The addition of Taylor marks the second time in the past six days that the club has added a new face to the forward corps after Andre Akpan was brought in via trade last week.
Here are some quick thoughts on Monday’s move:
Long-term potential intriguing. His name certainly doesn’t carry the same cache as, say, that of Jermaine Jones. Even so, the addition of Taylor isn’t your typical, low-risk signing. After all, we’re talking about a player who not only performed well at the U-20 and U-23 levels, but also held his own abroad in Portugal and Cyprus. In 68 career league games in Europe, he’s scored 15 goals, which isn’t bad at all for a player who jumped overseas right out of college. The landscape is littered with hot-shot, can’t-miss college prospects who’ve taken their talents overseas only to fall flat on their face. On paper, Taylor doesn’t appear to be one of them.
Forward corps remains in flux. The addition of Taylor is just the latest in a slew of moves the Revolution have made at an area in which they’re clearly looking for more consistency. Since July, the club has loaned out mercurial forward Jerry Bengtson to Belgrano, given the starting spot to Charlie Davies, demoted Patrick Mullins to the bench, and traded away Saer Sene for Akpan. So far, the results have been mixed. Davies has shown promise by scoring twice and adding an assist over the course of his last three games, and Heaps had praise for Mullins’ performance off the bench in last weekend’s draw to Portland. However, consistency remains an issue. Davies has played well, but his track record of injuries is undoubtedly a concern. The hot streak Mullins found himself in during the spring has cooled. Despite showing potential last season, Imbongo has been, by and large, a disappointment, and could be on borrowed time. Meanwhile, Akpan has only started 10 games over the course of his five-year career. Clearly, the way the 2014 season has unfolded up front has been a far cry from the situation seen last season, which saw Juan Agudelo fill the number 9 spot with nary a problem.
Another big body. Much like Akpan, Taylor is a big-bodied (6 feet, 170 pounds) striker with a touch of pace and a frame similar to that of the aforementioned Agudelo. And, no, that is not a wild coincidence. While Davies and Mullins have both shown themselves as capable at times, neither one of them is a classic, back-to-goal target man. As we saw last year, the club’s 4-1-4-1 formation requires a forward from that mold. A forward that pulls defenders toward him, thus opening the field for creative midfielders like Diego Fagundez, Lee Nguyen and Kelyn Rowe. The Revolution tried to make due with Mullins and, before that, Teal Bunbury as their target men earlier this season. But with the offense stuck in the doldrums for the past two months, it’s obvious that the front office is trying to find a forward with similar qualities to those of Agudelo.
Depth at the forefront of Monday’s move. While Taylor has European experience on his resume, let’s not kid ourselves: He was not brought to New England to single-handedly save the Revolution offense. In fact, general manager Michael Burns said in a club statement that Taylor will “add to the competition already on our team.” In other words, Taylor probably isn’t going to be asked to go on a scoring tear down the stretch. But, if all goes according to plan, the 25-year-old forward could bolster the offense off the bench and, perhaps, get a start or two should Davies need a breather.
Offense still needs immediate help. Taylor’s presence should sharpen the competition up top, which in and of itself isn’t a bad thing. However, the signing alone shouldn’t be the last one the club makes before the roster freeze deadline, which is just less than a month away. The Revolution currently rank second in the league in shots per game (14), but are 14th in goals scored this season. Translation: the Revolution don’t have a pure finisher. In order to get over their current struggles -- a stretch in which they’ve gone winless in 10 of their last 11 -- the Revolution are still going to need help up top. Otherwise, the only order of business for the players and coaches come November might be booking tee times at the local course.
After months of trying to fit the forward into an outside midfielder’s role, the Revolution coaching staff tossed the blueprints and put the poacher back up top earlier this summer. And it's clear that Davies, who scored in each of the last two games, hasn't missed a beat.
“It’s natural to me,” Davies said. “I’ve played forward since I was 6 years old. Whether you’re playing with two or one (forwards), it’s kind of still the same responsibility. You’ve got to score, and you’ve got to hold up the ball.”
Davies didn’t get many opportunities to do either while stationed out on the wing earlier this season. Although injuries kept him on the sidelines for much of the spring, he still found a way to carve out a role, albeit briefly, as a so-called “super sub.”
In a March 29 game at San Jose that was tied at one apiece late, Davies came off the bench and immediately sparked the attack. The Revolution went on to win 2-1 in stoppage time, thanks in part to a heady play in which Davies played a quick pass on a restart moments before Lee Nguyen scored the decider.
But even though the 28-year-old Manchester, N.H., native appeared to be getting comfortable in his new role, Davies still pined for the opportunity to play up top and create havoc for opposing defenses.
“On the wing it’s a little bit different,” Davies said. “Once I was able to get the chance to play in the center, things have been much easier for me. It’s been an easier transition with the guys.”
There’s no doubt that the transition back to striker has paid dividends for Davies. In his second start up top, Davies collected his first assist of the season in a 3-0 win over Colorado. A week later, he followed it up with his first goal of the season against New York. And on Saturday, he added another goal to the ledger in a 1-1 draw against Portland.
“I think Charlie has done an excellent job,” Revolution coach Jay Heaps said. “Tonight again, he was spritely, he was moving well off the ball, holding it up and scored a great goal.”
While Heaps has been impressed with the way his energetic forward has played over the last three games, Davies was quick to credit his teammates for helping him find success that he envisioned when he first joined the club last August.
“I think most of the team knows the way I like to play, and where I’m most dangerous, and playing that center position -- it’s easier for me to be in those positions,” Davies said. “I think it’s easier for the guys to get me those balls in the positions that I’m most dangerous in.”
But for the second straight game, the Revolution threw that early lead into the wastebasket when Timbers defender Liam Ridgewell blazed a trail from deep in the midfield into the box, where he scored a 65th-minute equalizer to send the Revolution to a disappointing 1-1 draw on Saturday.
"It's just lackluster," said defender Darrius Barnes of the sequence in which Ridgewell equalized. "Just, as all-around team effort, it was weak. Their center back shouldn't be able to pick the ball up at midfield, and just slash through the defense like that and get a clear shot like that. It was a very amateur goal [to give up], and it's something that shouldn't happen at this level."
The fact that it did happen was a tell-tale sign of a squad that, in the words of coach Jay Heaps, "stopped playing" in the second half. And the statistics support the coach's point.
In the first half, the Revolution were passing at a 70.9 percent clip, which wasn't stellar by any stretch of the imagination. Even so, it was good enough to allow the offense to press the issue and score in the 27th minute, as Charlie Davies secured his second goal in as many games.
But the second half was an entirely different story. The passing accuracy dipped to 64.3 percent, far below the Revolution's 76.8 percent average on the season. Not surprisingly, the Timbers took advantage by putting together a collection of chances in the early stages of the second half.
"To be honest with you, it wasn't anything as much as they did as it was what we did," said Heaps. "We gave them the ball back, and we had turnovers. We were [at] 67 percent accuracy where it felt like 37 percent. We were giving the ball away unforced, and that's not good enough."
All the mistakes came to a head in the 65th minute in a scene that spoke to the idea that the Revolution let off the gas in the second half.
After Kelyn Rowe gave the ball away in the midfield to Ridgewell, the English defender swerved past Rowe, then left Andrew Farrell in the dust before depositing it past a helpless Bobby Shuttleworth.
"It was a weird play," Rowe said. "It was a ball out of the box, he won it, and two guys, myself included, kind of dove in and he beat both. He's one of those guys you don't expect to rip one far post. And unfortunately we let him, and he did."
And just like that, the lead that the Revolution had worked so hard for in the first half was gone in an instant. A brief but costly lapse.
Of course, there was still plenty of time to retake the lead. With 25 minutes remaining and the home crowd behind New England, the prospect of punching another through wasn't unfathomable.
But the Revolution continued to sabotage their chances. While there were glimmers in the 77th and 78th minutes, when Patrick Mullins and Daigo Kobayashi unearthed opportunities to score the go-ahead goal, the fact is the hosts couldn't sustain the pressure.
"It just wasn't good enough," Barnes said. "We didn't connect the passes, and we weren't playing together and moving off the ball and just weren't enough options out there."
Three points hasn't come easy to the Revolution over the course of the past two months. Saturday's draw marked the 10th time in their past 11 that they've fallen short of grabbing maximum points. Their second-half form may have betrayed them, but they also had ample opportunity to put the game away even earlier.
"We let them back in," Heaps said, "and that's disappointing because when you have a team that you think you can put away, you have to start putting them away, and we had a chance in the first half."
Davies, who scored his first Revolution goal two weeks ago in New York, secured the opening strike on Saturday in the 27th minute. The goal stood until the 65th minute, when Ridgewell, who joined the Timbers in June, scored his first MLS goal.
With the draw, the Revolution are now winless in 10 of their past 11 (1-9-1), while the Timbers have gotten results in four of their past five (3-1-1).
What it means: The hard week of training that the Revolution endured during the bye paid early dividends, but once again, it was team defense that undermined them in the second half. If there was any doubt about the state of the Revolution's defense, just look at the film from Ridgewell's goal. Two players -- Kelyn Rowe and Andrew Farrell -- both had the opportunity to stop Ridgewell in his tracks. But neither was able to thwart the English defender, who raced from the midfield into the box virtually unimpeded before slipping the ball past Bobby Shuttleworth. Say what you will about the Revolution's inability to strengthen the early lead -- which they certainly had opportunities to do. The fact is that the team's collective defense needs to be much sharper down the homestretch if the Revs plan on making another late playoff push this season.
Scoreboard watch: The 1-1 draw keeps the Revolution in sixth place, one point below the red playoff line.
Stat of the match: After starting off the season 7-0-0 when scoring the first goal of the game, the Revolution are now winless in their past two (0-1-1) when beating their opponents to the board.
One change to lineup, and familiar face makes the game-day roster: Coach Jay Heaps made only one change to the lineup he fielded two weeks ago in New York, slotting in Diego Fagundez on the left for Steve Neumann. Perhaps the most notable change to the game-day roster: the inclusion of fan favorite Shalrie Joseph, who was eligible for selection for the first time since the Revolution re-signed him earlier this season. Joseph spent nearly 10 years in New England (2003-2012) before he was traded to Chivas USA midway through the 2010 season.
Early exit for Alston: Kevin Alston's night came to a premature end moments after he injured his right hamstring, which appeared to happen while he was making a recovery run in the 29th minute. Darrius Barnes took over for Alston minutes later at left back. The early exit marked the third time this season that an injury forced Alston out of the game in the first half.
Renewing old acquaintances: Saturday's match marked a mini-reunion for a handful of former Akron Zips. Among those in attendance: Timbers coach Caleb Porter (who led the school to a national championship in 2010), striker Darlington Nagbe and midfielder Steve Zakuani. The Revolution contingent included midfielders Teal Bunbury and Scott Caldwell.
Another home match on tap: The Revolution will play their second straight game at home on Saturday, Aug. 23, when they host Chivas USA at 7:30 p.m. The intraconference clash will mark the only time the teams will meet during the regular season. Last year, they split the difference in a 1-1 draw at StubHub Center on June 29, 2013.
The Revolution, who received the latest bye week in the league this season (save for the Timbers who, incidentally, do not have a bye this season), hope that the brief respite will help them get their season back on track after losing nine of their last 10 matches.
Similarly, Portland has encountered its own share of troubles this season, but unlike the Revolution, the Timbers appear to have found their groove in recent weeks. The Timbers have won three of their last four, including a 2-0 win over Chivas USA last week.
With one team looking to put the brakes on their losing ways, and another hoping to ride the momentum of recent results, here’s what to watch for on Saturday:
No more excuses. Nobody said the month of July would be easy for the Revolution after the 2014 schedule was released. Not only did it feature seven total matches, three of which were of the mid-week variety, but it also featured a trio of road tilts against Western Conference competition. In that sense, the Revolution can be forgiven somewhat for losing six of seven during that stretch. But with five of their next six at home, and only one mid-week match left on the schedule, the struggling club can no longer point to the whim of scheduling gods as a factor in their failures.
“I think the guys are recharged and I think the guys came in with a lot of energy in training today,” Revolution midfielder Steve Neumann told the media on Thursday. “I think that we just have to carry that through this week.”
Consistency key as home stretch approaches. It’s probably fair to say that the Revolution’s current campaign hasn’t been one for the faint of heart. After going winless in their first four, they proceeded to stay out of the loss column during their next seven. But just when it seemed like they were ready to challenge for the Supporters’ Shield, they then dropped nine of their next 10. To borrow a phrase, the Revolution have been consistently inconsistent this year. However, that approach simply won’t work with the postseason picture coming into focus. With the Revolution currently on the outside looking in, they must find a way to start bundling points, lest they miss out on the playoffs for the fourth time in five years.
Beware of Valeri. If there’s one player the Revolution cannot afford to ignore, it’s Portland’s midfield maestro, Diego Valeri. Through 23 games, Valeri has scored seven goals and added eight assists. But as impressive as those numbers are with more than a third of the season remaining, it’s what the stats don’t pick up that makes the playmaker so impressive. His uncanny vision and pinpoint precision on the passing and shooting fronts have caused fits for opposing defenses since he arrived in Portland last year, making him nearly impossible to contain in one-on-one situations.
“You can’t just say ‘stop him this way’ because he’s a good enough player to change how he’s going to play,” Heaps said. “So it’s a team concept, it’s a team shape defensively, and having an idea of where he is at all times.”
Lineup changes coming? While the Revolution were in the midst of their bye week, Heaps spoke about the heightened level of competition he saw during training. And for those pushing for minutes, that can only be a good thing. Heaps has long been an advocate of granting spots on the gameday 18 to those who put in the work on the practice pitch. With that in mind, don’t be surprised if there changes to both the lineup and the bench come Saturday.
Will Andre Akpan make his Revolution debut? Speaking of changes, the Revolution made a mildly surprising move to get new blood up top by acquiring former Harvard forward Andre Akpan on Tuesday. Granted, a striker who’s only scored four times in 41 career games isn’t exactly the definition of a game-changer. But even though Heaps may be one of the most stat-conscious coaches in MLS, he believes that the 26-year-old forward will be able to contribute in some shape or form down the stretch.
“We really were able to get a big, strong physical player that has a little bit of pace as well,” Heaps said. “(He’s) someone who’s going to come in and fight every day, and that’s what we need.”
But after the talented 19-year-old returned from Uruguay U-20 camp last week, Fagundez said that he hasn't exactly eliminated the idea of someday playing for his native country's senior team.
"I always said my doors are open," Fagundez said. "I'm not going to close one door just to leave another open -- I want to leave both doors open. I don't have a team (in mind) right now in which I'm saying 'I'm playing for this country.'"
During the weeklong camp, which featured a pair of friendlies against Peru, Fagundez came on as a substitute in a 1-0 shorthanded loss on Aug. 4. He went the full 90 in the team's second match on Aug. 6, which ended in a 1-1 draw.
Even though his national team future remains cloudy at the moment, Fagundez reflected on his brief time with the U-20s. He said many of his teammates were playing in the lower rungs of Uruguayan soccer, and that their plight reminded him of the work required in order to play for an entire country.
"It was a great experience, to tell you the truth," Fagundez said. "For me to go out there and get the chance to play with new players and players that were my own age, it was different."
Bye week was business as usual
Last week, the consensus among many players was that the club's long-awaited bye came at a fortuitous time after the Revolution had recently endured a grueling 39-day stretch that put them on the pitch for a total of 10 matches.
But according to midfielder Scott Caldwell, just because the club was given a scheduling break didn't mean that the team was afforded an opportunity to take it easy and relax out on the training pitch.
"We were able to have a hard week of training last week (in order) to get back and try to refocus," said Caldwell. "We just refocused and got ready, and then had the weekend off to kind of relax, and then get back ready for this week."
It should come as no surprise that coach Jay Heaps wanted to work his players hard last week. The Revolution sputtered into the bye having lost 9 of their last 10, with a spot below the red playoff line reserved for them.
Even so, Heaps was careful enough to allow the players to take a rest during the weekend before getting back to the task at hand with Portland in town on Saturday.
"It was good to get a little bit of a break," Heaps said. "But at the same time, it was only two days off with the weekend off. Guys were back in on Monday, and we're preparing for a huge game on Saturday."
The old college ball coach
Saturday's match will be a mini-reunion of sorts as Timbers coach Caleb Porter will be gameplanning against a couple of his former players.
Porter coached at the University of Akron from 2006-12, and oversaw the development of Caldwell and fellow teammate Teal Bunbury. In fact, Caldwell played a key role during the Zips' NCAA championship season back in 2010.
"It'll be cool," Caldwell said about the opportunity to play against his college coach. "He coached me and helped me become a better player to make the next step here to the Revolution."
According to a tweet from ESPN analyst Taylor Twellman on Friday, the Revolution are one of at least two clubs pursuing former Schalke central midfielder and current U.S. Men’s National Team regular Jermaine Jones, who has expressed his desire to play in MLS this season.
"We've received approval from our ownership to pursue Jermaine,” Revolution general manager Michael Burns told FOXSoccer.com on Friday. “We're interested in Jermaine and we've been in contact with MLS."
There’s no doubt that the sixth-place Revolution, in particular, could use the savvy and physical 32-year-old midfielder. Five weeks ago, they lost starting defensive midfielder Andy Dorman to an MCL injury that will sideline him through September. Since then, coach Jay Heaps has used Scott Caldwell and A.J. Soares in Dorman’s spot, with varying degrees of success.
Making matters even more urgent: The Revolution have lost nine of their last 10, and have dropped from the top of the conference to below the red playoff line.
Jones is a technically-gifted, box-to-box midfielder who started all four of the United State's matches during the 2014 World Cup. He scored a brilliant goal against Portugal during Group G play, and was one of the team’s most consistent attacking players during their tournament run.
Since earning his first national team cap in 2010, Jones has made 46 appearances with the U.S. team, scoring a total of three goals during that span. He originally appeared for his native Germany at various youth team levels before making the FIFA-permitted switch to the United States in 2009.
At the club level, Jones has spent the bulk of his 15-year professional career in Germany’s Bundesliga. He kicked off his career at Eintracht Frankfurt in 1999 before making stops at Bayer Leverkusen (2004) and Schalke (2007).
He briefly went on loan to EPL side Blackburn Rovers in 2011, and most recently played with Besiktas during the past season.
But acquiring a player of Jones’ pedigree won’t be easy -- nor will it come cheap. The Revolution will be bidding against conference rival Chicago Fire -- and possibly an additional unidentified club -- for the former Schalke midfielder’s services. Those bids will be submitted directly to the league, which will then meet with Jones and his representatives. From there, the league will presumably point Jones to the highest bidder.
Jones is reportedly seeking an annual salary in the neighborhood of $3 million, which would require the winning bidder to use a designated-player spot to defray the cost of the salary-cap hit. The Revolution currently have three such spots to work with. Should the Revolution acquire Jones, he would become the highest-paid player in club history -- and by a wide margin.
Jones left Besiktas following the 2013-14 season, with MLS as a possible destination. The MLS roster freeze is Sept. 15. With Dorman on the disabled list and striker Jerry Bengtson out on loan, the Revolution currently have 26 players on their active roster, four below the 30-man maximum.
“I feel Lee Nguyen should have been there,” Bunbury said. “He’s had a great season so far, and even a few other guys. But definitely, I feel like Lee Nguyen should’ve been there.”
The case for the club’s leading scorer is certainly a strong one. Through 20 games, he’s scored eight goals -- including three game-winners -- and added two assists. And he’s done it while being specifically targeted for punishment by the opposition, who’ve fouled Nguyen a team-high 46 times this year.
Bunbury isn’t the only teammate who believes Nguyen may have been overlooked by Portland coach Caleb Porter, who put the final touches on the star-studded squad that will face Bayern Munich this week.
“I think Lee’s been our MVP,” said midfielder Kelyn Rowe. “I think he’s done really well to show himself (well) over the last two years as well, and nothing’s come of it.”
Davies back to his old self? When Charlie Davies scored in the 20th minute of Saturday’s 2-1 loss to the Red Bulls, it marked the first time in nearly three years that the Manchester, N.H., native had scored in league play.
Davies’ last strike came in a Sept. 10, 2011 game against Chivas USA -- a game in which he recorded a hat trick for his former club, D.C. United.
Since then, he’s battled various injuries over the course of the last three years. But now that he’s overcome those ailments, Davies believes he’s ready to finally showcase the form that saw him score 11 goals in 26 games for D.C. in 2011.
“I’ve finally been able to stay healthy, stay fit and work hard,” Davies said. “I’ve been training well, and it’s kind of translated into my games.”
And it couldn’t have come at a better time for the Revolution. With the club unlikely to make a move before the close of Wednesday’s transfer window, the team is going to need all they can get from Davies, who recently collected his first assist as well, in a 3-0 win over the Rapids on July 30.
“It’s been a long process,” Davies said. “It’s been so up-and-down having to deal with injuries for basically this whole season. It’s finally starting to come together for me.”
Transfer window closing on Revs. Last month, it appeared the Revolution were primed to make a move during the North American transfer window. But with the 28-day window -- which opened on July 8 -- about to come to a close on Wednesday, it’s looking less and less likely that the club will acquire a player via transfer prior to the deadline.
Currently, the club is carrying four open roster spots, and can use at least two for international signings. While coach Jay Heaps admitted on Wednesday that there’s room for improvement, he didn’t provide many details on potential targets before the close of the window -- or after it, in the event they elect to bring in a player on loan.
“It’s a lot of hard work,” Heaps said. “A lot of hard work goes into signing players, and we as a staff work tirelessly at that. I think we’re close and we’ve pushed a lot up to get us better. We’re always looking to get better, and we’ve had a lot of dialogue.”
Nearly a full year after joining the Revolution via transfer, the Manchester, New Hampshire, native headed a Teal Bunbury cross into the back of the net to give his hometown club the early jump in the 20th minute. It was a storybook scenario befitting one of the club’s most personable players.
But in the second half, the Revolution were far from perfect across the pitch. As a result, Davies’ opening goal went to waste after Dax McCarty set the stage for an improbable 2-1 comeback win for the shorthanded Red Bulls.
“It’s a killer,” Davies told the media in reference to McCarty’s 47th-minute equalizer. “I think everyone knows when you’re up at halftime, the first 10 minutes are the most important for the rest of the match.”
Knowing the situation is one thing; executing accordingly is another thing entirely. And for evidence of that difference, all you need to do is cue the game film for the final 45 minutes of Saturday’s match.
Despite going a man down due to Matt Miazga’s red card right before the break, the 10-man Red Bulls came out for the second half inspired and energized. Whether it was coach Mike Petke’s pointed words about his team’s first-half performance or simply the team taking charge of a situation in which there was nothing to lose, the Red Bulls wasted no time putting their stamp in the second stanza.
After collecting a failed clearance inside the Revolution end, Eric Alexander -- who entered the game at the start of the second half for an injured Tim Cahill -- put a ball right in front of McCarty. With Bobby Shuttleworth off his line, McCarty chipped the ball from 20 yards before it gently fell into the back of the net.
“Dax scored one of those brilliant goals that kind of takes the wind out of your sails,” Davies said. “I don’t think we ever really recovered from that.”
Further proof that the Revolution simply were not up to the task in the second half appeared in the 63rd minute. Lloyd Sam played a ball ahead to Bradley Wright-Phillips, who then went into the area, juked A.J. Soares and calmly tucked his shot inside the far post to score the game-winner.
The second half was a stark departure from the kind of soccer the Revolution displayed in the first 45 minutes. Davies, who earned his second straight start on Saturday, was a force up front. He linked well with his wingers and sharpened the attack with his positioning and pace.
His goal was well-deserved, to be sure. But even though he spoke about what the goal meant for him going forward, it was clear to see that he wished it would have held up in the second half.
“(I‘m) over the moon to get my first goal in a while,” Davies said. “Now you can play a little bit more freely when you don’t have that pressure getting that first goal. It’s a header too; I’m not the best at headers. I was able to keep it on goal and it was a great start to the game. I thought we came out with the right intentions; we kept the ball well. I think, up a man, we relaxed a little bit.”
The Manchester, N.H., native scored in the 20th minute, and the Revolution marched into halftime with the lead and the man-advantage after Matt Miazga was red-carded in the 45th minute.
But Dax McCarty canceled out Davies’ strike on a 47th-minute chip to level the match, while Bradley Wright-Phillips scored his league-leading 18th goal of the season in the 63rd minute to send the shorthanded Red Bulls to an improbable win.
The setback sends the Revolution into their first bye week of the season with an 8-12-2 record (26 points), while the Red Bulls improved their mark to 6-6-10 (28 points).
Scoreboard watch: The road loss dropped the Revolution to fifth place in the East, as the Red Bulls leapfrogged from sixth to fourth place.
What it means: It certainly wasn’t the way the Revolution wanted to go into the bye week. After a bright start that saw Davies put his team on top early, the guests appeared to be in good position to secure their second straight win, especially after Miazga was sent off. But the Red Bulls were far from finished, despite the odds. Not only did they equalize right after the break, but the shorthanded hosts managed to score the game-winner just after the break to send the Revolution to a disappointing loss. There will be plenty coach Jay Heaps won’t like when he watches the tape on this one, especially when he looks at the final 45 minutes and sees a shorthanded side -- albeit a talented one -- stretching his defense time and time again.
Stat of the match: The loss marked the first time this season the Revolution found themselves in the loss column after scoring the first goal of the game. Prior to Saturday, the Revolution were 7-0-0 when scoring first.
Neumann in, Fagundez out: Revolution coach Jay Heaps made only one change to his lineup on Saturday by putting rookie Steve Neumman out on the left wing in place of Diego Fagundez, who started the game on the bench. Neumann earned his first pro start two weeks ago in a 2-0 loss to Dallas on July 19. As for Fagundez, the 19-year-old winger will head down to South America next week for a pair of friendlies with the Uruguay U-20 squad.
Long awaited rest on tap: The Revolution head into their first bye week (outside of the World Cup break) of the season before returning to action at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 16 against the Portland Timbers at Gillette Stadium. The Week 22 bye is the latest among all MLS clubs save for Portland, who will not get a bye week this season.
The Revolution got back in the win column for the first time in over two months after Lee Nguyen led the way with two goals and an assist against Colorado. Kelyn Rowe added another to cap the scoring during Wednesday’s clash at Gillette Stadium.
While the Revolution were in the process of putting their losing streak behind them, the Red Bulls were matching wits with Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium on Wednesday. Joao Plata put the hosts on the board in the first half, but Thierry Henry’s second half blast secured an important road point for the Red Bulls.
Here’s what to watch for in a match that will feature two sides looking to rediscover the form that put them near the top of the conference prior to Memorial Day:
What a difference a win makes. With a short turnaround ahead of Saturday’s match, the Revolution won’t get the opportunity to savor Wednesday’s long-awaited win. That’s just as well, as they’ll look to use the momentum to enter Red Bull Arena more confident than they’ve been since Memorial Day weekend. In fact, defender Andrew Farrell alluded to the idea that what we saw on Wednesday could be a preview of coming attractions for the offense.
“This was a great game for us to get the win,” Farrell told the media on Thursday. “And I think some of our offensive guys are going to start clicking now.”
Can Nguyen continue to spur the offense? Following his man of the match performance on Wednesday, all eyes will be on Nguyen on Saturday. And with good reason. When Nguyen is at the top of his game, success is usually a given for the Revolution. Case in point: In games in which the shifty midfielder scribbles his name onto the score sheet, the Revolution are 5-1-1. No doubt they’ll need Nguyen to be at his best against a potent Red Bull attack.
Ready for Red Bull attack. New York enters Saturday’s match tied atop the goal-scoring charts with 39 goals in 21 games this year, and it’s no surprise how they got there. With leading scorer Bradley Wright-Phillips enjoying a breakout year, and Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill both playing at the top of their games, the Red Bulls are getting plenty of bang for their buck this season. Even so, defender Kevin Alston says the Revolution will be up for the challenge.
“It’s something you get excited for,” Alston told the media on Thursday. “When you’re a defender, you want to defend and you like the challenge, and what better challenge than New York? They got a good team and they’ve got some great weapons. We’re looking forward to the opportunity to try and stop them.”
Lineup changes on tap? Revolution coach Jay Heaps didn’t hesitate to make lineup changes during the course of his team’s losing streak. A combination of injuries, unimpressive results, and a trying July schedule (nine games in the last 35 days) all opened the door for a number of different combinations since late-May. Now, with a win in their back pocket and a well-deserved bye week approaching, it’ll be interesting to see what, if any, tweaks Heaps makes to the XI on Saturday.
Staying grounded. While there was plenty of excitement and joy to go around in the wake of Wednesday’s win, Revolution striker Charlie Davies was quick to mention that the battle is far from over. With August already upon us and the homestretch coming into view, points will become more important with each passing week. As such, Davies said the key to continuing their success is staying humble and level-headed.
“I think it’s very important that we don’t get too high after this win,” Davies said after Wednesday’s game. “You still have to keep an even keel and still know we have to get better. It’s important this Red Bull away match we continue to play the way we did tonight.”
But on Wednesday, they shifted from that approach by channeling the same energy from Saturday's game against the Columbus Crew to jump out to an early lead they built upon late in Wednesday's 3-0 win over the Colorado Rapids.
"I thought we came out again the right way," Heap said. "I thought it carried over well from Saturday, and we got good pressure and good commitment from everyone on the field."
That pressure was evident from the outset. With the Rapids missing leading scorer Deshorn Brown and reliable defender Shane O'Neill, the Revolution wasted no time going for the jugular against their weakened opponent.
In the 10th minute, a throw-in from Kevin Alston found a loosely marked Charlie Davies along the left. The Revolution striker immediately sent it central for Lee Nguyen, who took a few touches, then smacked a shot that Drew Moor inadvertently ushered into his own goal.
And just like that, the Revolution had pulled ahead of their opponent for the first time in more than two months, even if it required a little bit of help from the Rapids.
"It feels great just to have the lead," Nguyen said. "[We] didn't know what it felt like to have the lead for a little while, and it was good."
The goal may have been a positive development for the attack, which had scored only four goals over the course of the team's eight-game losing streak. While there were certainly more smiles seen from the likes of Davies, Nguyen and Kelyn Rowe, the early lead had a ripple effect on the rest of the team.
Instead of having to fight back from a deficit, which often put undue pressure on the team to respond, the Revolution were finally able to settle in and start calling their own shots. The defense linked with the midfielders with greater frequency, spurring more chances in the final third.
While the buzz around Gillette Stadium following Wednesday's match might have centered on the Revolution's three-goal outburst, Heaps pointed out how the improved defensive approach allowed his team to clean up the mistakes that had become commonplace in recent weeks.
"Everyone was locked in," Heaps said. "I think we've had a couple of those games with one mistake here, one mistake there [and] that really causes a problem. But I think tonight everyone was spot-on in how they approached the game defensively."
That brand of defense not only kept Colorado off the board going into the half -- the first time the Revolution had kept their opponent scoreless at the half since May 24 -- but it allowed the entire team to start squeezing the Rapids even more in the second half.
"The first 10 minutes [in the second half] are the most important," Davies said. "We didn't want to give them confidence to think, 'OK, we had a bad first half, but now, we can get back in the game.' We had to keep the ball, had to keep pushing it down their throats, and we were able to do that."
Feeding off the energy that allowed them to get on the board early, the Revolution continued to press the issue in the latter stages. Substitute Steve Neumann exploited a gap in the Rapids' defense and nearly broke through before a sharp elbow from Thomas Piermayr cut him down. From the spot of the foul, Nguyen curled a majestic free kick that bulged the netting in the upper 90 to widen the gap in the 75th minute.
"When you hit the ball as sweet as that, you really don't feel it coming off your foot," Nguyen said. "And that's when you know you hit it pretty well. It was a great feeling to go up 2-0 and be able to relax after that knowing we had a little bit of a cushion."
Three minutes later, it was Nguyen who played the role of setup man when he put a ball forward for Rowe, who pushed it through to put to rest any doubts about the team's ability to carry the positives from Saturday's loss and translate them into success four days later.
"I felt that, to be honest with you, the letdown from Saturday was big," Heaps said. "I'm proud of our guys for the quick turnaround. We were really prepared for tonight's match, and the guys were ready for that."
A 10th-minute Drew Moor own goal -- which came off a deflection of a Lee Nguyen shot -- gave the Revolution their first lead since Patrick Mullins opened the scoring in a 2-1 win May 24. No help was needed in the second half as Nguyen scored in the 75th minute, while Kelyn Rowe collected his first of the season in the 78th minute.
The Rapids finished the match with 10 men after Thomas Piermayr picked up his second caution and was sent off in the 74th minute.
The win snapped the Revolution's eight-game losing streak, one shy of tying the club record. The loss for Colorado kept the Rapids from collecting maximum points for the fourth time in five tries.
What it means: So that's what a Revolution win looks like. And an emphatic one, at that. The home supporters could be forgiven if Wednesday's victory felt unfamiliar. After more than two months passed without a win in league action, some wondered aloud what it would take for the Revolution to get back in the win column. The apparent answer: an own goal. We'll never know if Nguyen's shot would have found the back of the net even without Moor's intervention, but it was all the same for the Revolution. Not only did the goal put them up early, it also allowed them to turn the tables and tighten the grip defensively as the game progressed. With Colorado pressing, the Revolution exploited the gaps left behind, as evidenced by the lead-up to Nguyen's free-kick blast and Rowe's subsequent strike. The victory will leave the Revolution feeling much better about their current condition, to be sure. But it'll be interesting to see if they can turn it into something more as the season progresses into August.
Stat of the match: With the win, the Revolution improved their record to 7-0-0 when scoring the first goal of the game. They remain the only club in MLS with a perfect record in that department.
Scoreboard watch: The win puts the Revolution into a three-way tie with Columbus and Toronto for third place, pending the outcome of Wednesday's late game between New York and Salt Lake.
Heaps makes two changes to XI: With Chris Tierney out due to an MCL sprain, Kevin Alston was given the start at left back. Up top, Boston College alum Charlie Davies earned his second start of the season in place of Patrick Mullins.
Rapids without key players: Colorado coach Pablo Mastroeni brought his club to Foxborough without the services of goal scorer Deshorn Brown (groin), as well as key starters Jose Mari (ankle) and Shane O'Neill (knee). Taking their spots, respectively, were Edson Buddle, Kamani Hill and Thomas Piermayr.
Old mates meet again: Wednesday's matchup marked the first time Jay Heaps coached against first-year Rapids coach Pablo Mastroeni in regular-season action. The two were teammates when both played for the now-defunct Miami Fusion from 1999 to 2001, and Heaps told the media on Monday that he and Mastroeni were roommates at one point during their time in Miami.
Different duds: For the first time this season, the Revolution sported their white uniforms at home during a league match. The switch was due to the fact that the Rapids, who donned their royal blue uniform, do not have a white or light-colored jersey in this year's set. As a result, the Revolution were forced to go with white duds rather their usual navy blue home uniforms.
Taking it on the road: The Revolution will head to the tri-state area on Saturday to face the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena. Kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m. On June 8, the Revolution dropped a 2-0 decision to the Red Bulls at Gillette Stadium.
The Revolution, who have dropped eight straight going into the midweek match, are one loss away from matching the team record of nine, which was set twice in 1997 and 1998. The current streak already is the club's longest during the post-shootout era (2000-present).
Their latest setback came at the hands of the Columbus Crew on Saturday after Ethan Finlay scored the game-winner for the guests in the 84th minute of a 2-1 victory. Adding to the Revolution’s misery: starting left back and set piece specialist Chris Tierney was forced to exit Saturday’s match early with an MCL sprain, which will keep him out of Wednesday’s game.
While the local XI have been streaking in the wrong direction, the Rapids have lost only once in their last five games (2-1-2). Their most recent success came last Friday in a 3-0 thrashing of Chivas USA. Nick LaBrocca’s 16th-minute goal proved to be all the Rapids needed to secure the victory.
With the home stretch approaching and points for both sides becoming more important with each passing week, here’s what to watch for on Wednesday.
No time to dwell on defeats. Ask any athlete and they’ll tell you the same thing: The best elixir to soothe the sting from losing is the opportunity to get back on the field ASAP. Fortunately for the Revolution, they won’t have to wait an entire week for another chance to reverse their recent woes. And with Wednesday's match taking place on their home turf, the Revolution really couldn’t ask for a much better scenario to put the losing streak out to pasture.
“I think it’s a good thing we have a game coming up quick,” Revolution center back A.J. Soares told reporters on Monday. “It just kind of gives us a chance to go out there without thinking too hard, and try to get back to just playing flowing football like we were doing when we were winning all those games.”
Can the Revolution take advantage of the injury-ravaged Rapids? Last week’s 3-0 victory was a fitting way to celebrate a night in which longtime player and current coach Pablo Mastroeni was honored at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. But any positive vibes the Rapids hoped to carry into Gillette Stadium on Wednesday diminished somewhat with the news that Deshorn Brown (groin), Jose Mari (ankle) and Shane O’Neill (knee) are unlikely to play due to injury. Coupled with the travel for a midweek match two time zones to the east, the Rapids look far from formidable heading into the match.
Rapids tough opponent to read. Although the Rapids won’t be able to field their strongest lineup, it would be a stretch to say that the task at hand will be easier for the Revolution. Quite the opposite. With at least three changes expected in the Rapids’ lineup, Revolution coach Jay Heaps surely is going to have to pay close attention to the film and scouting reports to prepare for a variety of different looks and/or approaches from Mastroeni’s side.
“You don’t know what you’re getting because they change their lineup so much,” Heaps told reporters on Monday. “Pablo is doing an excellent job there and he’s rotating the team, and they’ve got a depth of players to choose from.”
How will Tierney’s absence affect an already slumping offense? Chris Tierney has long been a steady member of the Revolution back four, and Heaps will be the first to admit it. But it was interesting to hear the Revolution coach emphasize Tierney’s importance to the attack. The left back’s crosses from the run of play and service on set pieces have been crucial to the team’s success in the final third. Without Tierney’s presence, Heaps will need others -- including Kelyn Rowe and Lee Nguyen -- to keep the attack from falling off the shelf completely.
Confidence hasn’t waned for Revolution. Normally, an eight-game losing streak would shake any team’s collective confidence. When the goals are scarce and the mistakes are commonplace, it’s easy for self-doubt to creep into the players’ and coaches’ minds. But according to Soares, the spirit inside the locker room is far from broken.
“I think you could see against Columbus, we played good soccer, we easily could have won the game, and unfortunately we didn’t,” Soares said. “But coming out of that game, we felt like we did enough to win, so it’s not a confidence issue.”
Parkhurst, who grew up Cranston, Rhode Island, supporting the Revolution, went on to play for his hometown club from 2005 to 2008. But on Saturday, the script was entirely different for the 29-year-old defender, who returned to Gillette Stadium for the first time in six-plus years -- but as a member of the Columbus Crew.
"It's good to be back," Parkhurst said after Saturday's 2-1 win for the Crew. "I've got a lot of family and friends here and a lot of good memories here for four good years, so it was nice to get back and see some people."
It was a warm homecoming to be certain for Parkhurst. According to the Crew captain, between 30 and 40 friends and family were on hand to watch him play his first game in Foxborough in nearly seven years.
But there was no time for reminiscing for Parkhurst on Saturday. In a match that both teams needed points from, the Crew captain was called upon to strengthen the backline, which was called upon to step up after the Revolution collected nine first-half corner kicks.
Not only did the Crew defense hold firm during the first half, but Parkhurst nearly factored into the scoring in the 65th minute. A corner kick from Federico Higuain -- who scored the Crew's first goal in the 44th minute -- found Parkhurst, who quickly played it to Chad Barson. Using a nifty back heel, Barson nearly slid it through before Lee Nguyen ushered it away from the line to keep it a 1-1 match.
"I just reacted and I think I got a knee on it," Parkhurst said. "Chad did well on it to get a back heel because he was facing away from the goal, but yeah, it's unlucky I guess."
Unlucky or not, the Crew eventually claimed the game winner in the 84th minute when Justin Meram found Ethan Finlay on a well-timed run into the box, where he slotted it through. The win was the Crew's second straight after stumbling through a seven-game winless streak during the early part of the summer.
"It was a big game," Parkhurst said. "[It was] two teams that have been struggling as of late, so it was an important three points for us."
Even though Parkhurst wasn't the only one in the Crew locker room savoring the road win, the former Revolution supporter and player couldn't help but harbor some empathy for the team across the hall.
"I feel for New England and what they're going through right now because we just went through it as well; it's tough," Parkhurst said. "But for us it's great, we've got to build some momentum and we're starting to do that."