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Loss to Minnesota shows New England Revolution need defensive help

Jul 18, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota United forward Christian Ramirez (21) celebrates his goal in the first half against New England Revolution at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

A valiant second half comeback fell just short for the New England Revolution, who lost 2-1 at Minnesota United on Wednesday night. New England conceded a pair of untimely, poorly defended goals in the first half for its first loss ever in the North Star State.

Here are takeaways from New England’s performance:

Back line underperforming and Matt Turner can’t fix it

New England has conceded at least two goals in four of its last five matches. Wednesday also marked the first time in 2018 the Revs lost twice in a row. The underlying issue with both developments is the Revolution’s back line.

An errant header by Jalil Anibaba sent Minnesota’s Christian Ramirez in alone on Revolution goalkeeper Matt Turner in just the fifth minute of Wednesday’s game. Bad defending by the entire Revolution back line allowed the Loons to double their lead against the run of play in first half stoppage time.

New England coach Brad Friedel seemed beside himself at the misses, correctly pointing out both at halftime and postgame that his side folded too easily.

“In the last two games, we have made five individual errors that have cost us the game,” said Friedel, who also blamed mental lapses for the team’s recent woes. “We can never fault the players’ work rate, their work rate is superb. I think in the first half they were in our box maybe three times and they scored twice off our mistakes.”

Left to pick the ball out of the net is Turner, who continues to perform admirably. Though Turner is prone to the occasional misstep in games, he’s clearly been among the best shot-stoppers in the league and looked strong off his line on Wednesday night. What Turner can’t fix is the porous back line in front of him.

Past time for true defensive adjustments

The start of the season offered some hope as the team asserted itself as a playoff contender, but recent form suggests the Revs could very well miss out on the postseason for a third straight year. Friedel, club general manager Mike Burns and the team’s new scouting department have made some impressive captures this calendar year in attack and midfield, but their work to strengthen the back line leaves much to be desired.

New England’s defense has been a rotating door of central defenders for the past four seasons. The club’s defensive form continues to be mired in inconsistency. Investments have been made: the club acquired Anibaba in the offseason along with left back Gabriel Somi and, last year, signed Antonio Delamea and Claude Dielna – central defenders with European experience – to contracts that together amount to nearly $1.2 million in salary this season, according to the MLS Players Union.

The Revolution were without Delamea (discipline) on Wednesday and used Dielna off the bench, leaving the central defensive pair as Andrew Farrell and Anibaba. The defense’s performance against Minnesota should demonstrate that no combination of what the Revolution have available at the back is particularly remarkable.

In short, New England’s current form on defense, plus the lack of depth at left back and center back, are why the team has to make a major investment in its back line in the coming weeks – if not sooner.

Shorthanded attack still produced

The Revolution were without Cristian Penilla (discipline) and Luis Caicedo (injury) Wednesday night, though the attack didn’t appear to skip a beat.

New England employed the high press throughout the night and spent most of the game in Minnesota’s third of the field. Scott Caldwell returned to the lineup in place of Caicedo and helped pull strings in central midfield to execute the high press.

The Revolution out-shot Minnesota 17-13 and had 55 percent of possession. United goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth had to come up big on numerous occasions to keep his side in the lead.

So, for positives: The Revolution attacked throughout the night and did not struggle to create chances. As for the negative: New England was left open on counters as it pressed and did not score in the run of play.

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