On Wednesday, Jun. 18, the New England Revolution began their 2015 US Open Cup campaign. On that same night, the team unceremoniously bowed out after suffering a 1-0 loss to the Charlotte Independence of USL. As one of two MLS teams to be bested by a lower division side, you have to wonder what went wrong. Here are three thoughts from the game:
1. Too many changes to the starting XI. With a busy summer ahead, Revolution coach Jay Heaps went with a reserve-heavy starting lineup that featured a lot of youngsters. In fact, the XI had an average age of 24.7 with only four players having made more than five starts this year. The large quantity of alterations created a deficit in chemistry as players tried to translate what they’ve learned on the training pitch to a high-stakes tournament atmosphere. Interestingly, the makeshift backline, featuring Donnie Smith and London Woodberry at centerback, held up well. The same can’t be said about the attack, which looked toothless before turning up the tempo shortly after the Charlotte goal.
2. There were too many missed chances. While Wednesday’s game didn’t have an optimal starting lineup, the players on the field still should’ve been able to advance. On two occasions, Diego Fagundez sprung Kelyn Rowe in moments that should’ve resulted in goals. Steve Neumann, Kevin Alston, and Fagundez also had solid looks that failed to make a difference. After Jorge Herrera’s 55th minute wonder strike, the Revs put plenty of pressure on the Independence backline without much to show for it. The quick passes didn’t unlock the defense in the right way and the crosses weren’t enough to trouble the opposing netminder. In the end, the Revs had nine shots (two on target) while the Independence had eight (three on target).
3. There weren't enough attacking substitutions. With the game in limbo, Heaps inserted US international Juan Agudelo for Sean Okoli in the 64th minute. It was an attack-minded change that instantly affected the game as Agudelo was lively and helped the team’s search for an equalizer. Eight minutes later, Scott Caldwell entered for Tyler Rudy. This modification was a bit more puzzling as Caldwell is a defense-first player, despite leading the team with four regular-season assists. The final substitution of the night was used to give Homegrown product Zachary Herivaux his debut. While Heaps hoped that Herivaux could spark a "special moment," it just wasn’t to be. Left on the bench were Chris Tierney and Lee Nguyen—two players that could’ve manufactured a goal.