Part One, an in-depth look at their lineup and form, came out yesterday.
When it comes to shutting down the Revolution, it is hard to look past Diego Fagundez, who has scored half (three) of their last six goals.
Still just eighteen, the Uruguay-born homegrown striker, has flourished after being moved out to the wing by coach, Jay Heaps. Fagundez is not a physical specimen, as such he was at risk of being crowded out of the hectic central areas of the pitch, especially as one gets closer towards the box.
By moving out to the right flank, he has more space, to utilize both his pace and trickery in the calmer surroundings, often only having a single defender to beat or drifting in of the wing without drawing too much attention.
His goal, the opener against Houston, is a worthy example of this freedom. Beginning on the left – their wide players will swap periodically, as most do – he curls over to get involved, then circles back to begin the movement.
This freedom to roam makes marking him that much more difficult.
Yes, the Houston defending was pathetic, but a flair player being given license to roam and attempt slicing runs can be problematic to even the most switched on defences.
That goal also bears witness to another of the minor revolutions Heaps has brought to his club. Under the Steve Nicol-Paul Mariner brain-trust New England was a direct team, some may say vertical (up-down the pitch) but they have brought in a number of tricky, good on the ball midfielders, who prefer to work the ball around a bit more – even, Clyde Simms got in on the act in the above goal.
That tidy passing has marked New England most successful moments this season.
Using a little bit of horizontal motion, New England is able to open up gaps in the Philadelphia defense - playing out wide, then back in, then up and back towards the outside before squaring to Fagundez for a good finish.
Lee Nguyen and Kelyn Rowe are the primary assets in this ploy, with Fagundez and the now in place Juan Agudelo adding to the possibilities.
That passing can be hypnotic at times, lulling defenders into switching off and making the tracking of marks difficult.
Nguyen’s goal later in that same match against Philly shows one of the other risks they pose. When not pressured in the midfield he surges towards goal and slips in a pass for Sair Sene, consistent with their passing style. But it’s what he does after that is of note – he continues his run.
None of the Union defenders track his movement and when Sene’s attempt is saved, he is the only person in the box moving, pounces on the rebound and scores far too easily.
It’s not all on the ground for the Revolution. Sene, Agudelo, Dimitry Imbongo, and Jerry Bengtson – as well as several defenders - are sizeable threats in the air, from set-pieces or open play. Chris Tierney has a mean left-foot, while Nguyen and Rowe are both pretty good in service.
Their game-winner over Chicago way back at the start of the season came from such a lovely chipped ball for Bengtson to head in at the back-post.
New England’s defense has been fantastic this season, but if there is one glaring weakness it is a lack of pace.
First-overall draft pick, right-back Andrew Farrell, has some wheels, but if he is caught up-field, neither Stephen McCarthy, AJ Soares, nor Jose Goncalves are particularly fleet of foot.
This was made patently obvious against the counterattack of New York in their 4-1 win over the Revolution – their only multi-goal loss of the season.
Three of the four goals came from stretching New England with a quick break, perhaps most dramatic was Thierry Henry blowing past Farrell, but Fabian Espindola’s after a long ball from Marcus Holgersson, and Jonny Steele finishing off another quick break are equally solid examples.
Farrell was made to look every bit a rookie with Henry blowing past him; while impressive, the young defender has occasionally looked raw – holding on to the ball too long, trying to play the short pass into traffic when an old-fashioned clearance would be a better solution.
Another area of some concern has been their man-marking on set-pieces.
Their sloppiness at the end of the match against Salt Lake – at home, in which they took the lead, only to lose 1-2 – saw some very poor defending and all marking is simply a shared responsibility, contributing to a whole effort.
Both Salt Lake goals came from poor threat awareness – look at how open Kyle Beckerman is atop the box from the corner kick and how Olmes Garcia is first to the rebound after a fine save from Bobby Shuttleworth.
Again, Philadelphia’s Jack McInerney, not only wins the first ball, but the second as well; surely he, of all people, should have been marked tighter on a corner.
And then there is Blas Perez’s game-winner for Dallas, New England, slow to pressure the ball-carrier lets their most dangerous attacker, David Ferreira, lift his head and Perez ghost off the back; unacceptable.
Points of Interest
Emotional season in New England, within a week there was Kevin Alston’s leukemia diagnosis and then the Marathon bombings where both Matt Reis’ Father-in-law and Chris Tierney’s girlfriend where participants
New England has one of the more active affiliations - with Rochester Rhinos of the USL PRO – Bilal Duckett, on loan to Rochester, was called up in an emergency and fared very well, maintaining a clean-sheet against Portland in a make-shift back-line.
This is the first of three meetings in 2013; they meet again twice in August on the 4th in New England and the 30th in Toronto.
The two have met thirteen times previously, with New England having a slight advantage – four wins to three – with six draws.
Toronto won the season series last year with a win at Gillette Stadium – their first ever – and a draw at BMO Field.
TFC is unbeaten in six against New England, their last win coming at the start of 2010 – a 4-1 drubbing on a hat-trick from Zach Schilawski and a Sainey Nyassi strike after Dwayne De Rosario had put the Reds in front.
Revolution.net’s audio wing, The Far Post Podcast, is surprising entertaining and edgy, given how skim milk the Revolution have been over the past few seasons.