CARSON, Calif. – Halftime arrived at exactly the right time for the New England Revolution in Sunday's 1-1 draw at the LA Galaxy.
After Revolution captain Shalrie Joseph handed his side the lead after just three minutes, LA assumed control of the contest and committed numbers forward to go in search of goals.
New England struggled to cope with the onslaught, but the Revs somehow managed to escape to the locker room on level terms after the Galaxy failed to convert their dominance into more than Juninho's long-distance drive on 39 minutes.
“We sat back a little bit too much and gave them a little bit too much space to play,” Joseph told MLSsoccer.com. “That allowed them to be a bit more deadly offensively.”
The interval allowed Revolution coach Steve Nicol to reinforce his team's expected shape and urge his players to set up shop further up the field. Nicol set out his players in what Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis called a 4-3-3, but the formation operated more like a 4-5-1 when Kenny Mansally replaced the injured Marko Perovic on the left flank during the first half.
At points during the first half, the Revs had nine players inside the first half as the dismal conditions and the Galaxy's pressure forced them to retreat toward their own goal. Nicol said after the match that he thought his side held its defensive line too deeply in the first half and told his players to rectify the issue in the second.
[inline_node:331525]By moving the line out, the Revs believed they could reduce the Galaxy's space and time in midfield, according to Reis.
“We went with a 4-3-3 and, in [right midfielder Zak Boggs'] position and Marko's position [on the left], it's important for them to push onto guys, limit their service in and make it tough for them to try to play,” Reis said.
After implementing the adjustments, the Revs made life more difficult for the home side in the second half. New England moved out of their own defensive third and shrunk the territory allotted to the home side. Forays forward were few and far between, but the Revolution enjoyed a more comfortable second half because they managed to press a bit higher and condense the field.
“As the game went on, I think we started to step up a little bit more,” Joseph said. “Sometimes, we got tired and we weren't pressuring the ball hard enough or working hard enough. We'll take the point on the road to start the season and move on from there. We'll try to be better.”
The second-half success should give the Revs ample cause to employ a similar approach and rely on their abilities to maintain a higher line in future matches, according to New England midfielder Pat Phelan.
“That's going to be huge for us all season: not sitting back,” Phelan said. “Our game plan was not to come here and bunker down. We were trying to score, and I thought when we stepped forward and passed, we made it difficult for them.”