Part One of the preview, looking at New England’s lineup and form was posted yesterday
One of the facets that made New England such an exciting team last season was the variety of their attack. While they have yet to really find their stride this season, they still possess all those same weapons.
Neither Sair Sene, nor Diego Fagundez, have scored yet, but from their wide positions they provide a constant threat, stretching the width of play and darting inward towards goal. They will often start out as inverted wingers, which is to say that when cutting in towards goal they are on their stronger foot making possible a good shooting chance, but will swap flanks regularly.
That intentional expansion and contraction of width can force movement on the opponents’ back-four, which will open up gaps for either the striker or a runner from midfield.
Consider what proved to be the winner against Kansas City on the weekend.
Nguyen plays a simple ball out to Fagundez on the right, drawing Seth Sinovic wide and forcing both Matt Besler and Lawrence Olum to back-peddle. Fagundez’ hits a cross towards the near-post, which catches the centre-backs both moving in opposite directions – Besler towards the ball and Olum towards the back-side, allowing both Darrius Barnes and goal-scorer, Teal Bunbury space to attack the ball:
Toronto’s wide-midfielders – Jackson and Alvaro Rey – will have to put in a good shift, tracking back to make sure that the TFC back-line can stay relatively compact, while both Michael Bradley and Jonathan Osorio will have their hands full closing down space in the midfield.
When they do stretch the pitch, in Nguyen and Daigo Kobayashi (or Kelyn Rowe) in the middle of the pitch, the Revolution have a pair of excellent passers in the lineup at all times. They can go wide, as above, or through the middle, or use a mix of both, cycling the ball from side to side patiently to find space.
Note the sweeping movement on Kevin Alston’s goal against Houston:
From one side to the other and back through the middle before the left-back, Alston, pounces on a loose ball to score a cracker – couldn’t happen to a better dude.
Houston tried their best to block passage – two banks of four and one forward behind the ball, but they could not stop the Revs from finding their way through.
Toronto has to apply pressure better than Houston did there.
That pressure requires staying alert throughout the entire match – New England likes to try and catch teams sleeping with quick movements, especially from restarts.
They got away with a cheeky one in San Jose, when Charlie Davies took a quick free-kick, catching the Earthquakes napping and Nguyen scored an easy winner.
The ball was moving when Davies hit the initial ball, so could have been called back by the referee, but Toronto will have to stay on their toes to prevent similar exposure.
New England has not scored a lot of goals this season – just seven from eight matches and three in five on the road – but five on those goals have come in the last three matches, this current unbeaten run, so they are starting to heat up.
They also like to score late, with four goals in second half-stoppage time.
On the other side of the ball, they are susceptible to those same attacks from wide areas, as neither Fagundez, nor Sene do a lot of defensive work, getting caught up-field, while their full-backs like to get forward leaving even more space and less cover on occasion.
Toronto should look to get the New England back-line facing their own goal and scrambling in retreat.
Whether in attacks, as with Sebastien Le Toux’s winner for Philadelphia – Leo Fernandes drawing (and perhaps fouling) Andrew Farrell out wide and the Frenchman moving unchecked to the near-post for a finish:
But perhaps most instructive for Toronto with a fit again Jermain Defoe was former Red Quincy Amarikwa’s goal for Chicago.
Harrison Shipp plays a lovely through-ball between two New England defenders to spring the forward in alone:
A very similar play to the one that saw Jonathan Osorio set up Defoe in Seattle.
Points of Interest
The two clubs have met sixteen times in MLS league play, with TFC winning four, New England five, and seven draws. The Revolution have never won in seven attempts in Toronto, drawing five matches and losing twice – though the last three have been draws.
TFC is unbeaten through the last two meetings – a 1-1 draw in Toronto last August and a 0-1 win in New England, courtesy of an early goal from Matias Laba.
They will meet two further times this season – on August 30 and October 25, the final day of the season.
Open Wide for Some Soccer, as once and for all, a match to determine which is the greatest nation, Mexico or Portugal – as the two will meet at Gillette Stadium on June 6 in preparation for this summer’s World Cup.
Do check out the Far Post Podcast, it’s one of the better club affiliated shows around.