Not enough can be said about Sunday night's breakout victory over the LA Galaxy. A 5-0 score line would be awesome for any team, but for a success-starved New England Revolution squad that struggled to score goals early in the season, it's a statement game that should have the whole league on notice.
It's also a monumental collapse from an undeniably talented Galaxy squad that not too many people saw coming. They may have been the better team in the first half, but they well and truly fell apart in the last 20 minutes, something we haven't been too accustomed to seeing from the reigning MLS Champs.
In a similar vein to our usual Know Thy Enemy previews, we caught up with Josie Becker of LAG Confidential to get her analysis of what went wrong for L.A. You can check out my answers to her questions over there.
TBM: One player in a Galaxy uniform who I really expected to show up, but didn't, was Landon Donovan. He had one or two bright flashes, but it seemed for the most part as though he spent much of the match struggling to take hold of the game. He may have felt hard done by on the second goal - it was as perplexing for us in the press box as it may have been for you watching on television, but the head referee's word is law - but in reality, he had very little influence on the match as a whole. Is this something we should get used to seeing out of Landon, or do you think it was an anomaly that he'll come back from?
JB: Alexi Lalas broke down Donovan as a player who doesn't take over a match but makes the players around him look better. Certainly we saw his ability to make players look better in his flick on to Gyasi Zardes, which Robbie Keane would have buried for an opening goal. However, we also saw Donovan the player who doesn't take a match over in the lack of distribution when the Revs figured out LA had nothing going on the wings. The Galaxy had five key passes in the attacking third, two were Donovan corner kicks and the other three were well outside the penalty area. Taking ten shots from outside the penalty area to two inside shows just how much LA gave up on getting inside at all.
That's two matches in a row where Donovan wasn't that great, one with LA winning 4-0 and one with LA winning 5-0. He's not the guy that the fate of LA hinges on. I feel like I have to qualify "but he makes the team so much better" every time I say that. Donovan tends to want to be the behind the scenes guy, the Chief of Staff not the president, so much that he's constantly changing his role. We've seen Donovan the golden boot chaser, Donovan the assist leader, and I think what we saw yesterday was Donovan the player wanting the get everyone else involved but with inexperienced players on all sides.
It was two weeks ago that Donovan had a goal and two assists against the Union. He's still getting back in form, but talent always outs.
TBM: This might be taking a little dig here, but how did it feel watching Chad Barrett score against the Galaxy? He seemed to be really pumped about it - I had a vision of him shouting "Loan THIS to Valerenga!" as he scored - though that could also be down to the fact that he hasn't seen much time here in Foxboro this year. What's the general feeling about Chad in LA, and what was the reaction to his goal?
JB: Chad Barrett is in that Alan Gordon category of players where certainly some fans miss them, but ultimately their leaving was viewed as no big deal. Possibly because it was no big deal, it means Barrett and Gordon respectively will score on Los Angeles every time they face their former team. It's like fate or destiny or whatever.
Perhaps what I'll always remember most about Barrett was him dislocating his ankle just before MLS Cup 2011. That year he'd finished second on the Galaxy in the goal category and had started all three postseason games up to that point. It could have been a signature moment for Barrett, but alas.
So when he was let go to the re-entry draft, after having been loaned out to Oslo, there was little buzz about it. All that was left was to wait for him to sub in and score on LA.
TBM: I asked you about Gyasi Zardes when we previewed the match, and after that early chance, it looked like he was going to show everybody why he thinks so highly of his ability. To be honest, though, I didn't think much of him after that. It was a rather disappointing performance from the rookie, I think. How did you evaluate his play?
JB: I remain high on Zardes the player, one performance isn't going to change that, but no he didn't play well on Sunday. That flick on from Donovan was his only good look of the match; he didn't seem to do much with his time up top. Like Donovan, Zardes missed most of the preseason and much of the first month of MLS play; although for injury instead of personal reason. So like Donovan he's two months behind, and this is a player who's spent the last four years in college soccer not a player who's spent the last decade as one of the world's best players.
Against Seattle and now at Real Salt Lake were his first two starts, and again due to the aforementioned just came out of college ball, this isn't a player who's used to traveling to North Carolina, playing, then on to Boston and starting. He looked out of gas. I expect him to show better next week. He's got good hold up ability and great quickness, but he does need to learn more composure in front of goal.
TBM: A friend of mine asked Bruce Arena after the match if he was going to make any defensive changes. Bruce didn't seem happy about it, but after some cajoling, he basically said no. Do you think it's wise for Arena to basically wait it out until Omar Gonzalez gets back with the unit he had out there on Sunday, or should he be looking to switch it up a bit. Even if he should change things, does he have any options?
JB: I think there's enough practice time this week if Arena wants to make the switch from Tommy Meyer to Leonardo, but I don't think it's a personnel issue. A.J. DeLaGarza had to switch from follower to leader last week, with Omar Gonzalez out, and I think more than anything getting that responsibility down on the training ground will do more to fixing the back line issues than switching out center backs.
When Omar Gonzalez was out half the year to start 2012, no partner rotated in to start with DeLaGarza fixed the problem of Omar Gonzalez not being there to hold the back line together. The Tommy Meyer Galaxy fans came to see as reliable came when DeLaGarza was injured through the 2012 MLS playoffs.
I haven't broken down the tape yet, so it'll be interesting to see who exactly blew their assignments on each of the five goals. Still, it's always my opinion that consistency fixes more problems than re-arranging chairs.