The Revolution were on the road at Houston this week to take on a daunting Dynamo side led by Alberth Elis. Each team entered the game at 1-1-1 (4 points) with a chance to gain some separation from the rest of the teams in their respective conferences. The Revs came out on top after a shaky first 15 minutes and earned three points in a tough road fixture.
Let's look at the starters...
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Brad Friedel started this game slightly different than he has in the Revs' previous three games. He started Luis Caicedo and played him for all 90 minutes alongside the normal central midfield crew. This addition moved Diego Fagundez to the wing and Kelyn Rowe to the bench. The back four remained the same as it was against NYCFC, which is interesting considering Antonio Delamea has been available coming off of his suspension against Philadelphia. We will see if Friedel eventually decides to bring Delamea back into the lineup but we know that the players and Friedel have been impressed by Jalil Anibaba's play so far this season.
Alberth Elis vs. New England defense
The Revs knew coming into this match that they were going to have to manage one of the league's most dynamic attacking players in Elis. From the first whistle until he was subbed off in the 78th minute, Elis gave the New England defense all sorts of problems. Of course, with Elis playing on the right side his matchup was the Revolution's least athletic defender of the four, Gabriel Somi. Elis' athleticism is far superior to Somi's and it showed throughout the entire night. Not surprisingly, most of the Dynamo's attacking plays came from the right side.
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The scoreboard at the end of the night obviously didn't reflect it (and coincidentally the Revs earned their first clean sheet of the season), but the Dynamo were very effective going forward against the Revolution's back four. Elis was able to tally five shots and created several other attacking opportunities for Houston.
Changes at halftime
Although the Revolution were playing up a man after DaMarcus Beasley's uncharacteristic red card in the 35th minute, they still weren't able to dictate the game for the rest of the half. Possession remained fairly neutral and the Dynamo were still able to break down the Revolution defense.
It was clear that there was more of an effort to manage the man-up advantage in the second half. The Revolution opened up and did a better job of spreading out the Dynamo players. Perhaps fatigue was setting in for the Dynamo, or they already had their minds set on next week's match, but the Revolution were able to establish a much heavier presence on the ball in the second half. The graphic below demonstrates the possession for each team in five-minute intervals. The Revolution's possession is represented by the blue bars, and the Dynamo's possession is represented by the orange bars.
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During the second half when the Revolution had more possession, the Revs became very comfortable and were able to slow the game down. The midfielders had more time on the ball and the Revs were able to build their attack. Because of this, the Revolution were playing higher up the field than they normally do. When the ball was turned over, the midfield was often too high and found themselves chasing the Dynamo on the counter. I'll show you a couple of instances where this happened below.
Another strong performance from the Ecuador international earned him a spot on this list in Week 5. Penilla started on the right side of the field in the first half but quickly switched to the left (he has been more dangerous on the left side than on the right this season so far). He had a part in creating three attacking chances, assisted Bunbury's goal on the counter, and scored his first goal of the season after beating Adolfo Machado and blasting the ball into the top of the net. The separation that Penilla can get from defenders in a couple of steps is impressive. He is efficient in his skills and rarely doesn't get enough separation to earn a shot. Penilla was also the player to draw the red card from Beasley which put the Revolution in a great spot to go on and win the game. Here is another look at his goal. The second GIF provides a better angle to see the separation that he was able to get on Machado.
Dielna had a lot of responsibility in this game. Defending Elis is no easy task and Dielna often had to step up and make plays when Elis was able to beat Somi, which happened often. This is the type of play I'm talking about.
Dielna was also good on the ball in this game. With the Revolution up a man for a large part of the game, his decisions were sound, and his movement/positioning was good. His performance overall was mature and his play brought poise to the back line. Oh, and he also rung the crossbar on the free kick earned by Penilla that drew the red card.
This was Caicedo's first full game with the Revolution and it was a quality performance overall. After watching film on him before he came to the Revolution, it was easy to see what he would bring to the team: he has a motor and makes a lot of defensive plays. Although he has a small frame (5-6, 155 pounds), he uses his body well and gets stuck in on tackles in good spots. In one play towards the end of the game, Caicedo ran down Mac Steeves (on fresh legs after subbing around the 80-minute mark) over 50 yards and tackled the ball out of bounds to stop the play. You'll find that play in the video below among other defensive highlights from him during the game.
I was also very impressed with his awareness in the midfield. In many different instances, you could see that Caicedo had his head on a swivel and made good decisions on and off the ball. I'll take you through some of the situations in the video below.
It wasn't all that difficult to predict that Somi was going to have a rough game. He played on the same side as Elis and struggled to defend him all night. As I mentioned above, Elis is far more athletic than Somi and Somi knows it. You could see throughout the game that Somi tried to defend Elis by getting to the ball before Elis could receive it, however most of these attempts were unsuccessful and it put Somi in a worse position as a result. He also fell asleep on a restart in the 35th minute that allowed Elis to breeze past him and get in on goal to create a scoring chance for the Dynamo.
Somi was also out of position in several instances throughout the game. We know that Somi is an attacking-minded defender and he provides attacking chances (he made a brilliant pass to set up Penilla's goal) for the Revolution but this often leaves him too high and opposing players expose the space in behind him. Somi wasn't great on the ball in this game either, tallying five giveaways and a 72.5% passing percentage (31 completed out of 40). He was third highest in pass attempts for the Revolution.
Having entered the game in the 53rd minute for Bunbury, Juan Agudelo had double the amount of giveaways as Bunbury (Agudelo had four, Bunbury had two) and didn't earn any shots on goal.
He also struggled to find opportunities to get on the ball. Agudelo played approximately 10 minutes less than Bunbury but he still didn't come close to the amount of touches that Bunbury did. Bunbury earned 25 touches while Agudelo only earned 13.
This could possibly be due to the circumstances of the game. The Revs were up a man for the entirety of Agudelo's minutes and when teams go up a man with the lead, it's not uncommon for them to possess the ball more with their defenders and midfielders. I can understand that train of thought; however, I believe the best forwards always find ways to get on the ball by finding the right channels and spaces.
I know, I know. Matt Turner made some great saves in this game. There is another aspect of his game that I've noticed thus far in his play that I can't help but to point out. I can see it hurting the Revs deeper into the season.
For some reason or another, there are several instances in which Turner and the center backs in front of him have miscommunications. Often times these miscommunications are paired with a hesitation from Turner that I have noticed appears far too often in his play. See the Rapids' goal from two weeks ago.
I have put together a video that highlights all of the instances that I'm talking about in the game against the Dynamo. Hopefully, these are just kinks that will disappear as Turner plays more minutes with a consistent pair of center backs.