We can differentiate between those teams that have been successful and those that have not been successful so far in this still developing 2012 MLS season, New England would fall into the latter group. Our Revs have not been successful in terms of earning results. The easy comparisons may be that we are better than Toronto (doesn't say much), our identity may be more apparent than confusing Chivas USA's, and we have not had as impressive a start as Sporting KC or even DC United. After a grueling three games in eight days our next match will be against the team that finished behind us last season, the Vancouver Whitecaps. Check back next weekend for my game preview and tune in to The Rebel Alliance to hear discussion of Vancouver. Keep reading to see what I learned about the New England Revolution this past week.
The Revs played three games in eight days, recording two losses and one win. There were four goals scored against and three goals scored by New England. We played one Eastern Conference rival and the two Rocky Mountain teams. The game against New York provided a lesson in the damage a slow and tentative start can have on the outcome of a game. We came out flat aginst Henry and the rest of Red Bull. Even when the Frenchman departed we could not come back. At home we emerged ready to play the Rapids from the start. We controlled much of the tempo in the middle of the week. While we couldn't stop Colorado from scoring on a set piece, we knocked in two of our own to take all three points away with the win. Then Saturday's game at RSL illuminated some of our now familiar weaknesses.
RSL's Alvaro Saborio scored twice on set pieces. There are individual players who slipped in meeting their responsibilities, though, at this point communication throughout the entire team during free kicks and corner kicks has to get everyone on the same page. Another persistent shortfall for the Revs is our distribution from defense. While our wingbacks have improved their balance of going forward to add to the attack and tracking back to maintain defensive shape, it looks like our defense commits a lot of turnovers with desperate or hopeful long kicks. I don't have the stats to back this up, it is just my impression. I hope that as the season develops and our backline gains more experience we will play better through and despite pressure from the opposition's forwards. The Revs discussed 'grit and determination' after the win against Colorado. We brought similar energy to Salt Lake but our execution wasn't sufficient for us to tie the game, even with a man advantage for a stretch and several attack minded substitutions. RSL proved themselves the better team this time.
It is still early in the season. Which teams are successful and which are unsuccessful will shift in places throughout the season. Attacking execution, grit and determination, and better set piece defense are our current and most apparent potential weaknesses. Our starting forwards are talented, that much Sene and Moreno have demonstrated. Their fitness and the need to substitute for one or both of them consistently affects Jay Heaps game plans and has to impact our late game execution. Clarifying roles for all of our attacking midfielder is also likely an intangible and I think it would improve our scoring chances. We do generate scoring chances, that is an improvement compared to 2011. The league and each team's form is coming into focus. There will be runs of poor or great games, and lucky or unlucky form out there for teams to experience, but we can now identify teams who the Revs should beat. Defensive attitude and concentration should keep us off the bottom of the league and the Eastern Conference - thanks, Toronto. Set pieces are something that the team has to address in practice. We should see consistent performance from the player or players delivering kicks and from our team defense when our opponents send kicks toward our goal. Right now, if we start the game with energy, we compete in each game. We want our Revs to do more than compete, we want them to earn results. Changes to execution in front of goal on both offense and defense will be the difference between success and another frustrating year.
(image courtesy of Getty Images)