The muskets, players, and fans were all firing on Saturday afternoon as Brad Friedel and Co. worked their way to their first three-point outing of the 2019 season. The players and coaching staff appeared to be on the same page because every aspect of the game plan was executed from the first whistle, to the last. Jalil Anibaba -- who opened the scoring for the match -- and Carles Gil set the tone early with demanding play, and continued to perform at their best throughout the entirety.
Let's look at the starting 11...
[caption id="attachment_497561" align="aligncenter" width="492"] Headshots from revolutionsoccer.net.[/caption]
Six changes in the lineup on Saturday afternoon after Brad Friedel told media that he had a closed-door meeting during the week. Likely, the personnel changes for Saturday were discussed there, and we can only imagine who was entered into the lineup or sent to the bench for what reasons. Anyway, Edgar Castillo, Michael Mancienne, Jalil Anibaba, and Andrew Farrell played from left to right across the back. Behind them, Brad Knighton was sent to the bench after receiving four straight starts and Cody Cropper got the nod in net. Friedel ditched three midfielders in the middle and left the responsibility to Carles Gil and Scott Caldwell while DeJuan Jones ran the left wing and Brandon Bye ran the right. Up top, the Revs went with Juan Agudelo and Teal Bunbury.
Physicality: One of the first tactics that surfaced early was the statement of physical play from not only the defenders, but the entire team. With a player like Darwin Quintero on the opposing side, it's important to address his presence and do what's necessary to make sure he's uncomfortable. The center backs did a fantastic job this, and it was clear early on.
This clip below is from the 4th minute of the game, and it's a great example of what the center backs (Mancienne and Anibaba) did to disrupt the Loons forwards' play. The ball was deep in the Loons' own half and it was cleared forward by a defender. Angelo Rodriguez (opposing forward) dropped in to receive the clearance, and Anibaba was right there to press on him and shut down any play going towards the Revs' goal. He plays it perfectly; he immediately gets his chest on Rodriguez's back and stabs with his foot as the ball came into the forward. The stab made the ball bounce slightly astray from Rodriguez's foot, and the continuous pressure from Anibaba forced him off balance, ultimately playing the ball directly into Castillo's chest.
The pestering from the center backs showed through in other ways too. In the 44th minute, you can see that Mancienne was right on the back of the Minnesota forward, and as the ball was cleared toward him, he anticipated the oncoming clearance (which was obvious because of Francisco Calvo's obvious effort to use his left foot instead of his right) and stepped in front to head the ball back into the Minnesota defending half.
The unwavering effort of the two center backs was crucial to the Revs success in Week 5. In many cases, any effort that Minnesota gave to send the ball into the Revs half was sent right back the other way.
Numbers up and back: Given the 4-4-2 formation, the Revolution were visibly disciplined in moving as a unit to get players behind the ball when it was coming at them, and getting numbers forward when they were going to goal. Until Gil's arrival, the Revolution's attacking identity was often to play direct and go forward after winning the ball. But now they are more patient in their attack and Gil does well to hold the ball up pick his head up to see when it's necessary to pause, and allow supplemental teammates to float in the attacking half. See this frame from the 21st minute.
This is an example of Gil receiving the ball after it had gone forward, picking his head up to see what's in front of him, and allowing some extra time for his teammates to work with him going to goal. When he does this, the forwards also have extra time to craft their runs and check down into him (see Agudelo in the red boots).
Now, I shouldn't say this is only because of Gil. In that sequence, Caldwell and Jones also did well to slow up the game and opt to possess and develop an attack. But Gil has sparked this new attacking identity of the New England club. Caldwell is a versatile player and can adapt to several different styles. Now that he has a better understanding of how Gil functions, his game IQ allows him to make the decisions that favor his teammates' abilities. That entire sequence is below.
But this wasn't only on the attacking end of the field. The discipline was arguably even greater in the defensive third, where every player's efforts to track back and get behind the ball were admirable, and crucial to their success in this match. In several different instances of Minnesota United attacks, the Revs got numbers behind the ball and made it difficult for the opposition to create formidable attacking chances by building.
See here in the 40th minute.
And again at the 82nd-minute mark.