MLS New England Revolution Revs II

Sweeney: Five takeaways from the weekend in Revolution soccer

Let’s fire up the takeaway machine, because we have a lot to discuss following the weekend that was in soccer:

It wasn’t pretty, but we’ll take Sunday night’s W and run with it

We mentioned it in Sunday night’s Match Report, we’ll mention it here: Sunday’s first half really wasn’t that great an advert for Revolution soccer now, was it?

From pulling a reversal and getting out to the early lead, much unlike the Revolution in the last few matches, to seemingly forgetting how to do their jobs from minutes 20-45, it wasn’t attractive. The midfield looked lost, the defending equally so, and Chicago had rightly pulled level given the way New England had difficulties in getting out of its own half. And when it did get out of its own half, it was short lived. Seriously, the midfield let the Revs down.

But that second half and the way The Boys In Blue closed it out was a thing of beauty.

We credit that to 1. Luck, and 2. Smart subbing.

Let’s be fair: Teal Bunbury’s second goal was a “What just happened there?” moment that no one expected. That was one of those crosses everyone hopes will go in, but we’re absolutely gobsmacked when it does. It was as Brad Feldman called it, a happy accident.

The subs, too, were a really good thing. I know there are many out in the Colony who want New England to move away from the Old Guard and have wanted that for the last few years…. But if we’re being honest with ourselves, it was the Old Guard — Bunbury, Scott Caldwell, Kelyn Rowe — and their experience that won that match tonight: Bunbury with the goals, Caldwell and Rowe with the ability to settle things down and slow Chicago down in the last 10-20 minutes.

It wasn’t the new signings the Revs have made. Gustavo Bou is looking thoroughly exhausted. Adam Buksa is trying to score, we’ll give him that. Matt Polster and Tommy McNamara did some good things, but overall? Not really, they disappeared. It was the experience of Bunbury, Caldwell, and Rowe that came through when the Revolution needed it.

Arena doesn’t rate the Old Guard as a No. 10, huh?

I know this will make a few people want to stuff me into a cannon for posing this… we know the Revolution had a lack of creativity when Carles Gil went down with his Achilles injury, and they tried to get something happening when they put Bou into the No. 10 role. After all, with Bou’s abilities and the habit of floating to get into position, we here felt that it would help.

In a way, it did: the Revs got creative, but the goal-scoring went down. Bruce Arena then moved Bou up closer to goal, and moved Cristian Penilla from the No. 7 to the No. 10.

We all know how that worked out, and that shot has just zoomed past the Hubble. True story.

And with Arena seemingly calling out Penilla following Wednesday’s match, we wondered who he would move to the No. 10. Would he move Diego Fagundez or Rowe there? Those were fair options: Fagundez, of course, played in that role in 2018, and when he’s on playing up, he can be a handful (not always, true); Rowe has always been an offensive-minded midfielder, and many fans wanted Rowe there instead of Fagundez.

So who did Arena put there Sunday? Newcomer McNamara. He put DF14 as the No. 8, and Rowe came in and played the No. 6 when Caldwell replaced Fagundez.

And sure, it looked to be a stroke of brilliance, given his assist to Bunbury in the third minute. But after that, McNamara and the rest of the midfield drifted away. Of course, it’s a small sample size, 56 minutes, and we’re willing to give McNamara latitude, but we’d like to see him do this more than once before we anoint him the placeholder until Gil returns.

Yet if that doesn’t work out, who’s next? Kekuta Manneh? He’s like Penilla in that he likes to move off the wing. Or does Arena have to go to Fagundez or Rowe? Discuss that amongst yourselves.

Should Knighton go for that job across the hall? We don’t think so

I honestly don’t want to be that particular guy, but on Saturday we saw — and not for the first time — Revolution goalkeeper Brad Knighton tweet to the Patriots about the place kicker job that had suddenly opened up. The six-time Super Bowl champions had just knocked their roster down to 53, cutting both of the place kickers they had on the roster. Note: They have since brought Nick Folk and Justin Rohrwasser back.

Of course, this isn’t the first time that Knighton has looked across the hall: last fall, when Stephen Gostkowski had difficulty in hitting his kicks, Knighton tweeted video of him kicking the egg through a set of uprights. And while it generated some interest among the fans, the Patriots did not look Knighton’s way.

Whether or not it’s a joke or a serious play — I can never tell — does this have to happen right now… especially when the Revolution are having difficulty scoring goals headed into today? Sure, Knighton isn’t doing too much, given Matt Turner’s play as the No. 1 in keep has that job on lockdown. And it’s not Knighton’s job to score goals.

But to go through this again, joke or not, is not necessarily a good thing in my eyes. Honestly, it’s tiresome. Even former 1994 US men’s goalkeeper Tony Meola — who was a practice squad kicker for the Jets back in the day, now the Fire color man — said this when Carli Lloyd kicked a field goal for the Eagles in training camp last year: “Don’t do it unless you are really serious about doing it. Don’t do it for a PR stunt because it’s a PR stunt that could get you killed.

“I did not receive a very good reception from players around the league. Kickers aren’t very well liked, and now you are coming from another sport and you are trying to take someone’s job.”

So in closing, no. He should cut this out and just concentrate on trying to unseat Turner.

Peay not happy with Revs II’s performance Friday night

In the hours after I posted Friday night’s 4-0 drubbing of Revs II by Forward Madison, I perused the hashtag on Twitter — let’s be fair, though: a lot of my Twitter feed are some of the Revs’ most passionate supporters, so I don’t necessarily have to peruse the hashtag; my feed is the hashtag — and saw that some weren’t too pleased by the performance that night. It was, as we reported, the second consecutive 4-nil defeat, and Revs II now carries a 213-minute scoreless streak into Wednesday night’s visit by Chattanooga… you know, the team that handed New England the first 4-nil blasting last week.

Some, however, felt that criticizing the performances wasn’t right; after all, Revs II is supposed to be a development circuit. And while we won’t get into the arguments, we’ll let head coach Clint Peay settle it:

“(The 4-4-2 formation) didn’t pan out at all because we can’t make good decisions. The switch was because we struggle defensively in transition and it was to allow us to get behind the ball and hopefully counterattack them,” Peay said. “If we continue on the path we’re on of gifting goals to the opponent, (Wednesday night is) going to be a tough day for us. We definitely are familiar with them and they’re a difficult team to play against. They will be again. It’s for us now to refocus and get prepared to hopefully have a better outcome.”

So go ahead and levy your criticism, especially when it’s rightfully earned like it has been the last 180 minutes.

And in that vein…

It’s time for Sinclair to take a long seat, and for someone else to step up

At the moment, we’re struggling to see the reasons why Peay continues to run on-loan striker Orlando Sinclair out there when his performances have been rather drab: from what we’ve seen, he just does not have a nose for goal. His touches in the attacking third have not been good enough; his hold-up play has been decent, but he’s supposed to be a goal scorer. His shot selection has been dreadful, and the shots themselves have been weak.

So why exactly is he starting? Are there not enough quality strike options for the second team? This level is supposed to be a link from the Academy to the first team, so why haven’t any of the Academy players outside of Newton’s Michael Tsicoulias (68 minutes Friday) really gotten a long run-out? Why hasn’t Meny Silva of Roxbury — the first Academy player to be signed from it to the USL League One side — really gotten an opportunity? He’s only made one 12-minute appearance. Or Isaie Louis from Everett? Or Ronilson Mendes from Brockton? Neither of those two have featured. Neither has Sterling’s Samuel White.

Of Revs II’s five goals, only one has been from a striker — Lowell’s Mayele Malango scored it. Three of the goals have come from midfielders (Nicolas Firmino, Isaac Angking, both Academy products), and the other came from a defender. Outside of that, the striking options just have not been good enough — and we’ll go as far as to say that Malango has been tentative in the final third outside of that one goal.

So what is the answer? Honestly, my feeling is sit Sinclair for a bit, give the kids who want to impress Peay and Arena a chance, and hope they can do just that. Because right now, the current strike options that Peay has at his disposal aren’t getting the job done.

And if the kids don’t have it, or can’t cut the mustard at the third division, then we really need to ask questions about who is developing New England’s youth players for the pros.

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