July 1, 2012
By Adam Burrows, New England Soccer News Contributor
“THEY KEEP BELIEVING”
Heaps happy with results, but wants more complete effort from Revs
FOXBOROUGH, Mass.--The New England Revolution are living dangerously these long days of summer, and discovering a flair for the dramatic.
|Diego Fagundez heads home the Revs' stoppage-time equalizer against Seattle on Saturday night.
photo by Paulo Lopes
For the second consecutive week, the Revolution escaped defeat on the final action of the game, deep into stoppage time.
Last week, New England came back from a two-goal first half deficit to gain a 2-2 draw in Toronto, mounting a spirited comeback that culminated in a game-tying 94th minute Chris Tierney header off a Flo Lechner cross.
At home against the Seattle Sounders this week, the deficit at the break was 2-1, but the outcome was the same, as Fernando Cardenas and Diego Fagundez came off the bench to combine for the 94th minute aerial equalizer.
But while the Revs may be summoning their best and thrilling fans after the 90-minute mark, they are struggling with the basics in the opening 45.
In each of the last two games, New England allowed opposing strikers to head home pairs of first-half headers off uncontested deliveries, three of them coming from the left corner.
The eerie similarities had Revolution head coach Jay Heaps spooked and disappointed.
“We made the exact same mistakes we made in Toronto,” complained an exasperated Heaps. “And believe me, we worked on that all week, so that’s even more frustrating. It makes my blood boil – not blood boil, that’s a bad expression. It makes me upset, because we work on those things and it’s not anything other than owning up to it.”
The 35-year-old rookie head coach spread the blame around, especially on Eddie Johnson’s second goal, set up by a cross from Seattle left back Marc Burch, who had ample time and space to pick out his striker at the far post when Lechner was slow to close him down.
“We didn’t get close enough on a cross, unfortunately, on the second one. It was bad all the way around. It was bad pressure. It was bad by Matt Reis, he’s got to come out and get that, and A.J. Soares can put a body on. So there are three guys who’re at fault.”
The defensive lapses are particularly worrisome, as prior to the Toronto game, the centerback pairing of Soares and Stephen McCarthy seemed to be forming a solid backbone and mending the holes that contributed to allowing a franchise record 58 goals in 2011.
Still, there was enough to celebrate in New England’s third consecutive draw, a result that extended their unbeaten streak to four games and marked their sixth straight game at home without a loss.
“I think the game was an emotional game, obviously,” commented Heaps. “We made two mistakes and they scored two goals, and the rest of the game was trying to get back in. Credit our guys – they keep believing we can get back in games. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the win, but it’s better than zero points. We’ll take the one.”
With their backs to the wall, the Revs were again able to mass numbers forward, maintain unremitting pressure, and find a way to draw even.
Heaps found a way to get Clyde Simms, Shalrie Joseph, and Benny Feilhaber in the center of of the midfield at one time, deploying Simms and Joseph in a double-deep setup and moving Saer Sene to the right flank with Blake Brettscheneider in a lone striker role.
And once again, Heaps was able to dial up the right second-half tactical substitutions, none less critical than 81st minute introduction of the gifted and electric Fagundez.
“He was sharp. He’s been sharp all week and he was sharp last week. He was due. He was due. I wanted to get him in earlier, but I didn’t want to over-sub.”
And for the first time this season, the irrepressible Fagundez was able to requite the adoration of his ardent Gillette following.
After the game, Fagundez shared his coach’s instructions on the sideline: “You go in there, this is your night, and let’s get the first goal of this year right now.”
The 17-year-old followed directions better than most high school students on summer vacation.
“It was a good ball by Fernando. He does his little moves, beat the defender, crossed it, and Saer went near post. He was trying to go for the header, got fouled, and I just followed through behind him. It was there.”
That the diminutive Fagundez, listed generously at 5’8”, supplied the late heroics with his head may have stunned the Seattle back line, but it didn’t surprise teammate Feilhaber, a devoted fan of the Leominster teenager.
“I always expect Diego to get something. He’s a menace in the box. It doesn’t matter how small he is. That little Mohawk gets him the ball somehow. I remember last year he scored a goal like that off a corner kick as well. You don’t see him. You don’t see him in the box. Then all of a sudden he’s scoring a goal. It’s kind of like those running backs. Nobody sees them between the big guys. No one marks them. Then there they are.”
The Revolution continue their three-game homestand next Sunday night against conference rival New York Red Bulls. If this rebuilding year is going to result in postseason play, New England will need to start adding to the project by more than one point at a time. They’ll also need to start working earlier in the evening. Last-minute help may not always be available.