The Revolution remain unbeaten at Gillette in the 2018 season (2-0-1) after a commanding win over the man-down Montreal Impact. The game was tight until the Impact suffered a red card when Saphir Taïder committed a foul on Luis Caicedo that earned a red card.
The game was tilted completely in the Revolution's favor after the booking and there was no holding back in the Revolution's offensive plans. The Revolution owned the ball and the field position for most of the game and the goals continued to roll in until the final whistle.
Let's look at the starting 11...
The personnel remained the same following last week's game against the Houston Dynamo. It's clear at this point that Brad Friedel has found a core group of players that he trusts to execute his game plan week after week. It surprised Revolution supporters that Friedel began to leave Juan Agudelo, Kelyn Rowe, and Antonio Delamea on the bench during the start of the games in the 2018 season. Those three players together averaged 23.3 games started and 26.6 games played last season, and played big roles throughout. More than half of the players in Friedel's current starting group are either new to the team this year or haven't started a game with the Revolution prior to the 2018 season. It's impressive that Friedel was able to develop the amount of trust in these new players that he has so early in the season and stack up the results that they have earned together.
Impact were undermanned in more than one way
It came as a surprise to many prior to the game on Friday that the Impact's most dangerous offensive player (Ignacio Piatti) wouldn't be playing because of an injury. I was only able to find one lead as to what the injury could have been. However, it also could have been an injury that the Impact coaching staff didn't want to aggravate on the Gillette turf.
Also, the Impact obviously played down a man after the red card in the 15th minute. The challenge that earned the red card didn't appear to be malicious. After seeing it live, I was shocked when the referee pulled a red out of his pocket. The replay gave everyone watching a better view of the challenge and then it became considerably more apparent why Jose Carlos Rivero pulled the red.
The first 15'
Before the red card, we got to see what the Revolution looked like against Remi Garde's 5-3-2, and it wasn't pretty. The Impact's formation made it difficult for the Revs to string together any form of possession play and didn't allow the Revs to develop any form of comfort on the ball. The problem for the Revolution with the 5-3-2 is that it can quickly become a 3-5-2, which leaves opposing teams with clogged passing planes and little space to create in the midfield. Let me show you what I mean. In the first image below you can see how the Revolution's 4-5-1 (the blue o's) matches up against the Impact's 5-3-2 (the red x's).
You can see where the Revolution have plenty of lanes to play the ball from their defenders into their midfielders and create going forward. This type of space is more like what we saw in the last 75-80 minutes of the game when the Impact were down a man (minus a forward). The image below is much similar to what we saw out of the Impact in the first 15 minutes of the match. The wing backs played much higher and pressed on the Revolution's midfielders. The defensive positioning and pressure from the Impact forced 14 giveaways from the Revolution before the red card.
Further, take a look at the possession statistics for the first 15 minutes of the game before the red card. It was all Montreal.
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Revs' corner kicks
Watching the Revolution take corner kicks so far this season has been frustrating. They have taken 24 corners this season and they have scored on one of them. Outside of the one goal that they did score from a corner (which was in garbage time of a game that was already over), they haven't been dangerous. These poor efforts from corner kicks were glaring in this match and they ran the same play on most of them. The physical size and aerial ability that the Revolution wield should be enough for them to be more dangerous than they are.
I think a big reason why they continue to struggle is the quality of service. Diego Fagundez takes most of the Revolution's corners on either side which means that most of the corners swing out when they are on the right and they swing in when they are on the left. Note, the one goal that they have scored from a corner kick was a result of an in-swinging service from Kelyn Rowe. Take a look at the graphic below. The pink line is a representation of the path of the ball on an out-swinging corner. The orange line is a representation of an in-swinging corner.
Of course, the Revolution may have plays developed on the training pitch that they may be trying to run that call for an out-swinging corner. The play that they seemed to run nearly every time against Montreal included Penilla running towards the corner along the end line (effectively drawing out a defender), one player running to the near post, and two or three players crashing the far post.
Overall, the Revolution have not been great on corners so far this season. Hopefully, Friedel and his staff can find ways to utilize their aerial ability more effectively on corner kicks — they're in the top 10 of corners earned in the league.
Another three points for the Revolution, another subtle yet fantastic performance from one of New England's homegrown players. Scott Caldwell plays a role on this team that doesn't often place him in a spot to make the big play in the opponent's end of the field, but rather in a spot in the Revs' own end sparking the big play. See below.
The past two games we have also seen a switch in personnel in the Revs' defensive shape. Prior to the game against Houston, Fagundez pushed higher, forming that defensive 4-4-2 that we saw especially in the game against NYCFC. Now, we are starting to see more of Caldwell playing that role. This could simply be a result of Caldwell pressing on when Fagundez is unable to be in that spot in some situations, or it could be a deliberate change directed by Friedel for another reason (I would guess that reason is fitness related).
Here are some more Caldwell highlights from the game.
Teal Bunbury has played progressively better as 2018 has continued. At the beginning of the season, he was struggling to give the Revolution height and hold the ball up for them. When the Revs have the ball, it is crucial that Bunbury can find channels high, and hold the ball up.
Bunbury had a fairly poor start to the season doing this job. However, things have started to turn around for him, and subsequently the Revolution's offense. There were plenty of examples where Bunbury showed that he can play the lone forward role well and support in creating scoring chances for the Revolution. Have a look at what Bunbury did well for the Revolution against Montreal.
Registering another quality assist and a late goal against Montreal, Wilfried Zahibo continues to prove to the New England coaching staff that he can do more than he is paid to do. Zahibo now ties the team lead (with Penilla) for assists with three and now has a goal to add to the sheet.
Playing as the team's primary defensive midfielder, Zahibo is expected to bring a physical presence and sit in front of the Revolution's back four to win aerial challenges and provide defensive support. Not only are the Revs getting that defensive play from Zahibo (he led the team in aerial challenges won against Montreal with six) but they are finding that he has another dimension to his play. Zahibo played 10 longs balls against Montreal and completed eight of them.
Additionally, Zahibo is able to complete most of his passes from his central defensive midfield position. Often, defensive midfielders can find themselves out of position following an attempt to make plays farther up the field. Zahibo does find himself further up the field in certain instances. However, his positioning is usually justified.
The Revolution currently have four forwards on their roster fighting for playing time (Bunbury, Nemeth, Agudelo, and Wright). Bunbury has clearly won the spot for now. As long as the Revolution remain in the 4-5-1 that they have been playing, Agudelo seems to be the primary choice to bring Bunbury off later on in games. When Nemeth gets minutes on the field with this team he needs to show that he can bring a spark to the Revolution's offense. In this game, Nemeth wasn't able to do that.
In the 87th minute, Nemeth worked well with Kelyn Rowe to get in on goal. He was striding towards the goal on the left side with plenty of space from Montreal defenders and pushed a shot wide of the net on his left peg.
These are the moments when Nemeth needs to capitalize. He is brought on to take advantage of opposing defenders' tired legs and bury opposing teams or bring the Revs level. I can see Nemeth losing late minutes to the other forwards if performances like this begin to pile up.
He struggled to get in a rhythm against this Montreal side from the moment the first whistle blew until the end of the game. We understand at this point in the season that Somi is an outside back (LB) who brings an attacking mind and a dangerous left foot. The issue with Somi that continues to arise in his play is that he is so focused on going forward that he finds himself out of position when the ball is turned over.
It is not always Somi that gives the ball away in the situations that leave him out of position. Against Montreal however, Somi led the team in giveaways with six and had the second-lowest passing percentage (72.5) among Revolution players that played more than 40 minutes.
In the graphic below you can see all of Somi's passes throughout the game. Notice that most of the unsuccessful passes are in the attacking half. The Revolution need a more steady performance from Somi at left back; less giveaways, quality crosses, and the same work rate in the attacking third.
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Note: None of the other Revolution players belong in the 'Three Down' category this week, but I found something else that does.
Canadian Maple Syrup
It was a rough night for Canadian soccer, and Canadian maple syrup. The Fort threw a gut punch to Canadian maple syrup on live television. Your move, Montreal.
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