COLUMBUS – The opening stages of New England's 3-1 defeat Saturday at Columbus showed why the Revolution eventually crumbled during the second half.
Columbus started the brighter of the two teams and accumulated a staggering dominance in possession – the Crew hit 71.3 percent midway through the first half, according to Opta – because the Revs continued to give the ball away. New England soaked up the pressure because they couldn't find a way to push out of their own half.
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“It's just sloppy possession,” Revolution midfielder Shalrie Joseph told MLSsoccer.com after the match. “We just give the ball away in areas you're not supposed to against a team that was so compact and had so many numbers going forward. When you do that, it's going to hurt you.”
Although the Crew lacked the incisiveness to punish the Revs during that opening half-hour, the spell highlighted how much stress the defensive shape absorbs. At some point, the mental strain leads to momentary lapses and poor choices at the back.
Revolution coach Steve Nicol cited suspect defending on all three Crew goals on the evening and said his side must find a way to relieve the defensive burden.
“We need to look at it and make better decisions,” Nicol said. “When you're defending, you make good decisions and get in good positions, then it makes it straightforward. When you don't get yourself in a good position defensively, then there are going to be holes. It just encourages other teams to go into them. That's pretty much what we did.”
New England must find a way to stitch up those gaps before Eastern Conference rivals Houston (Wednesday) and New York (Saturday) visit later this week. The first step, according to Joseph, involves making sure every player is on the same page – especially in terms of that elusive shape – heading into the midweek date against the Dynamo.
“We're not playing as a team right now,” Joseph said. “It's just a bunch of individuals out there, especially tonight. We're not looking good, but, hopefully, we can get it turned around by Wednesday.