With the clock ticking on #DrogbaWatch the Fire are ironically set to host the team which beat them out in last season's transfer/blind draw fiasco. Martin Tomszak has a look at the Revolution.
What Are They All About? New England Revolution
As unbelievable as it seems, the Chicago Fire are two wins away from hoisting some silverware. They defeated Orlando City SC in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup Quarterfinal on Wednesday night to advance to the Semi against Philadelphia. Frank Yallop cracked a smile for the first time in a while during the post-match press conference, but whether or not he remains smiling depends heavily on the result of the Fire’s next match. On Saturday Chicago welcomes the New England Revolution to Toyota Park as the clubs meet for the second time this season. The Revolution enjoyed a 2-0 win on June 13th. New England has had their own roller coaster of a season, at times looking like title contenders, and at times looking like a fish out of water. New England will be looking for some stability with a possible second league win in a row, but the Fire will be hoping to turn their Open Cup form into league results.
New England Form Guide (Last 5 Matches): W-L-L-L-L
Previous match: A 1-0 home win against NYCFC.
Formation in the last match: 4-2-3-1: Knighton; Hall, Woodberry, Farrell, Tierney; Caldwell, Kobayashi; Bunbury, Nguyen, Fagundez; Davies
Strengths: Last time out we spent most of the strengths section discussing New England’s ability to control the midfield with the front four of their 4-2-3-1 formation and then clinically finish in the final third. Nothing has changed in that department as New England continues to string along passes that mesmerize opponents. Some of the attacking sequences that have been on display over the last five matches require a closer look to start out today’s preview.
In their last match against NYCFC, New England ended a six match losing streak (their first win since their home match against the Fire) in a way that typifies their style. The Revolution relish the opportunity to break on the counter or build from the back quickly while utilizing both the length and the width of the pitch and that’s exactly what they did in their last game, as eight different players completed fifteen passes, including a nifty back heel, before Lee Nguyen finished off the move for the only goal of the match. If the passing stats on the play weren’t impressive enough, the amount of ground covered as the ball moved between the left flank and the right flank several times was Barcelona-esque. This play wasn’t a fluke as we’ll see with the match against the Red Bulls.
While they lost 4-1 at Red Bull arena, the goal that the Revolution did score in that match was a great one to watch. This particular play started in the back after an offside call against NY and then developed into a nineteen pass sequence (including another applause worthy back heel) that saw nine different players touch the ball before Andy Doorman slotted home a Lee Nguyen cross. The passing precision and fluidity of the attack left the Red Bull defenders with little chance of keeping up with the play, much less actually stopping it.
The collective mentality of the New England team is on full display in moves like this and is equally reflected in their players’ stats with the front four sharing responsibility in the goal scoring and assists categories. Charlie Davies is a standout with seven goals on the season, but behind him Bunbury and Agudelo both sit on four, while Rowe and Nguyen both have three. The assist department is led by Rowe with five, with Nguyen, Caldwell and Bunbury following close behind with four each. Due to their tactics it is perhaps unsurprising that New England has eleven different goal scorers and twelve different assist providers this season.
If the Fire hope to win on Saturday they are going to need to get entrenched in the midfield and stop any sort of fluidity on New England’s part. It would be smart of Frank Yallop to put Polster back in the middle next to Cocis and allow Palmer to return to the lineup. With Nyarko just returned from injury along with taking some knocks on Wednesday night and matches coming thick and fast, perhaps Matt Watson can deputize at right wing to stifle some of the Revolution’s productivity in front of Palmer. Or, Yallop could attempt to go blow for blow with New England in an all-out attacking match. Either way the Revolution’s attacking mentality cannot be taken for granted.
Jermaine Jones could be back for the Revolution. He has been out since May 31 with a sports hernia injury.
Shambolic Defending: Prior to the first meeting in June, the Fire were relishing the opportunity of playing New England due to their absolutely dreadful defensive record. The Revolution were on a six game winless streak that saw them give up nine goals in that time, all of which our preview attributed to lapses in concentration and poor decision making on the part of defenders. While New England ultimately won, glimpses of that poor defending were on display in that match, and more importantly for Fire fans, continues in the present. While it would be fun to provide a series of vines showing Bobby Shuttleworth’s post goal conceding reactions towards his defenders, we deal with statistics and analysis, so let’s take a look.
Prior to their win against NYCFC, New England had conceded eleven, yes, eleven goals in their previous four matches. Once again, a majority of these goals were avoidable had there been better defending…
For example, in the match against the Red Bulls the first goal came off of what seemed a routine play that could have been easily stopped. Lloyd Sam was given time and space in the box to take it to the end line and cleverly chip a ball in for Bradley Wright Phillips to finish. Goncalves needed to be tighter to Sam and stronger in the tackle while there was no excuse for both Farrell and Woodberry to be marking Bradley Wright-Philips and still allow him to get contact on the ball.
The second goal came off of a Red Bull passing sequence in and around the box in which the back four and two holding midfielders might as well have been watching from the stands with some popcorn. Sam turned the ball in himself this time and ran off to the corner flag celebrating while New England lazily appealed for offside and pointed fingers at each other.
A third goal was conceded when BWP finished off a simple thru ball played behind the back four and it was 3-0 in the 12th minute. The final goal in the 4-1 loss happened when an unmarked Anthony Wallace long range shot was deflected in off of an on looking Goncalves.
There were a few other notable errors among those eleven conceded goals. In the match against Dallas, Shuttleworth made a good save on Fabian Castillo after a poor giveaway at the back only to see Woodberry’s clearance ricochet off of Alston and serve up a second opportunity for Castillo which he gladly took. Against Vancouver, a comical attempted clearance by Woodberry went across the face of goal for Techera to pounce on. The worst of the bunch were arguably the two goals conceded against Columbus where New England’s back line didn’t feel like picking up league leading goal scorer Kei Kamara on two separate occasions. Kamara didn’t need to think twice and won the match for the Crew with two clinical finishes. The likes of Igboananike, Accam, and Jones have to be salivating at the chance to have a go at this Revolution defense. This might be a case of who can score more.
Prediction: The magic of the Open Cup is non-transferable. Look for an entertaining match that sees both teams take a point. Chicago 3-3 New England. Take your pick of goal scorers, but let’s say that the Fire faithful witness their first Guly do Prado goal. Let’s hope the universe can handle the awesomeness.