The 2014 MLS season so far is not going the way that New England Revolution fans hoped.
After reaching the playoffs last year, a young New England side came into this season with the weight of expectations for the first time. And after two games it is fair to say that New England is having trouble meeting those expectations.
After last weekends 4-0 drubbing in Houston, the Revolution headed to Philadelphia on Saturday in search of their first victory ever at PPL Park. But a first half goal by Sebastien Le Toux sent Jay Heaps side to the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
The Revolution manager I am sure will say that this was an improved performance by New England, and that if they had taken their chances they could have won.
And while that is technically true, Diego Fagundez and Jerry Bengtson both missed sitters, a win would only have covered over the problems this team in having.
I realize that it is still very early in the season, but after two games some critical weaknesses in the New England side are apparent.
One is that Bobby Shuttleworth is no Matt Reis. Shuttleworth is a good reaction goalkeeper as he showed with some good saves against Houston. But he doesn’t command the penalty box and his kicking is atrocious. Against Philadelphia Shuttleworth had only a 43% passing accuracy. So more than half the time that Shuttleworth cleared the ball on Saturday he passed it to a Philadelphia player. For a team that likes to play the ball out from the back that is a devastating number.
After seeing Scott Caldwell get overrun in midfield against Houston, Heaps started both Andy Dorman and Caldwell together in a attempt to get ahold of the ball. It did not work as New England made the Union look like Bayern Munich at times. There was a five minute period in the first half when Philadelphia had the ball 93% of the time. Bayern and Barcelona probably don’t do that in practice.
Overall Philadelphia had the ball 60% of the time, attempting more than 50% more passes than New England did.
When you don’t have the ball very much, then it becomes even more important that you take your chances. And in both losses, New England has spurned goal scoring chances that they would have buried last season. Diego and Jerry have both have really good chances in both games that they have failed to covert while recent signing Teal Bunbury has yet to show that he can replace the departed Juan Agudelo.
New England head home now face the Vancouver Whitecaps next Saturday at Gillette Stadium in the team’s 2014 home opener. Kickoff is 2pm.