On Tuesday, January 29, the New England Revolution played their second preseason game when they were defeated 4-1 by the Vancouver Whitecaps. Darren Mattocks lead the way with three goals in the first 15 minutes with Kenny Miller increasing the lead later with a penalty kick. Chris Tierney slotted in a penalty kick of his own after Matt Horth was brought down in the penalty area. The game was not televised for fans but there are several things that can be learned through lineup selections and team tweets.
Revs Must Focus During Crucial Times
At Tuesday’s game, Mattocks scored three goals within the first 15 minutes of the game which mirrored one of the major problems that the Revs had last year: staying focus during crucial moments of the game.
During the 2012 season, 16 of the 44 goals that the Revs allowed came during important moments of the game: 5 goals were scored during the opening 10 minutes, 3 were allowed in the 5 minutes before the end of the first half, 2 were allowed in the five minutes that started the second half and 6 were allowed in the game’s final 10 minutes.
These goals were often blamed on the number of inexperienced players on the field and the Revolution hoped that the addition of Jose Goncalves to the defense and Kalifa Cisse to the midfield would help prevent these types of mistakes in 2013.
If the preseason game against the Whitecaps is any indication, the Revs will need to continue to work on their ability to stay focused during crucial moments of the match. After all, conceding goals during this time can greatly affect the mood and momentum of the game.
Set Pieces Continue to be a Problem
The game against Vancouver brought back terrible memories for the Revs as two of the four goals were scored on set piece opportunities. In the 15th minute, Alain Rochat sent in a free kick that Mattocks put into the back of the net. Stephen McCarthy’s hard tackle on Matt Watson would allow Miller and Vancouver to cushion their lead with a penalty kick in the 65th minute.
Allowing set piece goals was a common problem for the Revolution in 2012. On April 5, the Revs erased any possibility of a road draw against FC Dallas when Ugo Ihemelu scored on a Zach Loyd free kick. The goal happened in the 95th minute and highlighted many of New England’s weaknesses. The foul that lead to the free kick was needless as AJ Soares came in hard at a time that probably wasn’t necessary. The ensuing free kick showcased the team’s inability to stay focused and organized as Ihemulu duped Shalrie Joseph in order to score. Recognizing the problems, head coach Jay Heaps promised that these issues would be remedied.
Despite this promise, the team would have a case of déjà vu when the Philadelphia’s Jack McInerney headed in a Keon Daniel free kick on October 6. Like the goal that happened in Dallas, the Revs gave away a free kick in dangerous spot after Fernando Cardenas committed a senseless foul in the 73rd minute. The free kick that followed featured a comedy of errors when goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth mistimed his jump and Kevin Alston lost his mark.
Heading into a new season, it appears that the Revs still have some work to do when it comes to set pieces. The hope is that the team can stay composed and focused enough to not give up free kick opportunities in dangerous spots. If this does happen, they will need to show toughness and organization in order to keep the ball out of the net.
Players from the Lower Tier Can Contribute
Recent signee Matt Horth and trialist Bilal Duckett were both given their second straight starts for the Revs. The inclusion of both players highlights the usefulness of the Revolution’s partnership with the Rochester Rhinos because it shows that lower division players can contribute in Major League Soccer.
In accordance with the partnership between the Revs and the Rhinos, New England is permitted to send four or more players to Rochester. The goal behind these loans is to give younger players the opportunity to get experience through regular playing time. This will allow Heaps to track their development and evaluate their usefulness to the first team.
Horth and Duckett help show that this could be a beneficial partnership for the Revolution.
Horth played two seasons with the Atlanta Silverbacks of the NASL after graduating from Gordon College of Division III. During his two seasons with the Silverbacks, the Massachusetts native made 49 appearances while scoring 17 goals and adding 2 assists. These numbers caught the eye of the Revolution coaching staff who invited the 6-3 defender to two separate trials before signing him to a contract.
Similar to Horth, Duckett had success in a lower division before earning a trial with the Revs. After being cut by the Whitecaps at the end of the 2011, Duckett found time with the USL Pro’s Harrisburg City Islanders. The 6-2 defender played 19 games with the club while scoring 1 goal. While it is unknown whether the Revolution will sign Duckett, it is clear that his time in the USL Pro has helped him develop into a more complete player.
As shown by Horth and Duckett, not all players are ready for the grind of Major League Soccer right out of college. Some players, like the 2012 MLS Golden Boat winner Chris Wondolowski, need time to develop before becoming contributors. By partnering with the Rhinos, the Revs are taking a greater control over player development. The team will be able to take on more projects as Heaps has already said that he will forfeit the extra allocation money in order to carry a full 30 players.
The Team is Missing…Something
The Revolution have now played 180 preseason minutes without scoring a goal in the run of play. This is concerning for the Revs as their 39 goals in 2012 was the 5th fewest in MLS. If the team is going to compete for a playoff position in 2013, they are going to have to score at a better rate than last year’s 1.14 goals per game.
Perhaps the team is missing the creativity of midfielders Juan Toja and Lee Nguyen or maybe it’s the absence of natural goal scorers Saer Sene and Jerry Bengston. The problem could also lie in the fact that the team needs more time to gel and understand each other. Regardless of the problem, the Revolution will need to fix it immediately if they are going to be contenders in the upcoming year.
The Answer May Not Be in Preseason Camp
Fans were surprised when the Revolution’s Twitter feed announced that “Salciccia” was replacing Dimitry Imbongo since little was known of the player and his arrival into preseason camp. As it turned out, the player that came into the game during the 82nd minute was former University of California midfielder Anthony Salciccia.
Salciccia has joined the Revs camp after not being invited to the MLS Combine or selected during the 2013 SuperDraft. The California native enjoyed his time with the Golden Bears having a career year in 2012 when he scored 5 goals and added 6 assists. These numbers helped him claim first-team All-Pac-12 honors while his leadership made him co-captain as both a junior and a senior. Salciccia’s father played for the San Jose Earthquakes so he has the pedigree to play in this league.
While we don’t know if Salciccia will become a Rev, his presence reminds fans that the answers to the team’s problems might not currently be in camp. Heaps and company must be active in player acquisition to ensure that they are putting together the best team possible. This means that trials are a must and scouting trips should be a frequent occurrence.
Extra: Several Players Record a “Did Not Play”
Midfielder Clyde Simms made his preseason debut when he replaced Cisse in the second half. While Simms returned to the team, six players that are currently in Case Grande didn’t play: Lee Nguyen, Matt Reis, Juan Toja, Andy Dorman, Tyler Polak and Luke Spencer.
Potential Opening Day Lineup (As of 1/30/2012)
(image courtesy of revolutionsoccer.net)