KeyBank Scouting Report: Portland Timbers vs. New England Revolution
In action on Thursday evening, the Portland Timbers take on the New England Revolution (7:30pm PT, ROOT SPORTS, 750 AM The Game / La Pantera 940. Find out everything you need to know about the opposition.
A brief history…
Based in Gillette Stadium since their foundation in 1995, the Revolution are owned by Robert Kraft – also in charge of the New England Patriots NFL team – and they are one of the 10 MLS originals.
On the field, they have reached the MLS Cup final four times (2002, 2005, 2006 & 2007) but have never lifted the trophy. However, they have twice won the Eastern Conference and triumphed in the US Open Cup in 2007.
How did they fare last season?
It was a disappointing year for the club as they finished 16th overall in MLS – which was one point ahead of the Timbers – after their 9th-place finish in the Eastern Conference, while the Harrisburg City Islanders knocked them out of the US Open Cup.
The positives were that it was Jay Heaps’ first term as head coach having stepped in to replace Steve Nicol and he started the process of redesigning the first-team squad and a new positive style of play. The signings of Clyde Simms, Jerry Bengtson, and rookie Kelyn Rowe all proved to be shrewd moves too as they put some solid blocks in place ahead of the 2013 campaign.
Who have they brought in for this season?
It was a pretty busy off-season for the Revolution as they traded up to get the No. 1 pick in the MLS SuperDraft to select defender Andrew Farrell, while also moving for international players like Jose Goncalves, Kalifa Cisse and Andy Dorman – the latter returns for a second stint with the club.
The other notable pick-up was forward Chad Barrett, who spent last season with LA Galaxy, and he has added much-needed depth to their attacking department. Allowing midfielder Benny Feilhaber join Sporting Kansas City was a curious move, but they expect more from both Juan Toja and Lee Nguyen this year, while Rowe is another year older.
How have they done so far this season?
After seven games played, the Revolution’s record reads: 2-3-2 with four goals scored and six conceded. In their 2-0 win over Philadelphia Union last Saturday, they created more attempts on goal (19 to 11), but came up second-best in duels won, total passes, passing accuracy and possession. Yet, they did enough to collect their second victory of the season.
This is a team still trying to strike the right balance and the 4-1 loss away to New York Red Bulls was a real eye-opener for them. They bounced back from that, and a lot of criticism, by beating Philadelphia, so their confidence will have been boosted. But can they put back-to-back performances and results together? That is the big test in front of them now.
Head coach: Jay Heaps
Now into his second season as head coach, Heaps continues to further strengthen his reputation with the Revolution, whom he played over 200 games for before moving into coaching. The 36-year-old makes up for his lack of experience with a great soccer knowledge, modern approach and ability to identify key aspects of a game where his team can improve.
Star Player: Jerry Bengtson
Injuries have limited his impact since signing for the club last summer, but this tricky Honduras international can be a handful for any team when in top form. Usually tasked with leading the line as a lone striker, the 26-year-old uses his body well to hold off opposition defenders, makes clever runs, and can finish off chances when in front of goal.
One To Watch: Lee Nguyen
Born in Texas, honed his craft in the Netherlands, tasted senior action in Denmark, became a big hit in Vietnam, and now standing out for the Revolution. Nguyen’s journey to becoming a consistent force in MLS has been anything but straightforward, but the classy playmaker is certainly making the most of it in his second season in New England. He is probably their most important player right now.
What can the Timbers expect?
The Revolution normally sets up in a 4-5-1 formation (but it can vary to a 4-1-3-1 or 4-3-3) and they try to implement a counter-attacking style. This means that they invite pressure on, try to contain it, steal the ball, and then break forward at speed, where they have a number of players who can make a difference in the final third.
Considering whom their coach is, expecting nothing less than a hard-working shift would be foolish. Heaps always set high standards for himself as a player and he is now asking the same of his players. They will scrap for every ball and try to make the most out of their attacking set-pieces. Although, the most notable aspect of their recent attacks has been how they have cut in from out wide to run the ball rather than cross from deep.
Where are they most vulnerable?
Scoring goals has been a big issue for this team over recent months. They have some quality forwards in Bengston, Barrett and Saer Sene, but they have not produced the kind of tallies needed to lift the team. Part of that is down to the lack of service that they are getting in open play.
One of the reasons why their attack isn’t as strong as it could be is the amount of possession that they give up. Individual errors and poor decision-making when in control of the ball have cost them time and again. That also leaves them open to attacks from the opposition, which they spend a lot of their time dealing with.
Who are their main threats?
When in full flow, Nguyen can be a major influence on the team with his passing and Toja can turn a game in a moment. Up front, Bengtson and Sene have yet to hit a run of consistent performances, while Diego Fagundez – sporting a Foghorn Leghorn-style haircut – can be a difference maker. In defense, AJ Soares is a rock and Farrell has been impressive so far.
The Revolution do have an array of players who can stand out at specific times, like Rowe, Dorman, and Ryan Guy, but they rarely click as a cohesive unit. When they do, like last weekend against Philadelphia, it works well. But that consistency is something Heaps is working hard to address and he knows that until they find the right formula, they are going to be vulnerable against more settled teams.
Previous Meetings in MLS
2011: April 2 – New England Revolution 1-1 Portland Timbers
2011: September 16 – Portland Timbers 3-0 New England Revolution
2012: March 24 – New England Revolution 1-0 Portland Timbers
Record vs New England Revolution: 1-1-1
Did You Know?
New England midfielder Ryan Guy trained with the Timbers for a short period when he returned from a three-year spell in Ireland with St Patrick’s Athletic before eventually signing for the Revolution in 2011.