We're a month into the 2019 MLS season, and the New England soccer club has found itself sitting at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. Needless to say, their four-game opportunity to gain ground in the East is not much of an opportunity any longer with six points dropped, with six potential points to earn after a disheartening loss to Atlanta United FC.
Let's look at the starting 11...
[caption id="attachment_500534" align="aligncenter" width="421"] Headshots from revolutionsoccer.net.[/caption]
Another week of big changes in Brad Friedel's starting 11. The team was back in their 4-5-1 (switching from the recent 4-4-2) and the back line consisted of (from left to right) Brandon Bye, Jalil Anibaba, Andrew Farrell and Luis Caicedo. Wilfried Zahibo made his way back into the starting 11, and joined the midfield with Carles Gil and Scott Caldwell. On the wings, Cristian Penilla and DeJuan Jones got the nod on the left and right, respectively. Juan Fernando Caicedo started as the lone forward while Cody Cropper started in goal.
A guilty midfield: Let's start this breakdown by taking a look at the midfield, which was largely responsible for allowing Atlanta to generate breakaway after breakaway on the Gillette turf on Saturday night. Between the three of them (Gil, Zahibo, and Caldwell) they gave the ball away 12 times, and gave the opposing midfielders enough time and space to create five chances that put Atlanta midfielders in behind the Revolution center backs.
Atlanta United created four big chances (7th minute, 15th minute, 19th minute, and 22nd minute) and they all originated from turnovers by Revolution midfielders or miscommunications involving one of the midfielders. But, let's take a look at the opportunity in the 48th minute that started from Darlington Nagbe. It all started when Nagbe took the ball away from Gil on the dribble near the midfield line (shown below).
Gil ended up shoved to the ground, and Nagbe quickly played the ball into Josef Martinez (a pass that broke the rest of the midfield) who had plenty of time and space to turn, run at the center backs, and play the ball into Julian Gressel, who took a shot that got blocked.
The takeaway from the above image is that Gil gave the ball away at a time when the defense wasn't compact and in position. The ball had just come from Cody Cropper, and his teammates didn't expect him to lose the ball in that spot. The result is an Atlanta attack against a gaping Revolution defense that wasn't in position. Look at the gaps between all four defenders, while Luis Caicedo is starting to recover from the midfield line.
Let's look at the big Gressel scoring chance in the 15h minute.
J. Caicedo won the ball from Miles Robinson and dribbled it down the left sideline, turned and played the ball down to Scott Caldwell. Caldwell took a poor second touch, toe-poked the ball away from a pressing Ezequiel Barco, and immediately started a recovery run because the pass landed right at Gressel's foot. Gressel turned and quickly played Martinez forward.
Subconsciously, Caldwell's teammates were expecting him to keep the ball and they fall into positions based on that expectation. But when he lost it, this left them out of position to defend and left wide open space for Atlanta to expose. Martinez dribbled the ball about 20 yards further, held up, and played Gressel in behind the recovering back line.
The faulty midfield play was largely the reason for the home team's struggles on Saturday. Opposing attacks originated from there and they weren't able to generate anything going forward. The three of them combined for two chances created, both of which belonged to Gil.
Staying onside: Friedel's side was caught offside four times in this match, and one of those calls could have resulted in a goal. Two of the remaining three were called on Luis Caicedo and those were frustrating to watch. In the 43rd minute, he was called offside while standing in an offside position as Farrell helplessly dribbled toward the sideline with defenders pressing.
First of all, he made no effort to drop back into and onside position, which means he didn't truly want the ball in that situation. Second, -- the more concerning bit -- is that he wasn't assertive enough to realize that Farrell was in a tough situation, and naturally check down into that space while Farrell clearly is struggling to find passing options. That's off-ball movement 101, and L. Caicedo showed zero knowledge or effort to make the situation easier. When a player -- a professional player, at that -- doesn't subconsciously move in those situations it's a massive concern.
In the 62nd minute, he was called for another offside call;