine, but do it on the bench. There are players that are fighting for their spots on next year's squad, and they're going to play hungrier and with more passion (Guy, BB, Barnes).
- Don't back down on your philosophy now. Just because the season hasn't gone the way you'd hoped, don't change the way you do things, or how you approach the game. Continue to build the foundation for your club going forward, and stay the course. We Will Attack? Well, not lately, so maybe you need to go back to fighting for who you REALLY wanted to be at the outset of 2012, because right now, the only thing you're attacking is the fight for last place.
This club HAS the pieces to be good. They aren't far off from a playoff team. Saer Sene and Jerry Bengtson are more than capable of being one of the better strike tandems in MLS, they just need time together. Stephen McCarthy and A.J. Soares have the potential to be a VERY good partnership, and Feilhaber/Nguyen/Simms is a great nucleus to build around in the midfield.
What's standing in the way of the success then? Maybe, just maybe, if you seemingly have all of the ingredients you need to make a good soup, you should look at the one who's stirring the pot?