We're six games into the season now, and New England just lost their fourth on Saturday against the Columbus Crew. Couple that with DC United's loss to LAFC, Columbus now sit atop the Eastern Conference standings. Brad Friedel and his team went down by a goal late in the first half and had to chase an organized Columbus team for the majority of the second half after Michael Mancienne was sent off for receiving two yellow cards.
Let's look at the starting 11...
[caption id="attachment_499309" align="aligncenter" width="449"] Headshots from revolutionsoccer.net.[/caption]
Another set of changes in the starting 11 this week from Brad Friedel. Brandon Bye started at left back after we heard that Edgar Castillo would be unavailable because of an injury, and Juan Fernando Caicedo got his first MLS start as one of the two forwards in the 4-4-2. Juan Agudelo was the other forward on Saturday, and with the introduction of Caicedo in the starting 11, Teal Bunbury started and played on the right wing. Opposite him, DeJuan Jones started on the left wing in front of Bye, while Carles Gil and Scott Caldwell played the central midfield roles. To the right of Bye, Jalil Anibaba played at left center back, Michael Mancienne played right center back, and Andrew Farrell played at right back. Cody Cropper got the nod in net.
Movement in the midfield: One of the things that I believe the Revs struggled the most with last season was possession-inspired movement in the midfield. The personnel consisted of players who were primarily defensive-minded and their work rate off of the ball wasn't high aside from Scott Caldwell and Luis Caicedo. This is no longer the case. With the arrival of Carles Gil, his efforts off of the ball and his obvious desire to be on the ball as frequently as possible have changed that narrative for the rest of the midfielders.
Caldwell's movement in the midfield has always been good. However, when the other midfielders' work rate isn't as high, it becomes easier for the opponent to mark. Now that the two of them are playing in the midfield with each other, their work rates compliment each other and make things easier for each other, and subsequently the rest of the team. The defenders have more options to move the ball up the field, instead of going through the outside backs as frequently as they did in 2018 and playing the ball long over the top.
Gil and Caldwell aren't shy with their runs in the midfield, and they use several different channels in between the opposition to retrieve the ball from the back four. The most common channels are highlighted in the image below.
Most often, one of the two midfielders drop far deeper than the other, and the midfielder that has held higher will make a consequent run based on passing channels that open in that space. Take a look at this segment below. Gil dropped in between the center backs to get on the ball, Caldwell moved into a window of space, and the ball moved through Caldwell and into the forwards in two touches. It's simple, but plays like this have improved the possession of the Revs midfielders vastly so far this year and it this improvement was clear against a very good opponent.
Defending set pieces
There should be some serious questions surrounding the Revolution's defensive approach in reference to set pieces. If you look back at Josh Williams' goal before the ball was played by Federico Higuain, none of Friedel's players were marked up with Williams. No one followed him as he ran across the line of Revolution defenders.
If the Revs are coached to play zonal on set pieces, that's fine, especially given some of the aerial talent they have on the roster (Anibaba, Bye, J. Caicedo, and Antonio Delamea). But that isn't working for them. In the 49th minute, the Crew nearly scored on a corner when a completely unmarked Jonathan Mensah drilled a header on net, only to have it cleared off of the line by Scott Caldwell.
Adjusting to 10 men