That was ugly. Not the kind of ugly that makes you shake in your boots, but ugly enough to warrant concern on multiple levels. The Seattle Sounders' strike-force duo of Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins put on a clinic and the New England Revolution struggled to impose enough defensive cohesion to claw back into the match.
Things also weren't as bad the 4-0 season opener loss to the Houston Dynamo from last year, but there was little to write home about from that match. Things can only go onwards and upwards, so lets break down three areas where the Revs are in need of serious improvement before next week's match against Jason Kreis' NYCFC.
1.) The Center-Back Partnership: One of the biggest worries every Revs' supporter had during the 2015 preseason was how the team would cope without A.J. Soares' steady presence in the heart of defense. Adding to that worry was if Jose Goncalves and Andrew Farrell could gel enough to form a formidable partnership or if their playing styles were too similar. It appears that the latter may be true.
Both are strong players who are two of the better one-on-one defenders in the league, but their collective wherewithal left a lot to be desired. First off, let me introduce this defensive graphic. It displays every defensive action (tackles, blocks, interceptions, clearances, and recoveries) that the duo made in their defensive half.
Upon a first glance one might logically think that a lot of statistics means they had a good match. However, the contrary is true. Goncalves and Farrell were dragged out of position on many occasions, had to rely on their physical abilities to make defensive interventions, and were unable to cope with the dynamism of Martins and Dempsey. All it takes is one look at Dempsey's second goal, which was the nail in the coffin, to see the Revs' defensive duo all over the place.
Hats off to Deuce and Oba on some fantastic movement, awareness of space, and finishing, but boy oh boy that was pretty bad from Goncalves and Farrell. They were undone in embarrassing fashion and will need to sort out their shape and connection to achieve better results in the coming weeks.
2.) Lack of Chances: To give Seattle credit, they are a fantastic team who have deservedly been near the tops of the Western Conference for several years. However, coming into opening weekend there were several question marks surrounding the Sounders back-line. How would they cope without DeAndre Yedlin? Could Tyrone Mears replace him? Who would partner next to Chad Marshall?
While those questions weren't entirely solved for Seattle on Sunday, the Revs did little to punish the fact they were there in the first place. The team only created five chances across the 90 minutes and managed just three shots on frame. One was a strong strike from distance by Kelyn Rowe, but there will have to be more of those to give the Revs a fighting chance.
Another big reason why the Revs struggled to create chances was their inability to take on the Sounders when in attacking positions. Players like Teal Bunbury, Diego Fagundez, Chris Tierney, and Rowe are normally spot on when it comes to beating someone on the dribble, but they had marginal success in this part of the game Sunday night. Nearly every single one was unsuccessful.
3.) Lee and Jermaine: Not to speak for the Revs community as a whole, but there didn't seem to be all that much concern about the absence of Lee Nguyen and Jermaine Jones in the lead-up to the season opener. If that is predominantly the case, there should have been a lot more.
Scott Caldwell, Andy Dorman, and Rowe constituted the Revs' three-pronged midfield and performed decently in Seattle. Caldwell was his normally steady self, Dorman put in a respectable performance, and Rowe conjured up the Revs' sole clear chance on goal. Outside of all that, the presence and experience of Nguyen and Jones was sorely missed. The midfield duo at the hear of the Revs' playoff push and without them it appears as though the Revs may just be mortal after all.
The above image is the combined heat map for Caldwell, Dorman, and Rowe. The trio clearly covered a lot of ground and put in hard work throughout the match, but two areas of the pitch are severely lacking. First off, the deeper position Jones usually occupies in front of the back-four is nearly absent. Secondly, the attacking position Nguyen normally mans does not have a strong enough presence.
If Nguyen and Jones were out there it is highly likely that Seattle's offense would have been slowed down and the newly formed center-back partnership of Marshall and Brad Evans would have been tested more. Let's hope they find their way back into the lineup soon.