The Revolution wanted a look at one of the best teams in the league before going into the playoffs, and they sure got it on Sunday night against the Union. The Union brought the game to the colonial shirts and never let up for 90 straight minutes. We know that New England has been hopeful about making a run in these playoffs, but this was a dose of reality for them.
Let's look at the starting 11...
[caption id="attachment_591514" align="aligncenter" width="400"] Headshots from revolutionsoccer.net.[/caption]
With most everyone healthy, it appeared that Bruce Arena moved forward with his best 11 on the field against the Union on Sunday afternoon. Gustavo Bou and Adam Buksa played as the forwards at the top of the 4-4-2. Teal Bunbury and Tajon Buchanan played on the wings, while Carles Gil and Scott Caldwell played in the center midfield. Across the back, from left to right, it was Alexander Buttner, Henry Kessler, Andrew Farrell, and Brandon Bye. Matt Turner started in goal.
Note: Because the game was nationally televised, I do not have access to the film for review.
Pinching the wingers
After pondering which formation Arena would wield in the final regular-season game, it turned out to be the 4-4-2 with Buksa and Bou running as the forwards. Gil and Caldwell played as the center midfielders, with Buchanan and Bunbury playing on the wings.
Normally, when the Revolution play in their 4-4-2 it stays relatively balanced; meaning the wingers tend to stay wide. This is the way the 4-4-2 is typically indicated on paper. See below.
I drew the red lines to separate the position groups. But as I was saying, this is how I feel the Revolution tend to look when they play the 4-4-2. However, I didn't feel it was as balanced in this game.
Now, in saying that it wasn't as balanced, I'm saying that the wingers played more pinched. They played - on average - closer to the midfielders than the sidelines. See the average position graphic below.
[caption id="attachment_591605" align="aligncenter" width="646"] Graphic from whoscored.com.[/caption]
Based on this graphic, Bunbury and Buchanan spent more time inside of the 18-yard box lines than outside of them. The reason, I'm sure, had to do with following the opponent. The Union played a very similar formation because it suits the strengths of their players. All four of their midfielders can cover a great deal of ground and they can all step in to assist with any responsibility needed in the midfield.
I can't say the same for Buchanan and Bunbury. Both of those players thrive on the outside of the field. They find success in space and on the ball, not in the middle of the field trying to create in tighter spaces. This is why I think the Revolution struggled to generate much going to goal. When the ball was back on the foot of a player in a white shirt, their playmakers weren't high and wide.
I had to cover this. I've spent too much time covering the issues that this team has had defending corners. Except this time, it appears the team has ditched their previous method of defending corners. In the past, they've defended corners with a zone/man hybrid. But on Sunday, they defended in zone when the Union scored their first goal. Take a look at this screenshot before the kick was taken.