Although it took almost the entire game for it to show, the Revolution showed out well as a unit, with several of the players logging good performances. There were no weak stages of the game that D.C. United was able to take advantage of, which kept the home team's hopes relatively low throughout the entire game. From goalkeeping, to finishing in the big moments, New England was better across the board.
Let's look at the starting 11...
[caption id="attachment_586623" align="aligncenter" width="400"] Headshots from revolutionsoccer.net.[/caption]
Two changes in the 11 in this one as DeJuan Jones started at left back for Alexander Buttner, and Matt Polster started in the center midfield for Kelyn Rowe. Scott Caldwell and Lee Nguyen were the other two center midfielders; Caldwell played more defensive and Nguyen played more of an attacking role. Henry Kessler played left center back, Andrew Farrell played right center back, and Brandon Bye played right back. Tajon Buchanan and Teal Bunbury held down their roles as the wingers, and Gustavo Bou played the forward role in between them. Matt Turner started in goal.
Finding space in the midfield
When the starting 11 was released before the game it was interesting to see that Arena decided to go with two players in the central midfield that specialize in the defensive end. It's something this team hasn't really seen since the days of Wilfried Zahibo and Luis Caicedo.
But after about 15-20 minutes into this one, it was clear to see that it was a beneficial move for the team. Scott Caldwell and Matt Polster's ability to cover ground was a lot for D.C.'s midfield to handle and they couldn't keep tabs on the two of them, especially with Lee Nguyen sitting right on top of them.
The best part of their game, though, was their ability to float into spaces where they could receive the ball with time and craft the next step of the team's build. Polster and Caldwell do such simple parts of the game so well. Take a look at the clip below. When the ball starts to go out of bounds, Polster changes the shape of his run to sink lower into space, and closer to the thrower while the D.C. midfielder closest to him switches off and ball-watches. The reaction from that same midfielder when he realized how far Polster drifted from him is funny, and a great indication of the difference in off-ball work between the two midfields.
It's a shame Polster had to leave the game the way he did, because I really liked what I saw from those two during the time they spent in the midfield together. You'd be hard-pressed to find a defensive midfield duo that has a better combination of motors than Caldwell and Polster.
I opened with the statement that the Revolution were better than their opponent in all stages of the game, and I don't go over goalkeeping often so I figured this game was as good as any to highlight a piece of Turner's play from Sunday night.
That piece of play was his awareness and engagement on the game going on in front of him. There were two instances where I thought this was highlighted really well and they occurred in both halves of the game.
Take a look at the first instance that occurred in the 16th minute.
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D.C. United had just begun a successful counter where the entire New England midfield was broken by one pass. This put a D.C. midfielder running at the back line with two supporting runners. The Revolution back line is flat, so Turner knows that any pass that makes it through the back line is going to be somewhat vertical; meaning it's going to be angled into the 18-yard box one way or another.
The camera doesn't show it, but based on how quickly Turner was able to jump on the ball, he was inching forward out of his position in preparation to jump any pass that the United midfielder decided to make. The goalkeeper's awareness was key here so that the streaking runner had no hope of getting on the end of the pass to get a shot on goal (if he got to the pass in time) or hold the ball up for oncoming runners.
It happened again in the 49th minute.
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Similar situation here, but in this play D.C. wasn't on the counter and they were simply building through the midfield. This little segment of play from the opponent was impressive and could have resulted in a goal if: 1) the pass was weighted easier, or 2) Turner wasn't so quick to decide to jump the pass.
A goalkeeper's decision-making ability can make or break a game - or a goalkeeper's career - but Turner was able to showcase his against D.C. United and keep the clean sheet while doing so.