What the Hell Did I Watch: Matchday 1

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NE Revolution 2 – Chicago Fire FC 2

Revolution Starting Eleven against Chicago Fire FC. Photocredit: Revolution Media

Overview

In the opening match of 2021, the New England Revolution head out on the road to take on Chicago Fire FC. What transpired was an intense match that was an emotional roller coaster for both fan bases. After falling behind 2-0 twelve minutes into the game due to defensive issues, the Revolution found a response and drew even in the 27th minute. While the match ended in a draw, the entire game was entertaining back and forth.

There were some inspiring performances, but overall there is a good amount of improvement needed by this team in the coming weeks and months. With lofty expectations from both the fan base, players, and management, the Revolution need to find their feet quickly. While the season is long, they do not want to be digging themselves out of an early hole they put themselves in.

Key Moments

Goal – 5th Minute – Robert Berić (NER 0 -CFFC 1)

After dominating the opening 5 minutes of the match, the Fire’s pressure paid off with a tap in goal. Defensively the Revolution were all over the place. The entire backline gets pulled across to the right side of the field causing gaps to open through the middle and on the left. After Chicago pulled the ball back to the middle a first time pass cut through the Revolution to a streaking Boris Sekulić. He then played the ball back across the 18 to an open Berić for a tap in.

There was a multitude of mistakes across the backline from the Revolution. Jones gets caught in two minds while being pulled centrally, whether he should stay or push into the middle to cover the pass. By only going halfway there, it opens the gap and makes it a simple pass-through. Buchanan then gets caught ball watching allowing Sekulić to get in on a run behind him. If he is aware of the threat and matches the run, he can possibly cut out that pass. Finally, Farrell does not track the run from Berić, which leaves him alone at the back post for a tap-in. I will give some credit to Chicago. Their ball movement did what it was supposed to and pulled the Revolution defense out of position to create the opportunity.

Goal – 11th Minute – Luka Stojanović (NER 0 -CFFC 2)

Chicago continued their dominance and this lead to a second goal. Again, defensive miscues caused the Revolution to orchestrate their demise. Clever interplay down the right allowed Przemysław Frankowski to supply a cross into the back post. Robert Berić sent a first-time ball back to the penalty spot, where Luka Stojanović slotted the ball past Matt Turner.

Again, the right-hand side had an overload. This time Farrell was pulled out to the wing with Bye moving back into the center. A quick one-two allowed Frankowski to get to the end line him and while Farrell attempts to recover, it was too late. Jones misjudged the ball’s flight on the back post, which allowed for the free touch. For the second time in the opening twelve-minute, Buchanan was caught ball watching. Again, this defensive miscue caused there to be a wide-open man for Chicago in the box. Turner was still able to get a foot to it and might even want it back.

Goal – 14th Minute – Adam Buksa (NER 1 -CFFC 2)
Adam Buksa warming up before match against Chicago Fire FC. Photocredit: Revolution Communication

After a good run and shot from Buksa was saved by Shuttleworth, the Revolution scored on the ensuing corner. Buksa rose above the crowd and guided Gil’s well-placed corner into the top corner.

After going nearly 3-0 down, the Revolution finally found a response. Gil and Buksa combined well down the left to create the opening for the initial shot. While Shuttleworth made a good save on the initial attempt by Buksa, the covering defender ensured Buksa could only stay on his left foot. If he had more room to shape the shot with his right, the ball might have gone in on the initial shot. Buksa still had work to do from the in swinger from Gil. He rose above the crowd and confidently nestled the ball in the upper corner.

Goal – 27th Minute – Gustavo Bou (NER 2 -CFFC 2)

A quick throw in played to the Revolution advantage. Tajon Buchanan was able to get behind his defender. He put in a cross to the near post that was put in by a lunging Gustavo Bou, in his only shot of the game.

New England was able to use a quick throw-in to catch Chicago sleeping. It was good thinking by Brandon Bye to realize Buchanan was streaking down the wing. Trusting his midfielders’ pace, he put the throw-in down the line instead of him, allowing him to get the beat on the Chicago defender. Buchanan’s best moment of the match as his pace and strength got him clear to make that cross. Bou then had a lung after a good run between two defenders that went in at the near post.

Red Card – 89th Minute – DeJuan Jones (NER 2 -CFFC 2)

DeJuan Jones received a red card for a foul outside the box and denial of a goal-scoring opportunity. After going to VAR, the card was upheld, and no penalty was given.

When watching this live, my thoughts were that the card would be overturned and given as a yellow. After watching the replay, my views were changed. Similarly to why it was not a penalty, the initial contact started outside the box; therefore, there was no covering defender when the foul occurred. The Fire player was also in line to get his shot off in the next couple of steps. After review, I have no problem with the red.

Final Thoughts

General

This was an interesting match for the Revolution. Within the first 13 minutes of the game, they were almost undone three times due to defensive mistakes. They did find a strong response and come back to draw the match. In the beginning of 2019 and most of 2018, they would not have this resilience. This team has come a long ways since then, but need to improve.

Maciel training April 22. Potential first team debut against DC United to solidify the midfield. Photocredit: Revolution Communications
Offensive Opportunities

The Revolution created 13 total shots, with five on target. This resulted in a 38.5 percent shooting accuracy, above their average from the 2020 season. With this being a positive trend compared to the previous season, they still need to get more shots on the frame. Against Shuttleworth, who Revolution fans know can be leaky at times, there was every incentive to get shots on frame. With more established goalkeepers coming up in the coming weeks, the Revolution needs to make sure all their attempts are counting.

Buksa looked like a different player than we saw last year. Due to his comfort and having had the time to settle, he seems like a player reborn. While he could have been more clinical with his attempts, only two shots on target is an excellent start to the season. Bou had his most invisible game for the Revolution. While he did get his goal, it was his only shot of the game. He had the worst passing completion percentage on the team. Kizza looked good in his first appearance with the Revolution, sadly missing a chance to put the Revolution ahead when his head hit the crossbar late in the match.

The Little Things

Similar to their shots on target, the Revolution’s passing left something to offer. Looking across the board, the team completed 75.3 percent of the passes they attempted. Three of the players were below 60 percent in completed passing. You need to improve, not only for attacking flow but to help allow the team to get out from the back. As the Revs look inclined to try and play out from the back, it needs improvement.

It’s these types of details that can make a good team into a great team. This team could have carved Chicago’s defense open by fixing these issues and successfully come away with three points. At first glance, the Eastern Conference looks extremely competitive at the top end; every point will matter.

Defensive Instability

Defensively, there were issues for the Revolution. Due to lack of playing time together or just the first game, the backline needs to find a rhythm. Chicago was able to get the Revolution scrambling for coverage at times. Whether this had to do with the lack of a proper defensive midfielder to help cover or just over-commitment from the two DCMs is yet to be determined. While Polster and McNamara are good pieces for the Revolution, they are more box-to-box midfielders than ball hawks.

DeJuan Jones had his worst outing in a Revolution uniform. There were times he looked utterly lost on the pitch, and twice his indecision cost the Revs in terms of goals. The red card was also a culmination of everything. Poor positioning and recovery caused the foul to happen. Farrell got beat a couple of times early but rebounded decently. He had some essential clearances that helped preserve the tie in the long run. Kessler was reliable but needed to take more charge of the backline. While he is just in his second season, his capabilities have been seen, and he needs to ensure his teammates are where they need to be.

Jon Bell training on April 22. Will he come in and provide defensive reinforcements against DC United? Photocredit: Revolution Communication

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