October 21, 2012
By Adam Burrows
IT’S ABOUT EXECUTION
Revs complete game plan for feel good home win
New England Soccer News Contributor
FOXBOROUGH, Mass.---Execute a defensive game plan to perfection.
Add one moment of individual brilliance from a preternaturally gifted teenager with a scarlet Mohawk.
Toss in an enthusiastic crowd of over 25,000 supporters who have managed to maintain optimism through the downward spiral of a dismal season.
And the not-so-surprising result is three points, a clean sheet, and after-dinner questions about why the New England Revolution have served up so few similar meals during the second half of the 2012 season, a four-month period of famine that had produced only one win in fifteen games stretching back to July 14th.
“I look at it as kind of two tales,” observed a reflective Jay Heaps after his makeshift Revolution put the squeeze on a playoff-bound Chicago Fire side that arrived in Foxborough with first place in their sights but left on the losing end of a 1-0 clampdown.
“The first half of the season was figuring out what we had and what we were doing. And things went really well for us at times early on. I think that we executed game plans like tonight. We went out and we knew what we were going to do and we went out and did it. Unfortunately, a couple of times later in the year, I think the game plan was there but there was a silly mistake or a bad foul at the wrong time.
“Tonight, there weren’t any bad fouls; there were smart fouls. And when you do that and you develop and mature, that’s what good teams are all about. And I’ve been on a few. For us to win tonight, we needed to play almost a perfect game. During the season, we’d play perfectly up to the 70th minute or give away a goal at a bad time. Good teams know how to win when they play bad or when they don’t execute a game plan. They nip a goal there; they put it together. We’re still processing through that. We’re still developing and maturing.”
The game plan for the Fire was to shut down playmaker Chris Rolfe, stifle the speedy Patrick Nyarko, and muzzle Sherjill MacDonald, Chicago’s fast and powerful Dutch striker.
The Revolution succeeded on all counts. Rolfe was a non-factor, the Fire never got loose for a counterattack, and MacDonald didn’t register a single shot.
“Our game plan was to take Chris Rolfe out,” acknowledged Heaps. Chris Rolfe has been, for me, their best player. I think that Clyde Simms did an amazing job. He had a quiet night, Clyde did, but when you go back and look, the work Clyde put in tonight, wherever Chris Rolfe was, Clyde was there.”
“Chicago’s a contender. You watch them. They’re going to do well in the tournament. Chris Rolfe is a big part of that. MacDonald is a big part of that. And their spaces in between. And that’s what Clyde does. He has to help us with the possession, but then he had to know exactly where Chris Rolfe was at all times. I kind of said you had to attach a string around him and where he goes, you know exactly where he is at all times. And he had a heck of a night doing that.”
Simms, deployed as a holding midfielder in front of central defenders Darrius Barnes and A.J. Soares, described the tactics that were used to silence Rolfe, who had scored eight goals and contributed three assists since rejoining the Fire lineup in late June and keying their surge to the playoffs.
“Darrius and A.J. helped me out a ton. They were in my ear the entire game. That makes it so much easier. Rolfe is good. He’s even good with his back to the goal. We’re trying to find that space in front of him and knowing where he is, I have to hear a lot from A.J. and Darrius because we want to keep him between myself and them. We could tell they were getting frustrated. When they got the ball and got spaces they didn’t know what to do.”
The New England captain also credited the vocal support of the fans who turned out for the Revolution’s last home game of the campaign.
“I think the crowd helped a lot, being back at home. We talked about protecting our home field." Despite a woeful 1-13-2 record on the road, New England has gone a respectable 7-4-6 in the not-so-cozy confines of Gillette Stadium.
Simms also praised his partner for the night in central midfield, Blair Gavin, who was making his first appearance in a Revolution uniform. The 23-year-old former first-round pick in the 2010 SuperDraft arrived from Chivas USA on August 1st in the Shalrie Joseph trade but has been hampered by chronic hamstring problems that have limited his playing time since his rookie season.
“As soon as started training with us you could see the qualities he brings. He’s good on the ball. He works hard, which is huge for us in the midfield. And I think that showed tonight.”
Gavin put his own spin on the team’s execution of the defensive game plan.
“We were solving problems before they happened. I think that was a big key to our success. I thought Clyde played a tremendous game. Rolfe is usually the engine of their team and their creativity, and tonight he didn’t have many chances. The center backs did well cutting out the through ball that they like to play. McDonald’s a fast guy and both our center backs did well against him.”
The West Coast native, who looks like he would be comfortable with a surfboard under his arm, seemed to enjoy the opportunity to finally getting out on the Gillette Stadium turf.
“It was fun. There was a good crowd out here for the last game. The crowd was excellent. It was loud. It was fun.”
But no one would have gone home happy had it not been for the audacity and skill of the Revolution’s youngest player, 17-year-old Diego Fagundez, who delivered the game’s only goal in the 17th minute, a highlight reel strike from 25 yards out on the right that rose and knifed into the far lower corner of the Chicago net, well beyond the diving reach of Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson.
“Everyone was playing well,” recounted the Leominster high school student and Uruguay U20 international. “We were just moving the ball and Kelyn (Rowe) just played it through the middle and I was just making a good run. Once I got to the top of eighteen, I was trying to pass but nobody was open so I saw the back post and took that shot and it went in.”
It was the teenager’s second goal of the season, matching his total from last year, and he celebrated by raising his jersey to reveal a birthday message to his mother.
The difference between success and failure can be thin. The Revolution have compiled a not-so-shabby minus-six goal differential for the year but have only Toronto separating them from the basement of the conference. Chicago is plus-five and heading to the playoffs.