Sunday, October 21, 2012
New look produces uncommon result
By Brian O'Connell
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- It may have taken a long-distance blast by Diego Fagundez to get on the board, but make no mistake: The Revolution’s 1-0 win over the playoff-bound Chicago Fire was a team effort.
Sure, their guests may have gotten the better of the possession (55 percent), the passing accuracy (79.6 percent to 75.8 percent) and total passes (490 to 388).
But when the Fire had the ball, the Revolution converged to cut off space and kept their guests from firing a single shot on goal until the 86th minute.
“I thought that we put in a complete performance tonight,” Revolution goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth said. “They didn’t really have a ton of chances. I thought the guys in front of me were great. Everyone was putting the effort forward. We had a good shape to us.”
Shuttleworth, who was rarely tested by the Chicago attack, stopped a Patrick Nyarko shot four minutes from full time to earn his second shutout of the season.
One of the primary reasons why Shuttleworth had a quiet night was a byproduct of the 4-1-4-1 formation, a variant of the club’s standard 4-2-2 shape.
The reason coach Jay Heaps decided to change the look centered on one particular Fire playmaker whose reputation for giving the Revolution fits could no longer be ignored.
Chris Rolfe, the engine in Chicago’s attack, was largely kept under wraps by Clyde Simms, who played deeper than usual to keep the Fire midfielder from making his mark on the game.
“The last couple of games we’ve watched him going forward,” Simms said after the game. “He finds really good spots when they cause turnovers and he’s the first guy to give the outlet ball and he’s gone.”
By canceling out Rolfe, the Revolution were able to focus on the counterattack, which they worked to perfection in the 17th minute.
With the ball deep in the midfield, Kelyn Rowe played it forward to Fagundez in space as the Fire hurried back to contain the mohawked midfielder. But they weren’t quick enough, as Fagundez went ahead and ripped a shot that Sean Johnson had no chance to stop to give the Revolution their first lead since a 2-0 win over the Crew on Sept. 5.
“Everyone was playing well,” Fagundez said. “We were moving the ball and Kelyn just played it through the middle and I was just making a good run. Once I got to the top of 18, I was trying to pass but nobody was open, so I saw the back post and took that shot and it went in.”
The Revolution midfield and defense handled the rest. With Rowe, Simms and Blair Gavin, who was acquired from Chivas USA in the Shalrie Joseph trade on Aug. 1, inside the central midfield, the hosts were able to set a defensive tempo, while grabbing a few more chances going forward.
“I thought Clyde, Blair and Kelyn did a great job of kind of doubling down when (the Fire) were trying to play those penetrating balls coming forward,” Shuttleworth said.
Even after Gavin came off in the 61st minute for Juan Toja, the midfield continued to plug the passing lanes and stifle Rolfe and company. With the final whistle approaching, it was clear the Revolution achieved their objective.
But before the whistle blew, the midfield put together a solid bid to make it a two-goal game in the 90th minute. After taking a pass from Rowe, Toja played a ball through to Fagundez, who raced toward the near post before crossing it over to the oncoming Jerry Bengtson. But with an open net in front of him, Bengtson volleyed his shot over the bar.
Despite the blown opportunity, the Revolution were able to hold on for the win -- and not only because of the execution, but because of the tactical switch, which worked like a charm against Chicago.
“We had a great game plan coming in,” Shuttleworth said. “I thought we did a great job of keeping the tight lines and keeping the guys compact. We kind of harped on that all week. That was our game plan and we did well to do that.”