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Behind Enemy Lines: Scouting New England Revolution

A look at how Dallas will match up on Saturday

MLS: New England Revolution at Colorado Rapids Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

FC Dallas will play their first home MLS game tomorrow against the New England Revolution. The Revs fell 1-0 to the Colorado Rapids away in the season opener and their second fixture was postponed due to harsh weather.

We’ve only seen one game from the Revolution so far this season, but a lack of attacking identity and shaky defending plagued them against Colorado.

Disorganization in the back

Colorado’s crosses, key passes, and shots

New England allowed 54 goals last year (6th worst in MLS) as a result they let last season’s center backs walk, and replaced them with two new international signings: Antonio Delemea and Benjamin Angoua. Couple a brand new centerback pairing with the arrival of 24 year old keeper, Cody Cropper, who has only made 9 senior appearances, and there are going to be problems in the back. Both Delemea and Angoua stand at 6’0” and struggled in the air against Colorado. I cannot imagine a better match up for Dallas (besides Minnesota). Maximiliano Urruti and Cristian Colman are both taller than New England’s center backs and Dallas’ dependence on crossing to create chances with the 4-4-2 should mean one of them finds the back of the net (unless Kellyn wants to score from 30 yards out, that’s cool too.)

The chance breakdown from the Revolution-Rapids game shows how much action there was in New England’s six yard box. That is a good indicator that the new center backs haven’t jelled yet and that they allowed space and opportunities in front of goal.

The Rapid’s lone goal came from a messy set piece cross that no Revolution player could seem to clear.

I doubt what we see on Saturday will be this bad, but it’s certainly a weakness that Dallas should look to exploit.

Inability to create chances

The Revolution line up in a 4-4-2 with diamond midfield. Jay Heaps attempts to let players have a bit of creativity in where they position themselves, but this is more due to the player’s lack of specialized roles than any sort of ideology focusing on a fluid style. Juan Agudelo who has previously played striker has been moved deeper into a number 10 role. Lee Nguyen, the Plano East High School product, has played about every position in the midfield has now found himself up top alongside Kei Kamara up top. Kelyn Rowe who has played attacking midfield and winger now players tucked behind Agudelo. Frankly, they can’t create goals and are willing to experiment in whatever way necessary in order to do so.

What to worry about:

FC Dallas has looked shaky on defending crosses and anytime Kei Kamara comes to town you better be ready to defend against some crosses. If the Revs can grab a cheap goal early then I could see this game giving Dallas problems. Especially since we don’t know who Oscar Pareja will rest after playing Pachuca on Wednesday.

New England’s 4-4-2 from the season opener

There could also be a tactical mismatch between Dallas’ wide 4-4-2 and the Revolution’s diamond 4-4-2. The Revolution will always have four in the midfield, while Dallas has two midfielders and two wide players. This could allow New England extra space in the midfield to help break the defense down. Dallas’ two holding midfielders would be responsible for dealing with the threat of New England’s two strikers, number 10, and the two center midfielders. Look for Dallas’ fullbacks to compress centrally to provide the center defenders extra support.

Conversely, Dallas will always have two wide players and if New England’s two flanking midfielders (Diego Fagundez and Rowe) are responsible for aiding the fullbacks with defending them, then Acosta and Gruezo really only have to worry about the one holding midfielder in the middle of the pitch when they go forward. It’s crucial that Dallas’ wide players get in the game early to force Fagundez and Rowe out wide, so that Kellyn Acosta, or whoever is manning the middle of the field, has enough space to operate.

New England are still figuring things out early in the season; there’s no better time to play them than now.