As historic and exciting as it could have been to play their first game against one of the league's newest clubs in Nashville SC, it turned out to be one of the more forgettable games of the 2020 season so far. The Revolution seemed to be on the brink of scoring all night long, but there were only a couple of decent chances where they actually could have converted. Nashville seemed to be hanging by a thread and thrilled to leave Gillette with a point to show.
Let's look at the starting 11...
[caption id="attachment_587543" align="aligncenter" width="400"] Headshots from revolutionsoccer.net.[/caption]
Aside from Tommy McNamara sliding in for an injured Matt Polster, the starting 11 remained the same from the last game against D.C. United. Scott Caldwell and Lee Nguyen were the other center midfielders. Teal Bunbury and Tajon Buchanan started on the wings with Gustavo Bou running the center forward position. Across the back (from left to right) it was, DeJuan Jones, Henry Kessler, Andrew Farrell, and Brandon Bye. Matt Turner started in goal.
If you were able to listen to any of the pre-game commentary on the broadcasts or read any of the game previews, you'd know Nashville was missing seven players on their roster; most of whom are established MLS starters/veterans. In addition to that, the opponent was on the road and approaching an 11-day stretch where they have to play four games.
Needless to say, Nashville was entering Gillette on Saturday night with the attitude that a one-point result would be more than satisfactory.
Given the circumstances there, the team played in a conservative way that didn't suit the strengths of the Revolution attack. The Revolution have really struggled to break teams down so far this season when they back into a condensed version of themselves and simply try to see the game out.
Take a look at this screenshot after the 14th minute.
Andrew Farrell had just played the ball to Henry Kessler, and Nashville's line of contention is clear. They didn't have any interest in stretching themselves out and pressing on the New England backs. Thus, from top to bottom (from a formation perspective), the opponent stayed very condensed and made it very difficult for the home team to build anything through the middle of the field.
Interestingly, Nashville molded into a 4-3-3 variation where two of the center midfielders slid up top with the forward the block more of New England's passing windows from the backs to the midfielders. Whether or not this formational decision was specific for the Revolution is something I can't answer to. I simply don't watch enough of Nashville, don't know enough about their coaching staff, and think the circumstances for this particular game were unique.
Things only became more difficult for the Revolution later in the second half when Nashville's coach decided to remove one of their center midfielders and add a defender.
When this happened, the yellow shirts shrunk even closer together, and switched to a formation that included five defenders in the back line instead of four. Look at their new line of contention below. That highest Nashville player is their forward.
And this next screenshot was taken only about 10 seconds later...
So it was no secret that Nashville was going to sink in and fight it out to take their point home.
New England couldn't break it down, and their creative weakness was on full display for about 20 minutes.
New England's offensive response