It's Monday morning! Hope you've had your coffee, been to your morning meetings and are ready to catch up on the MLS weekend. We're not probably at the point to where we're going to review games or teams on a consistent basis. That's not really our thing... at least, not yet. But Saturday on the most recent podcast, Matty and I talked about our game of the week, featuring the New England Revolution at home versus a high powered Philadelphia attack. The Union boys are a club that, in general, doesn't keep possession long, nor win it back. But they rely specifically on creating as many chances as possible and finishing the ones they are supposed too. It's partially why they are an improved club this year and one that has a legit chance to get into the playoffs and do some damage in the East. They were coming up against a New England team that averaged less ball possession, won the ball back less and took a whole lot less shots---and the Revolution was even allowing its opponents twice as many opportunities as it earned for itself.
What it came down to was that Philly was a borderline good team that sat near mid-table, and New England was arguably one of the worst-seeded among those in the bottom. The surprising thing, and partly what made us choose this game as our game of the week, was simply how split the analysts were at MLSsoccer.com. Two were for a draw, two for a Union win, and two had the Rev's with a win. All the way around it was kind of an interesting match-up of a slumping team against a club that seemed to be on it's way up.
If you didn't hear the podcast, I had the Union 2-1, and Matty went even further with a 2-0 Union beating on the road in Foxborough. Both of us look a little silly this morning with the Revolution pulling out the win. So, how exactly did this band of struggling MLS misfits steal 3-points? Simple, they finally took and finished shots.
The first capture below is the Revs and their chances created in the attacking third. This is shots, key passes and corner kicks and successful free-kicks leading to attempts.
The next shot is clearances, interceptions, recoveries, tackles, blocks, saves and punches made by the the keeper/back defensive four of the Union inside their own box... it's kind of a mess.
The bottom line is that for the first time, possibly all season, the Revolution were dangerous on the attack and they not only put shots on target, they legitimately tested the opposing defense. Then, once they had a lead, they allowed their strong defense to carry them home for the full 3 points.
Almost as convicting, the Union were only able to create 6 real attempts on goal in the second half and only 4 after the Rev's finally broke the stalemate. While they weren't bad on the attacking end, it just simply didn't match what the home team was accomplishing, and it left Philly out points at the end of the day.
I think this sort of game underlines the amount of parity that is in this league right now and also the fact that you have to consider a team's incredibly poor finishing rate as not being an indication of true talent---at least, not this early in the season. New England basically out-Union'd the Union, by beating them while playing their own style of play on the pitch. Overwhelming them with shots and finishing opportunities. Both teams will face exceptionally tough tasks by playing Northwest clubs (Portland and Seattle, respectively) next week, and it should be interesting to see what comes of it.