The Corner Stoehr: Thinking Ahead

Posted on 24 April 2010 by sstoehrst

Five Keys for Revolution’s Success This Season

Four matches in, and the New England Revolution are hanging at .500. Through two wins and two losses only one concrete conclusion can be drawn: the Revolution are a team struggling for consistency.

As if that’s anything new. Going in we all knew that this would be a year of transition, and a combination of aging stars, mediocre bit-players and unpolished rookies is always going to produce varying quality in the early going. That said, the first four matches have yielded enough insight to compile a list of the top five keys to success for the rest of this young season:

5.) Defend Against Set Pieces

New England’s opening day loss to the Galaxy came in a fairly even match, with chances squandered from both sides. In the end, LA was probably the better side, but it is galling to see that Edson Buddle was totally unmarked when he fired home his header in the sixth minute. Just minutes later Buddle nearly doubled the advantage from a corner but he failed to put the ball on frame when he was again left unmarked. While the Revolution have done a very good job of not conceding dangerous free kicks, every set piece seems to be a nail biter. The Revs defense looks confused and disorganized whenever their opponents have a dead ball situation, and that’s something that can very quickly come back to bite them. Set plays are a massive part of the game of soccer and it is imperative that New England sorts out the issues. If not, we’ll be staring at a long and frustrating season full of soft and cheap goals.

4.) Be The Winged Wonders

Stevie Nicol and several others pointed out that the key to New England’s rampant success against Toronto in round three was the wing play. So far this season wingers Chris Tierney and Sainey Nyassi have linked well with fullbacks Sinovic and Alston to produce a potent attacking force capable of whipping tantalizing crosses into the box. Much of that disappeared in San Jose. This wasn’t helped by the incredibly narrow pitch at Buck Shaw but the Revs looked uncharacteristically reluctant to take the ball to the byline and the corner flag, leaving lone striker Schilawski working awfully hard to create space for himself. Between the burgeoning partnership and crossing abilities of Tierney and Sinovic and the blistering pace of Nyassi and Alston, New England could have one of the most successful wide attacking lineups in the league and they will need to focus on spreading defenses if they want to score more goals this season.

3.) Get A Goalscorer

The Revolution have scored six goals in four matches, and have been shut out twice. Three goals have come from Zack Schilawski on a hat-trick, two from Kenny Mansally, and one gifted from Raivis Hš?anovi?s to Sainey Nyassi. If the Revs are going to improve from last season’s record low of 33 goals they need a talismanic double-digit goalscorer. So far, despite Schilawski’s hat-trick and Mansally’s spectacular solo effort against DC, I haven’t seen enough consistency to suggest any one forward is ready to break out this season. If the Revs can get ten or twelve goals out of Schilawski, Dube, or Mansally and rely on one of them to hit the back of the net with regularity and in clutch situations this season, they should be right in the mix come this Fall.

2.) Perovic Must Be The Answer

Before the season, many wondered who would replace the playmaking influence of Steve Ralston in the attacking third. It would appear that Steve Nicol and company believe Serbian midfielder Marko Perovic to be the solution, and early evidence indicates that his emergence could dictate the team’s fortunes. Perovic is obviously most comfortable roaming behind the strikers and playing that final ball and his left foot is deadly from dead ball situations, but against San Jose he seemed slightly out of sync with the rest of the squad. Marko needs to settle in fast and take the reins of the offense, allowing Shalrie to play deeper and dictate the pace of the game. Forcing Joseph to do too much could lead to another season of low output in the attacking third, and I’m not sure the Revolution could squeak into the playoffs like they did last year.

1.) Keep Shalrie Healthy

New England’s total dominance of Toronto in round three came about due to a combination of factors, but no one can deny the influence of Shalrie Joseph on the midfield. The Grenadian international provides the calming, possession-oriented influence in midfield that Niouky was reported to bring, and he has easily the most potent soccer brain in the squad. Without him, service both to the wings and to the frontmen has been erratic at best, and the Revs will have to ensure that he is healthy and 100% for as much of the season as possible if they are to have any shot at a playoff berth.

What areas do YOU think the Revs need to address? Leave comments below!

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