May 19, 2018; Foxborough, MA, USA; Columbus Crew midfielder Artur (7) is upended by New England Revolution forward Teal Bunbury (10) during the first half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
The New England Revolution lost its second home game of the season by falling 1-0 to Columbus Crew SC on Saturday night. Columbus is now seven points clear of the Revolution in the Eastern Conference standings, though the Revs remain in playoff position through 11 matches.
Here are three takeaways from the Revolution’s performance:
1. The 3-5-2 formation change didn’t pan out against Crew SC
Revolution head coach Brad Friedel needed to do three things ahead of Saturday’s game: accommodate Diego Fagundez’s suspension, find a way to contain both Gyasi Zardes and Federico Higuain and maintain the Revolution’s high press.
The hybrid 3-5-2 – which sometimes switched to 5-3-2 – didn’t appear to be the correct answer. Higuain assisted the Crew’s game-winning goal, New England’s attack lacked its final touch and the high press did not feature prominently in the chances the Revs created.
The Revs did generate scoring opportunities. They forced Crew goalkeeper Zack Steffen into making six saves and shot 13 times. They also had a decent shout for a penalty kick. But something was missing in the overall performance, and the 3-5-2 didn’t deliver.
Following the match, both Friedel and Caldwell agreed some of the Revs’ passing was sloppy. The rainy weather didn’t help, either. But Crew coach Gregg Berhalter also acknowledged that his team saw the high press coming and had a plan to deal with it. They clogged up the middle and dared the Revolution to break the game down by creating chances.
2. Speaking of which, can New England do anything other than the high press?
So far this season, the Revolution have two things going for them: a favorable schedule with seven of the year’s first 11 games at home; and a clinical high press.
Most of New England’s goals this season come from the pressure they apply to opponents in the attacking third.
Berhalter said he doesn’t believe the Revolution are predictable and gives them credit for establishing an identity. However, he did generate a game plan that compensated for the Revolution’s tendency to press high and made the Revolution rely on other tactics.
New England did not do enough to respond to Berhalter’s audible. The Revs got bogged down in the center of the pitch struggled to put their opponents on the ropes; Columbus had control for most of the game. Steffen had a nice game for Columbus and Lalas Abubakar’s game-winner was avoidable.
3. With Nguyen gone, the hunt is on for a Fagundez back up
No, Lee Nguyen was not backing up Diego Fagundez prior to being traded to Los Angeles FC. However, with Nguyen now gone, the Revolution should strongly consider revamping their attacking core.
The Revs looked disjointed in the attack without Fagundez pulling the strings. Kelyn Rowe, who performs well behind the strikers, didn’t look as good as a 10 in Friedel’s lineup. Tactics changed, anyway, once Rowe was withdrawn for Wilfried Zahibo at halftime.
Maybe it was the 3-5-2 formation, but there doesn’t appear to be any player on the Revolution roster that can even remotely approach what Fagundez accomplishes in each game.
The secondary transfer window opens July 10; worth noting, though, is that Brian Wright performed well off the bench.