One look at the New England Revolution starting lineup last Thursday and most observers would have penciled in the Revs match at FC Dallas as a blowout loss. Missing six starters, the Revs fielded an inexperienced squad with plenty of new faces against a Hoops squad that went into the match unbeaten.
So much for predictable outcomes. New England shut down the FC Dallas offense and Khano Smith delivered a moment of brilliance to give the Revs the precious goal it needed to escape Pizza Hut Park with an unexpected victory.
SBI Correspondents Andrew Karl and Casey Corcoran took in the match and share their takes with us:
Short-handed Revs try new formation, deliver another win
By ANDREW KARL
Hell has frozen over, monkeys are flying out of my rear, and Steve Nicol has employed a 4-4-2.
Just when you thought he’d line the Revolution up in his preferred 3-5-2 no matter how many preferred starters are unavailable, the wily Scott has thrown us all a curve. I’d given up hope of seeing the Revs lineup in a 4-4-2 a while back. The injuries and suspensions kept coming without the coach changing tactics and I had packed it in. Even early on Thursday when I heard that Jeff Larentowicz and Sainey Nyassi had picked up injuries, the possibility of seeing a 4-4-2 to start the game at Dallas never popped into my head. But I’m glad it popped into Stevie Nicol’s.
At the sound of the opening whistle, I was still thinking about last week’s draw against New York. I guess you could say that I was stuck in a disadvantaged mentality, but I went into the game against thinking that the best chance to see any points would be through a draw. I even felt that lining his team up in a more defense minded 4-4-2 was some sort of admission by Nicol that this was going to be a long night.
Thankfully I was wrong, and while the Revs didn’t carve out a high number of chances, I thought the team played well considering the circumstances. In his first start of the year, Wells Thompson was a spark in the midfield. He had vivacity and life and his hustle on defense was beyond compare. While Khano Smith nabbed the game winner, it was Thompson’s overall body of work that surely overshadows the majority of Smith’s displays.
Even though I think the team looked more dangerous once he was subbed out, you won’t hear much Adam Cristman bashing from me this week. His first half Thursday night was possibly his best since the opener; he didn’t turn the ball over as much as usual and combined well with his midfielders at times. He did miss a sitter off of Gary Flood’s chested (or more shouldered) service, but I’ve come to expect a lack of finishing from him so that was no surprise.
Speaking of Flood, chesting the ball down to Cristman in the box like that was spectacularly smart play, and his low cross that Jay Heaps put over the bar was put in the perfect spot. Couple these opportunities with his simple and error-free play in the middle of the pitch and the Yankee’s fan played a gem of a game. If Cristman and Heaps score on those two plays, Flood gets man of the match.
The back-line gave a solid performance with Parkhurst continuing to excel and Igwe continuing to impress. Heaps’ contribution to handling big Kenny Cooper can’t be denied but his night wasn’t mistake-free. His speed bailed him out of several situations where he found himself out of position.
Chase Hilgenbrink’s first full 90 minutes in a Revolution kit were definitely impressive. He showed a lack of hesitation, the ability to quickly close down space, and an willingness to go to ground; all in all he defended exactly how I think a fullback should. His presence really makes our defense deep and I will not take that for granted. As a side not, does anyone else think Hilgenbrink looks like a cross between a caveman and a male model?
Late in the game I saw something in this team that may have been missing so far this year. For the last 15-20 minutes I saw a team that simply refused to give up the lead. Maybe the players just needed that one-goal lead on the road to give them the confidence to stand up and say "These are our three points."
Just look at the treatment FC Dallas substitute Ricardinho received. The Revs responded to his propensity to dance with the ball and show off his fancy boot moves by hacking him down whenever possible. I absolutely loved it. More than the team was sending a message, it was finding its identity. This is a team that’s going to scrape together a result no matter what it takes, no matter who’s out of the lineup. This is a team that’s going to work harder than any team they face and each week stand up for what’s rightfully theirs: three points.
FC Dallas delivers a stinker, loses a game it was expected to win
By CASEY CORCORAN
It would be easy to describe the feelings this writer felt after FC Dallas fell to the New England Revolution, but honestly, I would rather not re-live them. On Thursday night up in Frisco it was turn back the clock night for FC Dallas. Out went the new attacking prowess; in came the old-timed, old-fashioned ineptitude.
Right from the beginning I could tell FCD would be lucky to leave Pizza Hut Park with a scoreless draw. The icing on the cake of this whole affair was New England having to field a half reserve squad.
Some games, you are supposed to be happy with a draw, some games are throw away games, and some should absolutely, under no circumstances, be lost. This game falls in to the latter category. Barring injury to Pablo Ricchetti, which only kept him from starting; FCD fielded a near 100% starting eleven.
It is hard to drop blame squarely on one player’s shoulders for this game. I am going to go out on a limb and say it was a total team effort at performing terribly. A 1-0 finish might seem close, almost like the defense played well. As much as I would like to fool readers into thinking FCD brought something to their national audience, I just cannot do it. The score stayed close for two reasons. New England fielded backups, and those backups missed a plethora of opportunities.
Now, before I write too much doom and gloom, it is time to inject a dose of reality back in to this piece. This was only one game. This was the first defeat for FC Dallas. Sometimes it takes a little bad B-movie horror style play to bring a team back to the ground. The trick is making a lesson like this work for your team, not against it. Hopefully Steve Morrow can get this squad to quickly bounce back.
The one questionable tactical decision was not using Abe Thompson. Let me just say before you readers think I am a huge fan of Thompson that I am not. I like Thompson, but he certainly does not have the speed of Dominic Oduro or Ricardinho. That being said, there is something to rewarding players that produce, and so far, Abe Thompson has done just that in his meager amount of minutes. Would a move like that have led to an FCD win? I seriously doubt it.
So, the boys up in Frisco have some time to figure it out and move on. FC Dallas still fields a decent record, a decent team, and wonderful potential. Let us just hope, for the sake of fans everywhere, that the product on the field never reaches the abyss that it did on Thursday night.