D.C. United’s climb out of the Eastern Conference hit a snag in New England last Thursday. D.C. was up two goals and playing the type of soccer most of us expected them to play.
Then the defense collapsed yet again.
New England rebounded from an awful first half to erase the two-goal deficit as Matt Reis kept his team in the match yet again with a series of acrobatic saves. The tie moved the Revs into first place in the West, with the Chicago Fire on a bye week.
SBI Correspondents Andrew Karl and Joel Sanderson took in the action and shared their thoughts with us:
Revs settle for tie on quiet night at empty Gillette
By ANDREW KARL
It’s official, there is power in the soul patch. Matt Reis graced a national audience with his second consecutive man of the match performance for New England, making even more clutch saves in the draw against DC than the win against the Crew. After a dismal first half, the Revolution fought back from two goals down to earn a point. Besides the keeper, some credit for the comeback has to go to goal scorers Adam Cristman and Kheli Dube, as well as the tactical decisions of to Steve Nicol.
Last week in Columbus Matt Reis christened his newly grown bit of facial hair with several big saves, insuring his team came away with points. On Thursday night at Gillette Stadium, Reis made 8 saves, most of them of the highest quality in carrying his teammates to the draw. I called him heroic last week but he was simply inspirational this week, keeping the Revs in the game and spurring the team on to a comeback. His defense didn’t help him out one bit; all three defenders were guilty of mistakes that lead to chance after chance. With performances like these, Reis has to be the early front runner for Goalkeeper of the Year.
Coach Nicol started Dube as a lone forward with Nyassi and Ralston in behind but switched tactics in the 39th minute. He opted to replace Wells Thompson with Cristman, moving Nyassi out to the right wing. It’s not often you see a first half substitution without an injury being involved, but this change was a welcome and smart move. The starting formation wasn’t working well enough in getting forward and the new striker pairing of Dube and Cristman did just enough to produce. Nicol has struck gold each time he has varied his tactics this year, earning wins when fielding a 4-4-2 against Dallas and a 3-6-1 against Chivas. A coach who preaches stability, this willingness to adapt to the state of the squad is a new found ability of Nicol’s. Could we also have an early front runner for Coach of the Year?
As if the comeback on the field wasn’t dramatic enough, there was more drama in the stands. The Midnight Riders sat in silence for the first 12 minutes of the game in protest to the Revolution front office. I’m not a member, and my seat is far from their section, the Fort, so I was unaware of the reason for the protest. I’m still unsure of the exact reason, but it appears that relations between the group and the front office are strained. Also, the announced attendance was only around 8,000, a bit embarrassing on national television. As our attendance lags and our ultras sit silent, this fan can’t help but be jealous of the atmosphere found at stadiums like BMO Field and RFK Stadium.
The move out of cavernous Gillette Stadium and into a soccer-specific stadium of New England’s own, can’t come soon enough…if it ever comes at all. I want more than a successful team, more than a championship, I want a full football experience week in and week out. I want a stadium close to the city, full to the brim, with supporters singing in the terraces. Isn’t that the point? It’s what MLS Commissioner Don Garber alludes to and markets. But is it a tall order in New England? I hope not, but my confidence in the front office to take this team in that direction isn’t terribly high. I ask my fellow fans, do you share a similar vision of the future Revolution, and do you think we’ll eventually see it realized?
Defense disappoints D.C. United again
By JOEL SANDERSON
The fundamentals of defense are lost on DC. And yet for a half, it looked like the best team on the field was by far DC. It really wasn’t even close. DC was controlling the ball. That was probably the big change, between this game and previous games – they were able to hold the ball.
The Revolution didn’t have many chances in the first half. Normally, that would be a laudatory achievement for DC, but it didn’t have much to do with the way DC played. The Revolution were all mixed up and seemed to have the usual DC syndrome of playing like it was a preseason scrimmage.
And yet… The Revolution did get some quality chances, in particular Dube’s play at the very end of the half. (Point of information: Wells did not make that save.) Once again, where was the actually marking?
DC’s ability to hold and control the ball in the first half prevent NE from having many opportunities. Simms did a good job of breaking up some of the Revs runs.
Offensively, DC looked alive. Movement and crisp passes. Those have been rare. Fred and Gallardo work well together.
They made it into the final third so easily. In the first Toronto game last week, they still looked like they couldn’t move the ball more than ten yards past midfield without having to move the ball back again. No such troubles against the Revs.
And, no, they couldn’t finish well, but that wasn’t entirely DC’s fault. Matt Reis had a phenomenal game. It was disgusting, a ball-headed nightmare.
1-0. That was the score DC took into halftime after completely controlling the run of play. It wasn’t quite what they should have had, but it was a step. A good half against a good team. That was a new trick. And in the rival’s stadium no less!
Luckily, I’m a realist. The way I figured, with the defense still looking holey, the Revs only needed one good opportunity to tie it up and I certainly didn’t have confidence that the DC defense wouldn’t allow that moment.
The second half began almost evenly. I was worried. Any time DC is playing even these days, I know that ultimately the defense will forget that being between the ball and the other team is an effective way of stopping goals and Zach Wells will wander off to some corner of the goal like little red riding hood.
When Fred scored, I thought, “hey, 2-1?” You’ll notice I still assumed that the Revs would score one.
Well, that was a fun moment. Cristman got it to 2-1.
Then Dube had his moment. 2-2. I really liked the amoeba soccer defense.
“Oh look, there’s the ball. Did you guys see the ball, cause I totally did. It went over my head!”
“No, yeah I saw it, let’s head that way.
“Do you know if there are any Revs on this end of the field?”
“Who cares! Watch the ball!”
I’m just glad the defense held out as long as it did. Gallardo started getting frustrated with all the focus the Revs threw his way and started trying to do too much. There were still some chances, but Reis continued to be evil.
In New England, up against a quality team, DC held the upper hand. Emilio had some, dare I say it, nifty moves. The midfield never looked too overmatched, except maybe my boy Rod. The defense remained appalling. I am willing to watch Martinez-Mediate try again though.
That’s four points in three not so poorly played games. The team still doesn’t have a very high ceiling if that’s the best they’ve got. But I’ll call it progress.