3000 miles of travel.
Given all the Revs had to overcome last week, I was a little surprised to see the disappointment after the 1-1 draw with Chivas USA, widely regarded as MLS' worst team in 2013.
I'm well aware of the standings, the circumstances, and how everyone in soccer circles in America views the Goats, but I am here to boldly state that any shred of disappointment may be a bit of an over-reaction.
Did the Revs play poorly? Yes. Did they even deserve the point they got? Debatable. However, the ONLY thing that matters in professional sports is the end result. This isn't college football where you have to "win convincingly with style". At the end of the day, on the final trip out West for 2013, the Revs came away with a point and now look ahead to a very East Coast-heavy schedule for the remainder of the season (they do travel to Colorado in a few weeks).
Why should you be a a little more pleased with the result? Well, let's break it down!
REVS LINEUP: Bobby Shuttleworth; Chris Tierney, Jose Gonçalves, Stephen McCarthy, Ryan Guy; Clyde Simms; Diego Fagundez, Lee Nguyen, Kelyn Rowe, Saer Sene; Jerry Bengtson
So, we knew Andrew Farrell was out due to red card suspension, but what we DIDN'T know was that Ryan Guy would be the starter. I had a pretty strong feeling that it would have been Darrius Barnes, or maybe even A.J. Soares filling in out right.
Speaking of Soares, is there more to the injury/fitness than we know? One would think he would have played a little in this one, but after going the full 90 against D.C. United at mid-week, perhaps Heaps isn't ready to ask that much of him just yet.
In the midfield, the old "wingers playing on opposite-footed sides" reared its ugly head again, and I don't think I can tweet or type any more of my displeasure with the subject. Unless it's Arjen Robben or Gareth Bale out there, stop playing these guys on the wrong wing. I'm fully aware they're given the freedom to switch sides, but I can't wait Diego run down the left flank anymore straight into a dead end because he refuses to cross with his left foot. Everyone knows the cut-back is coming on BOTH sides of the field. It's maddening.
Up top, upon learning of the injury to Juan Agudelo merely minutes before kickoff, the start of Bengtson made sense. I felt like after everything he'd been through with Honduras, as well as the Revs recently, I felt like he was primed for a good performance.
STYLE OF PLAY
Outside of the wingers positioning, I'd say it was more of the same from the Revolution in terms of how they attacked the game on Saturday night. Without Agudelo to stretch the defense they struggled mightily to create chances. When they did have the ball in dangerous spots, it felt like it was Diego or Saer dribbling into the middle on a cut-in and running into a congested wall of Chivas USA defenders. No bueno.
One thing I did notice on Chad Barrett's equalizer, is that he seems to be a little more hard-nosed for the ball than Bengtson at the moment. He just seems to want it more, and I apparently needed to see it for myself. If Barrett is going to attack the ball with that much fervor, he deserves more minutes in Agudelo's absence.
Here's my issue with the way things are designed with this lineup: with two wingers playing opposite-footed, there's too much reliance on the cut back and through ball. If I'm Jay Heaps, I play Sene on the left, Diego on the right, and then put a hard target man like Barrett in the middle. I'm fully convinced that Jay Heaps has just as much to do with the struggles of Jerry Bengtson as Jerry does himself.
SUBS AND DECISIONS
SCOTT CALDWELL for CLYDE SIMMS 61'
JUAN TOJA for RYAN GUY 74'
CHAD BARRETT for JERRY BENGTSON 83'
With Simms still battling back from injury and not completely finding total fitness, Caldwell made a bunch of sense at this point in the game. Loved the tactical switch bringing on the distributor to try and unlock the Chivas congested midfield.
Toja came into the match marked "questionable" and I was a little surprised that he was good to go. However, with Nguyen, Rowe, and Fagundez already on the field, Heaps' had a relatively bare cupboard.
What turned out to be the most important sub of the match by Heaps was also the most necessary. Bengtson was struggling a little to find rhythm and chances, so inserting the aggressive Barrett in the dying minutes to run at a tired Chivas USA was a great decision.
With Agudelo out for a period of time, and Bengtson's national team status up in the air, the following few weeks will be a struggle for the Revs. They DO have San Jose traveling all the way East for this week's match after an emotional comeback win against their hated rival, so one can hope they're a bit drained.
New England needs to re-discover that offensive rhythm they found in May and most of June, and with Bengtson continuing to struggle, it m ay be time for a little experimentation up top.
The 4-1-4-1 looks like it's here to stay, no matter how disjointed this team looks offensively at times. If the formation remains unchanged it's imperative that they get solid wing play out of the wide midfielders. It wouldn't hurt to play a few crosses here and there to try and keep opposing defenses honest instead of them waiting for the incisive cut-ins. The Revs were a little too predictable on Saturday night, and I'm pretty sure the equalizer came from a well-placed cross.
All in all, it's July and this team is still in the hunt. There are a lot of teams that are going to be missing some key players with the Gold Cup on the horizon, so it's up to the Revs to find a way to stay hungry, stay dangerous, and most importantly, stay relevant in the playoff conversation.