On Wednesday, May 8th, Real Salt Lake defeated the New England Revolution 2-1 on a pair of late goals. The final result was disappointing for the Revs since Ryan Guy scored the game’s first goal and the defense was limiting RSL’s chances. An inability to stay focus and close out the game allowed the visitors to overturn momentum and capture three points.
Although they had zero shots on goal, 69% passing accuracy and 42% of possession, the Revs looked good in the first half. An unsuccessful breakaway in the seventh minute provided Jerry Bengtson with the half’s best chance. Meanwhile, the defense looked strong and prevented Real Salt Lake from bothering Bobby Shuttleworth. Heading into the locker room, the home team knew that a single goal could be the difference-maker.
The Revs began the second half with high energy and concentration which paid dividends in the 51st minute when Guy converted a Kelyn Rowe pass. After the goal, the team put more emphasis on defending in the hope of escaping with three points.
Head coach Jay Heaps explained, “I was a little disappointed (on our play after the first goal). Disappointed we didn’t go for more. I thought we had one or two more chances after that were better.”
The heavy emphasis on defense allowed Real Salt Lake to control possession and find opportunities to penetrate. RSL discovered such an opportunity in the 58th minute when Ned Grabavoy made a long range drive to record his team’s first shot of the game. Head coach Jason Kreis believed that fresh legs could challenge the defense and decided to insert Sebastian Velasquez in the 59th minute and Olmes Garcia in the 68th.
“Sebastian (Velasquez) comes in and I think credit to him, he did a great job,” Kreis said. “He was dangerous and works extremely hard on the defensive side of the ball. (Olmes) Garcia comes in for (Joao) Plata. (He) Played really, really well.”
With a busy schedule ahead, Heaps decided to make his own adjustments by introducing Saer Sene in the 65th minute and Juan Toja nine minutes later. The two subs did little to influence the game as Real Salt Lake continued to search for the equalizer. The visitors recorded six shots after the 70th minute with Devon Sandoval and Garcia scoring in the 77th and 89th, respectively.
Heaps highlighted his disappointment by saying, “You score a goal, you make subs to help your team. Unfortunately it didn’t bring our level up it brought it down. It’s not those guys, when you bring in subs you want a little bit more energy, a little bit more.”
The Revs did get an opportunity to redeem themselves in stoppage time when referee Jose Rivero pointed to the penalty spot after whistling Carlos Salcedo for a foul. The questionable call earned Salcedo his second yellow of the night and gave Saer Sene the chance to tie the game. Nick Rimando would play hero, however, when he stopped the Frenchman’s shot to improve his penalty save percentage to 31.67%.
“(Sene) is coming back to form and he has taken a few (penalties), obviously, in training,” commented Heaps. “It’s a bad spot to be in the 90th minute. It would have been good to have Lee (Nguyen) in that spot.”
The missed penalty forced the Revs to accept defeat at home for the second time this season. If the Revs hope to rebound this weekend, concentration and composure will have to be a team-wide focus.
3 Observations and Revelations
1. Different subs should have been made. Inserting Sene was a no-brainer since the Frenchman needs minutes and is a guaranteed starter when healthy. It was decision to insert Toja that drew a lot of attention since the Colombian hadn’t contributed a goal or an assist in six prior appearances. On paper, the Toja-Nguyen swap looks to be like-for-like. However, Toja offers little defensive confidence and is prone to fouling, as evident by the yellow card he received less than a minute after entering the game. As a result, Toja should’ve been snubbed in favor of Clyde Simms or Andy Dorman. Simms is a sound defensive player that would’ve aided the backline immensely. Meanwhile, Dorman can offer a presence going forward while also contributing important tackles. The experience of either player would have helped prevent the late-game comeback.
2. There’s going to be a fight in the middle. With the return of Saer Sene and the signing of Juan Agudelo, the team seems likely to revert to a 4-4-2. If done, the formation would create tension in the middle since it’s unlikely that both Rowe and Nguyen remain. Rowe made his claim to the spot on Wednesday by recording his third assist of the year. His other stats weren’t as impressive since the California native lost the ball 24 times and only had 50% passing accuracy. Despite failing to get on the score sheet, Nguyen did complete 84% of his passing, including one that gave Bengtson his breakaway. It should also be noted that Nguyen has a goal and an assist in 2013. Both players have looked more comfortable in the middle so it will be interested to see what Heaps decides to do.
3. Tierney should take free kicks. The Revs had a season high 10 corner kicks against Real Salt Lake but failed to produce anything of value. Last week saw a similar performance as the Portland Timbers went unpunished despite allowing seven corners. This year, free kick duty has been on rotation with Nguyen taking the majority. Although Nguyen’s driving ball did force an own-goal against the New York Red Bulls, it’s simply not threatening enough. With this in mind, Tierney should be asked to handle the free kick burden. The defender was responsible for the Revs’ only two set piece goals in 2012 and could build upon those numbers in 2013.
(image courtesy of revolutionsoccer.net)