Saturday Night was the perfect example of a train completely falling off of the track in a soccer sense. Derailed. What we thought we knew about this Revs team (solid goalkeeping, stout defense, struggling but talented offense) was apparently not the case on the night, and we were left as fans with more questions, let alone any answers.
In the first 8 minutes we were treated to an absolute fireworks display of a match, but unfortunately, it was New York with the lighter fluid and matches.
The Revs conceded not once, but twice in the opening 8 minutes, and if it weren't for Brandon Barklage, the Revs would have been stymied on offense for yet another game. Don't tell me the scoreless streak is over, and that A.J. Soares "influenced" Barklage and "forced" him to put the ball in the back of the net, because that's not the case.
The New England Revolution have STILL yet to score a goal since the season opener, way back on March 9th.
Where we thought we had answers, we have more questions, so let's dive right in head first as we always do and see if maybe we're not seeing something!
Revs Lineup vs. New York: Bobby Shuttleworth, Chris Tierney (c), Jose Goncalves, A.J. Soares, Andrew Farrell, Lee Nguyen, Andy Dorman, Kalifa Cisse, Kelyn Rowe, Diego Fagundez, Jerry Bengtson
I had mentioned last week in this column, as well as on The Midnight Ride Podcast, that I just wanted something a little different. I wasn't terribly specific, I just felt like this squad needed a little shake up, and that's what we got.
You saw the inclusion of Andy Dorman at CM, which made me pretty happy, seeing as we were calling for a little more playing time for the Revs veteran.
The second choice, however, is a little perplexing, but again, a welcome switch. Juan Toja sat down, and Jay Heaps gave Diego Fagundez the start. With New York coming off a tough loss, as well as battling the injury bug, I totally didn't mind the move. The Revs had been lacking pace and ingenuity, and perhaps the young phenom could give it to them.
TACTICS AND STYLE OF PLAY
Defensively, not much had changed, really. I personally feel like with Tierney at the back instead of Alston, the forward runs from the LB have been more calculated, and not quite as frequent, given Tierney's lack of pace to recover. Tierney's service was definitely better in this match, and if that trend continues, the Revs offense will hopefully improve.
In the midfield, I liked the idea, in theory, of the Dorman-Cisse pairing. Kalifa Cisse has plenty of physicality and "teeth" in that center midfield spot defensively, which allowed Dorman to roam a little bit and try to create, which I liked. I would certainly love to see this same idea employed with Scott Caldwell in there as well, perhaps, as his offensive vision and passing is quite good.
Offensively, this team is just simply more dangerous without Juan Toja in the lineup. Rowe and Nguyen both like the middle, and have better physical skills. The Revs best chance at a goal came after a tearing run through the middle by Kelyn Rowe, who beat the defenders and then deployed a gorgeous through ball to Bengtson, who muffed the chance, but you could still see the potential.
Fagundez, like most young players, needs some time to adapt, and learn how to play with his size disadvantage. Players like Santi Cazorla of Arsenal, and Aaron Lennon of Tottenham Hotspur have found ways to overcome their small stature and still contribute in major ways to their clubs. This is something Fagundez will have to learn to do as he gets older. He may (and most likely will) fill out a bit more, but the height will most likely stick with him, and he's going to have to learn to be fearless and to choose his battles.
Now, the big elephant in the room that seems to be marching it's way to the front of fans' minds, is whether or not JErry Bengtson truly is the answer at striker. He's being paid DP money, for very little production. What do we know about Jerry in a Revs uni? Well, he's a poacher, and relies heavily on teammates to create, because he doesn't seem to possess the skill to create for himself. He disappears for long stretches when the proper service isn't provided, and lately, the chances he HAS been getting, he's squandered.
I'm not sitting him down, ever, because he's still the best striker on the roster. However, what his lack of production DOES mean, is that perhaps the Revs' need for a second quality international striker is a lot more of a pressing matter than originally thought.
While the Revs made all three switches, we certainly won't count the inclusion of McCarthy due to Soares' injury, but I definitely felt like Heaps made the best two swaps he could have.
Juan Toja for Andy Dorman
Saer Sene for Diego Fagundez
Dorman was slightly better than average on the night, and seemed a little spent, so I could see the change. Toja was the best replacement for Dorman at CM, and he brought a little bit of calm to the Revs midfield.
Saer Sene was certainly a welcome addition, and with Fagundez struggling to really break through and create that chance in the final third, it was a good swap to get some offensive punch onto the field.
Goodness, there's just so many. First and foremost this week, the Revs need to identify where their defense lacked on Saturday, and make sure they shore up those holes. Their defense has been their best quality all season long, and without that stout defense, the offensive woes are REALLY going to hurt.
Secondly, I think it may be time to play something a little different as far as a formation goes. There's just no offensive flow. The Revs are unattractive, unthreatening, and need a spark.
Saer Sene has been back for a couple of weeks now, and I'd like to see a little more than 20 minutes or so from him if he's physically able. I've got absolutely no problem with a vanilla 4-4-2, with Sene and Bengtson up top if the Frenchman can start. If not, stick with that 4-2-3-1, and make the switch when Sene can come on, because I feel like Jerry is MUCH better when he has a capable second striker to work off of.
In the midfield, I think Juan Toja may be better off the bench, for now, but if he must be included, perhaps we can try him out on the left wing and give Lee Nguyen a shot in the middle, or swap wings and have Lee on the right and play Rowe centrally, where he looked pretty comfortable on Saturday.
Lastly, and most importantly, I beg one question be answered by Revs brass: WHY? OH WHY? IS SAINEY NYASSI ON THIS TEAM IF HE'S NOT EVEN GOOD ENOUGH TO MAKE THE BENCH ON A BOTTOM TABLE TEAM? He's not on the injury report, I have people that attend training telling me he looks just fine to them, yet he can't start on a team that's scored one goal all year? Why? When healthy, he's one of the fastest players in MLS, let alone just the team, and can change games with just that one tool. Also, isn't he taking up an international slot as well? Aren't those valued and coveted? If this is some sort of loyalty act, or posturing, I'm not buying into it, and quite frankly, as we've all been saying for weeks on end, why the hell not at least throw him out there and see what happens? Maybe he'll surprise you. Or, worst case, he doesn't, and you're just right back where you started anyway.