Friends, I apologize. The stresses and anxieties of moving apartments, coupled with the terrifying glimpse into what I thought was the beginning of the Revs' typical summer slump, led me to fall behind on my regularly scheduled Hangover duties. I'm not proud of that, but life happens. To try to make amends, I thought I would spend some time reflecting on the past three games, which I've just today caught up on after watching them in installments on my cell phone.
This was a game where the Revs just simply got out-muscled from square one. Houston wanted revenge, and they knew that if they came in hard that they could leave Foxborough with a result. With a little help from referee Armando Villareal, the Dynamo were able to accomplish their game plan. This game looked to set the tone for the second half of the Revs' season, especially after the 2nd consecutive loss to the Rapids a few days later. But perhaps it was the stress of the 6-point game or just the importance of the match-up in general that got to them. Who can say? Whatever excuses you try to find for this loss, it's a tough pill to swallow and may prove quite costly in the long run.
All in all, the Revs didn't quite play their worst game last Saturday. Unfortunately, the attack was sputtering throughout the game, and that's what truly did them in. For example: how did Diego not get off a shot on goal in the 18th minute when he was sent in one-on-one with Tally Hall (thanks to a smart lay-off from Chad Barret)? I mean, really, Diego totally Jerry Bengtson-ed that opportunity. It's not often that he whiffs a chance like that.
And speaking of wasting opportunities, when will Lee Nguyen figure out how to adjust his free kicks just a foot lower? He's really on a roll lately with spraying them just over the crossbar.
But I digress... this game against Houston was really the Adam Moffat show. Maybe Bobby Shuttleworth could have been a bit sharper on the night, but Moffat's two goals were difficult for any keeper to handle-luck was not on Shuttleworth's side in the end. At least Saer Sene put away an easy sitter to keep the game competitive (right-footed, at that!). Ultimately, going 1-1 against Houston this season is decent in the big picture. But this game just might be the one that comes back to haunt us.
Onto Colorado, where the sting of the Houston defeat hurt even worse after giving up the first half lead and losing come the final whistle. Truthfully, I didn't expect the Revs to take three points from this one. The Rapids are a very good, underrated team this season. In many ways, I liken them to the Revs of the Western Conference. Colorado is a team that's benefitting from a youth movement, not unlike ourselves, while also relying on steady veterans to keep the ship on course. They've got some good pieces in place, and I was thinking that a point would be a deserving take away.
That said, the Revs actually could have won this game, but Jose Goncalves had his first bad game of the season instead. In all honesty, he was due for one. Stephen McCarthy's injury didn't help matters either. When you pair the backline's issues with the misfiring offense, you get 0 points. And that's how it went down.
But it wasn't all bad. After all, when is the last time the Revs scored on a dead ball situation? Juan Toja may not be the player he was expected to be this season, but he has at least managed to score two goals (in all competitions) from dead ball situations, which is something that no one else on the team can claim (as best I can recall).
In my eyes, the Colorado loss served as a stark reminder of one of Jay Heaps' early goals coming into this season: physicality. Both this match and the match against Houston saw the Revs get out-muscled on many occasions, and this was a major factor in New England's losses. An increased physical presence will be needed through the final half of the season as the playoff race gets tighter and tighter.
I thought that New England showed some spunk in this one, but it just didn't look to be our game. Moreover, it started to seem like our early-season sparkplugs, Fagundez, Rowe, and Nguyen, were losing their edge and slipping out of form. I'll be honest, when I saw the result from this one, I thought for sure the summer slump was coming in quickly for Jay Heaps.
But then the Columbus game happened. With a tinkered lineup, Heaps and his squad managed to make up for their previous two disappointments with an ugly win against an Eastern Conference opponent that's been nipping at our heels (and at times leap-frogging us in the standings) all season. The obvious storyline is Goncalves' redemption, but I think credit is due to the full lineup for getting back to their early-season grit-and-grind ways. The backline looked reinforced, with a determined JoGo and an invigorated A.J. Soares back in the starting XI. Meanwhile, Chris Tierney was pushed into the left midfield spot where I thought he played quite well, despite missing the open net shot in the 23rd minute. Barrett, on the right, put in the workrate both offensively and defensively for his full shift and, all-in-all, things looked like they might be back on track.
I have to also say that I was a fan of moving Scott Caldwell to a more attacking position rather than in his usual defensive spot. I think the extra freedom allows him to complement the offensive threats much better, though some more time in that role is probably due. His accurate passing is a real asset for the Revs this season, and finding ways to allow him to unlock opposing defenses better just might spell success in this second half of the season.
Keeping the Crew off the board was clearly the first and primary objective on the night. And part of that was shutting down the long-range chances that broke them down in their previous two outings. With that accomplished, it was Heaps' tactical substitutions and the Revs' perseverance that helped them clinch the stunning win. Frankly, I think that Goncalves goal celebration face will forever live in my memory.
Getting three points on the road in Columbus was huge for New England, and while it may not erase the sting of the Houston loss, it serves as a reminder that this team is still very much a contender for the playoffs and that the fat lady isn't singing just yet.
If the Revolution can parlay this into a road win against D.C. United, then we might just be able to avoid a summer slump this year.
But at the risk of jinxing anything, I'll say that it's still too early to say that the Revs have turned things around. If they are to make a playoff push this season, then some offseason roster moves are going to be needed. There are some serious question marks surrounding the likes of Kalifa Cisse and Jerry Bengtson these days, as well as others, and some depth at fullback and at striker would go a long way, if you ask me. Other Eastern Conference teams like Chicago, New York, D.C., Montreal, and Toronto are all making their mid-season signings, so New England would do well to keep pace. It's a long stretch, but if New England can stay focused, they just might be able to pull off a playoff berth.