MLS New England Revolution

Sweeney: Four takeaways from the Revolution’s 2-1 win over DC United

Been a while since I’ve cranked up the Takeway Train, but hey, when the mood strikes…

The evidence is clear: Matt Polster is a difference maker

I’ll be honest: I’m not the greatest when it comes to soccer tactics, and I’ll fully admit there are other writers on Blue Level who are better with the tactical analysis of the sport we all love.

However, can I say something semi-brilliant about New England’s tactics in its 2-1 win over DC United? The play of Matt Polster in the rear of that 4-4-2 diamond — reminiscent of how Philadelphia played with Haris Mendunjanin in recent years — was a thing of beauty.

Polster was all over the place. He started counterattacks by winning the ball, and he made plenty of smart tackles in order to do that. His physicality brought on by training with and playing with Glasgow Rangers is something the Revolution have needed over the years, and unfortunately have not received in the past.

Of course, this is not a knock on those who have played there in the past, whether it be Scott Caldwell, Juan Agudelo, the recently departed Wilfried Zahibo, or even Diego Fagundez in a pinch. We all recall what Jermaine Jones did when he was here, and what Daigo Kobayashi tried to do in the midfield during his tenure. I’m likening Polster more to a Jones caliber: even though he’s not drawing attention to himself with the ball, he’s doing all the little things you want out of your No. 8.

Are we ready to anoint Henry Kessler as AJ Soares’ replacement yet?

You know exactly where I stand on the issue of AJ Soares, the former Revolution defender who left after the 2014 season and the run to MLS Cup. I have, mainly in print, hounded the Revolution about their slow replacing of him. Sure, there have been bodies and there have been some decent players in the back since, but players of Soares’ quality? I don’t think so.

So while we’ve tried to pump the brakes and have at times floated the idea that Henry Kessler, the Revolution’s first round SuperDraft pick back in January, is Soares’ replacement after six years… don’t you think that after the last few performances — and some pretty steady ones, at that — should solidify that title?

Go back through the first half of Tuesday’s match and watch the way Kessler played against DC. Even though he saw United offside, he ket with the move and made sure to shut it down just in case. Against Philadelphia on Thursday, his tracking back late was critical in keeping the Union off the scoreboard.

And with his height, there aren’t many who can go toe-to-toe with him on a 50-50 challenge, like he did against Chicago in the home opener.

That being said, I think he is the replacement to Soares. Agree? Disagree?

Tuesday was much better offensively than the last handful of matches

OK, they didn’t make the onion bag burp with regularity, but hey, two goals in one game is a pretty remarkable achievement in 2020 for these Revs. And even though they started Tuesday off slow and sloppy with their passing and had difficulty in reading through a three-man defensive back line to start, they didn’t have to do so after winning corner after corner after corner.

Both goals came off set pieces, with Gustavo Bou’s a thunder strike coming from somewhere in the vicinity of the Pentagon. But in the lead-up to that goal, Kelyn Rowe and Bou had a neat combination play for an on-target shot, which was a good bit of creative football, something we haven’t seen recently, with Thursday being the exception.

And six shots on-target for the game is much, much better than we saw in recent weeks. Say what one will about not having Carles Gil in the fold right now, but Tuesday was the best performance of the season. A pair of goals, five shots on-target in the first 45 — the last shot on-target was one from Tajon Buchanan, and that was a laser beam that Bill Hamid saved — and a good chunk of the possession. I don’t want to say dominant, but it was pretty darn close.

Caldwell’s red card was B.S.

My reaction on Twitter to Scott Caldwell’s second career red card in the Revolution’s third visit to Audi Field was appropriate: Bull Bleep.

That’s because it was.

Sure, by the letter of the law, it’s a stud’s up challenge. But Caldwell showed that he, too, took a cleat to the shin on that collision with Felipe Martins. And the look on Caldwell’s face was of total disbelief. In our view, that’s a 50/50 ball.

We’re right there with you, Scotty.

Caldwell will miss Saturday’s home date against the Red Bulls, which is a shame: with no changes to the XI Tuesday, the thought would be some heavy rotation given the twin short turnarounds from Philly to DC and DC to New York. My thought would be to put Caldwell in for Polster at some point, given that there is no more Wilfried Zahibo, and no Luis Caicedo for the rest of the season. There is Tommy McNamara, of course, who will only have trained a few days with the Revs following his transfer from Houston Dynamo.

With no Caldwell to help out in a pinch, it will be on Polster and McNamara — and Rowe in a pinch — to hold down the midfield.