The New England Revolution remain winless in 2014 as they fell to the Philadelphia Union on Saturday afternoon. A goal in the 31st minute by Sebastien Le Toux was enough for the Union to grab full points and continue the Revolution’s poor record at PPL Park (0-4-2).
Revolution head coach Jay Heaps made five changes to the starting lineup after last week’s 4-0 loss to the Houston Dynamo. Despite the alterations, which included the omissions of an injured Kelyn Rowe and a reportedly unhappy Jose Goncalves, the Revs struggled, conceding 59.8% of the possession and being outshot 13-to-5.
Heaps commented that the line-up changes were about getting the best players on the field. Union head coach John Hackworth admitted to being surprised by his counterpart’s decisions.
“It was an interesting line-up from them,” Hackworth said. “Interesting for me was that they dropped their line a lot. I thought they would come and try to make an attacking game. I really like their front five mobility.”
The Union attacked fiercely during the game’s early moments, but the Revolution’s defense withstood the pressure. In the 18th minute, Donnie Smith made a goal line clearance on Amobi Okugo’s header. The defense adverted danger again in the 24th minute when they cleared a ball spilt by Bobby Shuttleworth. A minute later, Shuttleworth made an important reaction save on a Jack McInerney header.
The persistence from the Union paid off in the 31st minute when a streaking Leo Fernandes beat Andrew Farrell to provide Le Toux with a prime opportunity in front of the net. Le Toux made no mistake as he simply redirected the ball to end the deadlock.
Farrell, who earned his first MLS minutes as a center back in the game, claimed that the goal was a part of the learning process.
“That one play I stepped, when they got the goal off of that, just that one mental mistake, it cost us the game,” Farrell reflected. “Next time, I learned there was a similar play later on, that same exact play, the guys did not get down on me and they tried to lift me up and I did better.”
The Revs got a chance to equalize before halftime when Teal Bunbury played a square ball to Diego Fagundez in the 38th minute. The teenager shot directly at Zac MacMath and mishandled the rebound to send the ball out of bounds.
For the second straight game, Heaps decided to make a halftime substitution, this time replacing Smith with Jerry Bengtson. The swap also required a formation change as the Revs lined up in a 4-4-2.
The Revs looked better after the attacking substitution, controlling the possession at times and putting the Philadelphia defense under more pressure. Bengtson nearly got on the score sheet in the 48th minute when Darrius Barnes redirected a Chris Tierney free kick towards the Honduran. The ball alluded Bengtson as it bounced off his shoulder.
The momentum once against favored the Union during the game’s dying moments. McInerney and Le Toux threatened Shuttleworth’s net on occasion, but never found a goal as the game ended 1-0.
The Revs will now focus on next Saturday’s home opening against the Vancouver Whitecaps.
“We’re excited about being at home,” Farrell commented. “I think this year we are looking forward to making Gillette Stadium a tough place for teams to get results, and we got to look at the tape, move on and hopefully get a better result next weekend.”
3 Thoughts from the Game:
1.The attack isn’t producing a lot of chances, so they have the put away the ones that they get. Last week, Rowe and Bengtson squandered their open chances from inside the penalty box. This week, Fagundez and Bengtson scuffed ideal opportunities. The Revs attack isn’t as effective as last year, partially because the team is still jelling and partially because Bunbury is a different type of player than Juan Agudelo. That having been said, the team should have a goal by now. Soccer is a game where statistics are forgotten as long as the score line is favorable. It’s never good to lose the possession battle by a large margin, but it’s more troubling to miss your big chances.
2.The Revs should consider using the 4-4-2 formation from the start. For the second straight week, Heaps has switched his formation at halftime. The switch to a 4-4-2 has been positive in some aspects as it has helped with possession while also getting Bengtson on the field in a more comfortable role. Unless Bunbury, Bengtson or Dimitry Imbongo learn to operate as a classic holdup player, the Revs might be better suited to use the 4-4-2.
3.Farrell is very important player as the Revolution looks to address problems. The return of Farrell was a positive sight as Revs look to deal with two glaring issues: the Goncalves situation and the lack of an imposing defensive midfielder. If Goncalves ends up leaving the Revs, Farrell could be his replacement. The 21-year-old contributed a solid 90-minute shift on Saturday, despite the major mistake that lead to the game-winner. If the Goncalves ordeal ends favorably for the Revs, Farrell could be used as a defensive midfielder. Both positions fit Farrell’s skill set since he’s good with the ball at his feet and isn’t afraid to make the big tackle. Of course, Farrell could return to the right back position. However, Barnes and Kevin Alston are trying to take ownership of that spot.
(image courtesy of Kari Heistad)