We are roughly one third of the way into our 2012 MLS season. At this point we have seen our New England Revolution play a more passing oriented game and generate scoring chances regularly – a huge improvement from late 2011. The weaknesses or areas where our team needs to grow are also apparent. In this game against Houston, I wanted a strong start from our Revs, their concentration on set pieces, and solid finishing in front of goal. We got 2 out of three. A set piece goal and another moment of soft positioning right down the center meant that Saer Sene’s two goals weren’t enough for a New England win.
The Revs showed that our offense is based on possession even if Houston lead in possession and passing accuracy categories. The Revs mixed in a fair number of starts from our defense with a pass to Stephen McCarthy so that he could advance the ball. New England isn’t afraid to look for a long pass forward or across the field, but we get better shots when we use overlapping runs and movement off the ball to advance the ball. In the offensive third we want to move the ball around while looking to give our talented play makers the ball with space. I really like our left side from Tierney and Nguyen working together to Nguyen andy Sene finding space together in the attack. In the 21st minute, Nguyen quickly finds Sene with space towards the endowing and Sene shuffles the ball back, like something from a cartoon or the Three Stooges, before popping a cross to Shalrie Joseph. Shalrie and the ball didn’t meet up well enough to put a powerful shot on goal, but similar opportunities will come this season. Not only can we get the ball up the field but it is also pretty clear that our best play is whatever the blond mohawked forward decides.
We took the lead twice this game and both goals featured Saer Sene. The first was a confident PK which demonstrated how deceptive his long frame can be. The play that earned the penalty featured our left side, Tierney, Nguyen, Sene. Nguyen’s dribbling skill and Tierney’s movement towards space collapsed the Houston midfield. Tierney collected the ball in the left corner and found space to send in a cross. Brettschnieder, who hustled all night, crashed the near post while Shalrie waited at the back post. The ball found Sene hangin back near the 18 yard line. Brad Davis found himself on the wrong side of Sene and so he shoved him over, conceding the penalty. Saer powerfully put the ball into the net, as he did later, too. Brettschnieder did enough to force Geoff Cameron to cough up the ball into Sene’s path. His stride is long and he took off on goal and just walloped the ball past Tally Hall. Saer Sene is on a roll, let’s get him the ball.
Our PK lead, though, didn’t hold up. We conceded too many free kicks in our end, though when opposing Brad Davis, one free kick could be too many. Sure enough, Davis hit a nice ball to Will Bruin. Bruin got above everyone at the right time and he beat Matt Reis to the ball, too. This is where New England fell short in addressing a known weakness. It is probably more fair to recognize that Houston capitalized on their opportunities than suggest that the Revs mistakes cost them the game? Well then Houston capitalized again, late, as the Revs defense was either just out of position, not pressuring the ball, or maybe just plain beat. A clearance attempt that broke down dropped to Camargo. He worked a give and go with Ching. Ching chips a ball over the Revs backline and Camargo runs on to it for the goal. This wasn’t one player making a mistake. This seemed like a team mistake.
New England is committed to attack aggressively, and we seem vulnerable to aggressive attack, too. This was a Houston team struggling to generate offense in their last three games and they came back against us, in our home, twice in this game. There were lots of bumps and tumbles in this game. The Revs quick passing and movement into space of the first half seemed gone late in the game. Houston may have done more bumping than tumbling. The physical defense from Houston defintely disrupted the Revs and even caused turnovers. Concentration and focus on the moments within the game, playing it, and not arguing about it, are one way the Revs fell short.
If Houston’s game plan was as simple as get it forward, play physical defense, and look for headers or breaking forward shots, then their game plan won. Composure should be added to Revs gameplan of 1) start tuned in, 2) possession passing, 3)concentrate on set pieces, and 4) look for attacking opportunities to execute (don’t force it). The Revs got rattled a bit tonight. Houston earned the draw. The Revs didn’t do enough to get the win. Hopefully New England can learn those concentration, execution, and composure lessons from this result.
(image courtesy of NERevolution on Flickr)