This was not only a humbling loss for the team and the coaching staff, but this should be a humbling loss for all tiers of the organization. It should be obvious to management and the fan base that this team is still missing pieces to be a team that can make the MLS Cup. They were outclassed in every stage of the game on Sunday afternoon and spent most of the game chasing their opponent.
Let's look at the starting 11...
[caption id="attachment_595232" align="aligncenter" width="400"] Headshots from revolutionsoccer.net.[/caption]
No changes from Bruce Arena and company in the starting 11 in the Eastern Conference final. Adam Buksa started up top as the lone forward, with Teal Bunbury and Carles Gil playing on the wings. Gustavo Bou played in the attacking center midfield spot, with Matt Polster and Scott Caldwell playing below him as the defensive midfielders. DeJuan Jones (left) and Tajon Buchanan (right) started as the outside backs while Henry Kessler (left) and Andrew Farrell (right) played as the center backs. Matt Turner started in goal.
Second to the ball
This was really a story about one team coming out of the whistle ready to play, and the other still half asleep. Columbus started the game on the front foot and didn't let up in the first half; they were first to everything. They were winning 50/50 challenges, getting to the second ball first, and winning the time-and-space battle on the ball.
These observations were thoroughly backed up by the statistics that showed up on paper at half. Columbus spent loads of time in the New England half. It felt like the Revs only got a shot on goal every time the Crew earned four.
[caption id="attachment_595240" align="aligncenter" width="450"] Graphic from mlssoccer.com.[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_595241" align="aligncenter" width="598"] Graphic from mlssoccer.com.[/caption]
Further, you can see that based on the saves and clearances, the Revolution spent much of their time trying to fend off the Columbus pressure.
[caption id="attachment_595258" align="aligncenter" width="449"] Graphic from mlssoccer.com.[/caption]
Most of this was because Columbus was simply first to everything. It felt like Columbus was there for every 50/50 challenge and every second ball. It began at the first whistle and continued for most of the game; but it was particularly glaring throughout the first half.
Look at these various examples to get a feel for what I mean.
Carles Gil sleeping when the ball pops out after a service, resulting in a Columbus shot on goal.
[video width="1168" height="586" mp4="https://s3.amazonaws.com/bostonsportsjournal-cdn/uploads/2020/12/gil-1_68txCD2i.mp4"][/video]
A Columbus forward coming back to win the second ball and start a counter the other way. This resulted in a clear shot on goal for Columbus and an ensuing corner.
[video width="1168" height="586" mp4="https://s3.amazonaws.com/bostonsportsjournal-cdn/uploads/2020/12/second-ball-1_PqVocH58.mp4"][/video]
Gustavo Bou losing a 50/50 challenge after a long Matt Turner vertical.
[video width="1168" height="586" mp4="https://s3.amazonaws.com/bostonsportsjournal-cdn/uploads/2020/12/second-ball-2_wTP075qK.mp4"][/video]
Teal Bunbury losing a 50/50 that resulted in a big Columbus chance.
[video width="1168" height="586" mp4="https://s3.amazonaws.com/bostonsportsjournal-cdn/uploads/2020/12/second-ball-3_kIeOGMkd.mp4"][/video]
Anyway, you get the point. Those all occurred within the first 15 minutes of the game, and it was the single most important factor in the result.
Of course, the Revs struggled to regain their feet after this because they spent so much of their energy trying to keep up with the opponent. As a result of losing most 50/50's and second balls, they had to expend most of their energy chasing the opponent and defending their pressure.
Columbus' numbers behind the ball