It didn't take long for New England to establish their presence at the University of Cincinnati on Sunday night. The midfield was clicking, the backline suffocated the Cincinnati attack, and the playmakers did what it took to put the Colonials up by two and send the team home with three points. Bruce Arena's players played to their strengths while playing with confidence and unity that was absent in this club's game for so long.
Let's look at the starting 11...
[caption id="attachment_518918" align="aligncenter" width="429"] Headshots from revolutionsoccer.net.[/caption]
The lineup looked quite different from their midweek game against Vancouver, with a number of changes in all three stages of the lineup. Starting in the back, Edgar Castillo got back into the starting 11 at left back, Antonio Delamea started at left center back, Andrew Farrell started at right center back, and Brandon Bye held down his spot at right back. Wilfried Zahibo started at the defensive center midfield role while Diego Fagundez and Gustavo Bou assumed roles that were more offensive in the midfield. Cristian Penilla and Carles Gil played on the outside wings, and Teal Bunbury got the start in the forward role in quite some time. Matt Turner started in goal.
Flexible formation: I'll be honest, in the first five minutes of the game, I didn't know what formation the Revolution were playing. Usually, it only takes about two or three minutes to decipher what formation a coach has rolled out. But I couldn't tell for sure what the formation was until about 20 minutes later, when I found out that their formation was really just a guideline.
I know, usually formations are a guideline for players to abide by so that the team can maintain a respectable shape while running up and down the field. But in this particular case for the Revolution, Bruce Arena put his team in a formation where players were playing in positions that were hybrid.
Carles Gil played on the right wing in the first half, but that wasn't where he spent most of his time on the pitch. Instead, he played more centrally with Zahibo, Fagundez, and Bou. To utilize the space that he left, Brandon Bye did a great job of filling in as the space opened up. This left Gil, Bou, Fagundez, and Zahibo to find space and combine together. It was extremely effective in getting Bye forward in the attack.
Because of this fluidity in the formation, the midfield players had a big responsibility to keep the midfield balanced to make sure there were no gaps during their movement; and they did well. Zahibo and Fagundez both dropped into the back line at different times of the game to allow Gil to pinch in and make plays in the new midfield space (left by those dropping into the back line). Bou also did a good job to slip higher next to Bunbury on the attacking end. See the images below for different examples of that.
8th minute -- Bye sliding up the field and Gil getting forward in the midfield
10-minute mark -- Zahibo dropping into the back line, Gil pinching inside, and Bye pushing up the right side
25-minute mark -- Bye pushing high, Gil dropping deep then pushing to the middle, Bou pushing on with Bunbury
This isn't all that new with the team, though, as we did see some of this last week with Gustavo Bou floating across the field to fill space where he could find it and make plays. It's a very good sign when a team can use this to their benefit without sacrificing their structure, and the Arena's side seem to be on their way to making it an occurrence every week.
Combination play: Piggybacking off of that initial takeaway, New England's movement and speed of play is