BSJ Match #10 Breakdown: Revolution 2, Chicago 1 – Low block and opportunistic finishing earn road win

With the end of the condensed MLS regular season right around the corner, this game had big implications for the Revolution and their playoff hopes. But thanks to some late-game disciplined defending and some opportunistic finishing, New England was able to take three points from Soldier Field.

Let's look at the starting 11...

[caption id="attachment_582946" align="aligncenter" width="400"] Headshots from[/caption]

More changes to the starting 11 on this one. Compared to last game, there were two new starting center backs in Andrew Farrell and Antonio Delamea. Brandon Bye and Alexander Buttner played to the right and left of them, respectively. Matt Polster returned in his starting role at defending center midfield, with Diego Fagundez, Teal Bunbury, Gustavo Bou, and Tommy McNamara playing in front of him. Adam Buksa played as the forward, and Matt Turner started in goal.


The formation

I think it's always important for supporters to know the shape that their team is playing in, and since it changed from the last game I thought I would go over it quickly. Against Chicago, it appeared Bruce Arena sent his team out in a 4-5-1. Based on the starting 11 before the game, I thought they were going to come out in the 4-4-2 that they've been using recently. But it was clear they were in the 4-5-1 after about 5-10 minutes had gone past.

The moment that really sealed the deal for me was in the 19th minute. The ball was with the right center back, and you can see that McNamara was the one to come press on him out of the center midfield, instead of Bou, who was hanging closer to the sideline. In the 4-4-2, Bou would have been the one to consistently press on that center back.

The low block 

After Bunbury's second goal, the Revolution carried on with their shape for about 15 more minutes. But after that, the Revs changed their tactics considerably and they sat into a very conservative low block for the remaining 15-20 minutes of the game.

Arena's side remained in their 4-5-1, but their line of contention was very low. This means that their midfielders and forwards didn't even contend with the opponent until just under the midfield line. Sometimes, this line was even lower than that, and the Revolution simply cleared the ball when they won it.

See the block below.

All of the New England defenders were low (along the 18-yard box) and compact. The outside midfielders dropped just above that line of defenders and almost acted as another layer of outside backs. The center midfielders sat right on top of the back line (in their normal shape, but sometimes following runners) and stayed tight together. The forward remained high to serve as a target - or initial line of pressure - where applicable.

This tight variation of the formation made it incredibly difficult for the Fire to break them down. At any given time, the Chicago forwards were surrounded by two (or three) Revolution players. The Chicago midfielders struggled to create with such a saturated attacking third and had virtually no passing channels to work with.

In fact, the low block gave the home team so many problems that the only thing that they were able to create was an unsuccessful crossing chance in the 77th minute.

Credit to the Revolution substitutes and the leaders in the back line/midfield. This was a great example of veterans knowing how to close out a game; especially given that it was on the road.