Revolution coach Jay Heaps might have found the solution to his team’s scoring troubles last Saturday night in a 2-0 home win over the Philadelphia Union. Heaps used a new formation — 4-1-4-1 — and the Revolution consistently threatened the Union’s goal.
But it remains to be seen whether Heaps’s strategy will have the same impact against the Portland Timbers, who will square off Thursday night against New England at Jeld-Wen Field in Portland, Ore., having had five days to review tape.
Heaps also won’t have all of his preferred starters to choose from, as Chris Tierney has been suspended one game by MLS for a reckless challenge against Philadelphia forward Sebastien LeToux. In addition, Kevin Alston (illness), Andrew Farrell (knee), and A.J. Soares (hamstring) are injured. Midfielders Donnie Smith (groin) and Clyde Simms (concussion) are out as well.
To bolster the roster, the Revolution recalled defender Bilal Duckett from the Rochester Rhinos.
In a 4-1 loss two weeks ago at New York, Heaps used a 4-4-2. The Revolution managed to keep possession fairly well, but a sluggish start meant they were playing from behind for the better part of 80 minutes.
Against the Union, Heaps moved wingers Kelyn Rowe and Lee Nguyen into central midfield, playing behind lone striker Jerry Bengtson and in front of holding midfielder Kalifa Cisse. Heaps opted for Diego Fagundez and Ryan Guy on right and left wings, allowing the Revolution to play with five in midfield when the Union had the ball.
By giving his midfielders freedom to roam and interchange in attack, Heaps reaped benefits in the amount of shots his team had. The Revolution took 19 shots — 12 more than they did against the Red Bulls a week earlier.
Heaps’s decision to move a large group of players forward did leave the defense susceptible to a counterattack, and that probably will be the only part of the game plan he reevaluates. In his postgame press conference Saturday, Heaps shared his thoughts on how the new formation worked.
“I thought we put a lot of confidence in Kelyn and Lee to step up there and be two kinds of playmakers, with Kelyn trying to penetrate, pick up loose balls, and Lee to be more of the playmaker in the terms of with the ball at his feet,” Heaps said.
Heaps thought that Fagundez found the right balance between attacking and playing defense.
“We want to be more offensive, but there are some responsibilities defensively and Diego fulfilled those,” said Heaps.