Saturday's 4-0 loss to the Houston Dynamo will be remembered for all the wrong reasons as it was the worst season-opening result in Revolution history and the worst defeat of the Jay Heaps era. The team will now have to analyze the game and identify areas that need improving before heading to PPL Park to face the Philadelphia Union.
Heaps faced a similar situation early last year when his team was defeated 4-1 by the New York Red Bulls. The Revs were completely outplayed on the April 20th outing, conceding two goals within ten minutes and only adding a tally of their own through an own goal. Heaps responded to the defeat by making two personnel changes and installing his now trademark 4-1-4-1 formation. The changes worked as the Revs bested the Union 2-0 the following week en route to stringing together a number of solid results.
With this in mind, here are five changes that Heaps might consider:
1. Start Andy Dorman over Scott Caldwell. Caldwell was a model of consistency last year until he hit the rookie wall during the tail end of the season. The fickle form looks to have carried over into 2014 as the Akron product struggled against Houston. The 5'8, 150 lbs. sophomore lost possession because of a tackle 17 times, which ties Chris Tierney for most on the team. Furthermore, Caldwell shares the blame on two of Saturday's goals. On the second tally, Caldwell's pass to Patrick Mullins, who also shares fault, was intercepted by Corey Ashe. In the 23rd minute, Will Bruin easily pushes Caldwell off the ball to help setup the third goal. Caldwell has a lot of potential, but it might be smart to start the more physical and experienced Dorman.
2. Make Dimitry Imbongo and/or Charlie Davies available. While partially influenced by injuries, it was hard to ignore the lack of attacking options on the Revolution bench. Desperate to change the game, Heaps inserted Jerry Bengtson for Mullins at halftime. Bengtson, who is obviously a talented scorer on the international scene, summarized his stint with the Revs in 68th minute when he skied a shot from inside the 6 yard box. Imbongo may be raw and Davies might be unproven, but they have the skills necessary to alter the flow of the game. Imbongo or Davies might even deserve a starting position after Mullins struggled in his debut.
3. Rush back the injured players. Since becoming head coach, Heaps has shown a lot of patience about injuries, generally waiting until players are thoroughly fit before putting them back on the field. In this case, Heaps might want to hurry his players along. On Tuesday, Andrew Farrell participated in his first full practice in five weeks. If he doesn't suffer a setback, he should be a starter against the Union. Lee Nguyen is another player that was missed on Saturday, though Daigo Kobayashi did well in his stead. If Nguyen can contribute, he should. Finally, Saer Sene should deserve some consideration to start on the right flank. It's important to approach injuries with caution, but these players are crucial pieces that should be on the field if ready.
4. Change the formation. Switching to the 4-1-4-1 formation was a catalyst for success last year as it accommodated the players and kept opponents guessing. Now that some of the personnel has changed and the lineup has been scouted, it may be time for Heaps to experiment. Installing the classic 4-4-2 might be worthwhile because it would give Teal Bunbury a strike partner. Bunbury was quiet in his Revolution debut and could benefit from playing alongside a player like Imbongo. The 4-4-2 formation could also create space in the midfield, especially if the wide players played on the peripheries. The Revs found a lot of success moving the ball up the wings during the latter potion of Saturday's game.
5. Do nothing. Although Saturday's game was disastrous as a whole, the whole thing felt a little fluky. The defense, which was largely composed of the same people that collected a club-record 14 shutouts last year, was slow and unfocused. Meanwhile, the attack, which has been applauded as one of the deadliest in the league, only mustered one shot on goal. Fans are always going to want to see changes after a comprehensive defeat, but the season-opening blemish might just be an anomaly that will be fixed with a good week of practice.