BSJ Match #9 Breakdown: Revolution 0, NYCFC 2 – Arena’s approach hurts Revs

(Getty Images)

So far in 2020, it seemed New England's soccer club had found a way to compete with anyone in the league, earning a point in all regular-season games since March. But on Wednesday night, it appeared they reverted back into a sheepish unit against NYCFC. The Revolution were beat in all stages of the game and couldn't find a way to dig themselves out of the rut they put themselves in during the first half.

Let's look at the starting 11...

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As a result of the condensed season, Bruce Arena and the rest of the coaching staff is clearly starting to manage the minutes of the players on the roster. Across the back, DeJuan Jones got the nod at left back, Henry Kessler started at left center back, Michael Mancienne played at right center back, and Brandon Bye started opposite of Jones at right back. Matt Polster held down his usual spot at defensive center midfield, while Tommy McNamara, Kelyn Rowe, and Cristian Penilla played in front of him in the midfield. Teal Bunbury and Gustavo Bou played as the forwards in this 4-4-2. Matt Turner started in goal.


Note: ESPN has blacked out the game replay, so I will not have any film to share in this breakdown. 

The high line

It was obvious in the first 30 seconds of the game that Bruce Arena directed his players to enact a high press on their opponent. The ball went deep into NYCFC's half and the Revolution wasted no time pushing their forwards and midfielders right up onto the back line.

I was surprised - yet supportive - to see Arena opt for this move, given that this unit (since Arena has taken over the team) hadn't used the high press very often; and certainly not to the aggressive degree they attempted to enforce on Wednesday night.

However, their press was leaky overall, and it was clear that the crucial pieces to the Revolution's press weren't fit enough to ensure that it was effective. When a team decides to press, it's vital that every individual on the field is engaged in what/where their teammates are choosing to press. It starts with the forwards deciding where to push the ball.

They may decide to wedge themselves on the inside of the other teams' center backs and force them to play to the outside backs. In this case, the wingers need to be ready to decide where they want to push the opponent's next pass. But if the forwards corral the center backs into playing up the middle of the field, then it becomes the job of the midfielders to be ready to press on the other teams' midfielders and keep their backs to goal.

Of course, those are only two - of several - scenarios in which NYCFC could have decided to break out of the Revolution's press. I think ultimately, Bruce Arena and company were simply trying to break NYCFC's will of keeping the ball on the ground and playing to their strengths. They (NYCFC) have several players that thrive on winning the game on the ground by moving the ball through their players instead of playing it direct and over the top. But the Revs weren't able to break them.

NYCFC stayed composed and broke out of the press in several moments; most notably during the below times of the game:

  1. 33:55 - The press was broken down and NYCFC was able to simply build out of the back
  2. 58:05 - The leaky press directly resulted in an NYCFC chance

Back line to midfield