Nothing about Nashville's approach to the game on Friday night made things easy for the Revolution. For most of the game, Bruce Arena's side struggled to get anything going in the attacking third, and that theme only continued until Adam Buksa decided he would take things into his own hands.
Let's look at the starting 11...
[caption id="attachment_589789" align="aligncenter" width="400"] Headshots from revolutionsoccer.net.[/caption]
One change in the lineup this week, and that was the inclusion of Diego Fagundez at the expense of Adam Buksa. Fagundez played on the wing across from Tajon Buchanan with Teal Bunbury running as the forward between them. Lee Nguyen, Scott Caldwell, and Tommy McNamara played in the center midfield. In the back it was Alexander Buttner at left back, Henry Kessler at left center back, Andrew Farrell at right center back, and DeJuan Jones at right back. Matt Turner started in goal.
It was discussed on the broadcast several times throughout the game and for good reason. Nashville's style of play on Friday night was to flood the defensive third with numbers and try to sneak in a goal without sacrificing too many numbers forward.
To help paint the picture of just how blatant their efforts were, take a look at their team heat map after the full 90 had gone.
[caption id="attachment_589903" align="aligncenter" width="501"] Heat map from whoscored.com[/caption]
Note the number of total touches on the ball from Nashville players. By comparison, take a look at the team heat map for the Revolution over the same period of time.
[caption id="attachment_589904" align="aligncenter" width="500"] Heat map from whoscored.com.[/caption]
As you can see, the Revolution were able to garner almost 300 more touches on the ball than their opponent while maintaining a higher average position up the field.
What's important here, though, is to explain that the Revolution were actually not very efficient going forward with the ball in their possession. Yes, their possession numbers were dominant but, obviously, possession means nothing without chances attached to the end of it; especially without a lead.
The thing that I think helps prove this notion is the number of touches divided between the various position groups. Let's break them down:
Defenders - 368 (5 total players, 4 starters)
Midfielders - 260 (5 total players, 3 starters)
Forward/wingers - 203 (5 total players, 3 starters)
Now, given this perspective, it's important to point out that in most games the defenders receive a larger portion of the touches because it's the easiest possession to keep. There is less pressure on the ball and it's harder for the forwards and wingers to get on the ball. The difference here was the sheer difference in touches that the defenders were able to garner, paired with the on-field observation of the Nashville side.
It's like a diagnosis from a doctor; one symptom can be a tip to several different problems, but paired with other symptoms and tests the diagnosis becomes official. So for someone that didn't watch this game, they might think that Revolution dominated. But it wasn't really the case, Nashville welcomed that dominating possession stat line. In fact, Nashville's whole approach to the game had Bruce Arena looking foolish when they went ahead on a goal from a corner kick where one of Arena's smallest players was marking one of the other team's most dangerous aerial threats.