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Revolution won't score without better midfield play

Posted by Julian Cardillo  April 13, 2013 11:32 PM

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If only their offense would show up the way their defense has, the Revolution would have quite a 1-2 punch. But alas, that's not the case. On Saturday, the Revolution's wonderful defensive form and dreadful offensive form continued, this time in a 0-0 draw against the Seattle Sounders at CenturyLink Field.

Defensively, the result is a positive one for New England (1-2-2, 5 points), which remains the league's best defensive team with four shutouts. But when it comes to scoring goals, the Revolution midfield isn't doing its part.

The Revolution spent most of the first half under heavy pressure from winless Seattle. When the defense won the ball back, the midfield would cough up possession almost immediately. Jerry Bengtson, playing as the lone forward in a 4-5-1 formation, rarely had the ball at his feet. By the end of the first half, the Revolution produced just one shot compared with eight by Seattle.

"We have to be better with the ball," said Revolution coach Jay Heaps. "A lot of our giveaways were unforced errors so it has to be better in that regard."

"Our first half wasn't very good. We weren't good enough with the ball. Second half was a little bit better. As the game went on we got more chances that were dangerous. We have to get those earlier in the match."

Any team that wants to score goals needs to possess the ball well and have myriad offensive tactics. That has been missing for the Revolution, who haven't scored or won since the season opener March 9. Their scoreless streak is at 388 minutes.

The midfield improved in the second half, particularly when Andy Dorman came on for Kalifa Cisse in the 64th minute. Dorman sped up the midfield's pace and made simple, accurate passes that led to a few chances at the end of the game. Nevertheless, Dorman can't do it alone. Even with him on the field, the Revolution finished the match with 31.9 percent of the possession.

Such a low possession percentage is unacceptable for a team trying to end a goal drought. The midfield needs to generate chances for the scorers to feed off of. That piece has been missing through the first two months of the season.

Had it not been for the defense on Saturday, as has been the case for most of the season, the result could have been catastrophic. Bobby Shuttleworth started in place of Matt Reis (knee) and made four saves. AJ Soares and Jose Goncalves combined well in central defense, finding themselves in the right place at the right time to head, slide, and tackle away most of what the Sounders came up with. Chris Tierney filled in admirably for Kevin Alston, helping continue the Revolution's solid defensive form.

"I've been training with these guys every day and I've played a lot of left back over the years," explained Tierney. "It's an easy transition for me. I'm just happy we kept another clean sheet. These guys have been rock solid defensively. [Shuttleworth] came up with some big saves when we really needed him"

"Defensively, we've got to be proud of the effort all the way through the team. Hopefully we'll get things clicking a little more offensively and we'll score some goals."

The Revolution need stronger midfield performances that create more chances. That's how they will score more goals. Bengtson has been in terrific scoring form with the Honduran national team in World Cup qualification, but has been limited to just one league goal this year because of a lack of service and activity by the midfield in the final third.

More scoring help could be arriving very soon through Saer Sene, who made his 2013 debut against Seattle after tearing his ACL last season. Sene, who led team scoring in 2012 with 11 goals, played 16 minutes on Saturday. His match fitness is expected to progress and he may see more time against New York next Saturday.

"He's not one hundred percent yet, but you can see some of the things he can do," added Heaps. "He kept the ball for us, made some good runs. His body looks good, but he's got to get his fitness up."

"It's a very special feeling to get back on the field," said Sene. "I feel very good. After the game I wanted to play more. I think this is a good step forward. The more you play, the more your fitness gets better."

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About Corner Kicks: Julian Cardillo offers insight and analysis about the New England Revolution as well as European and international soccer.

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