FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Columbus took the tactics and the words of New England coach Jay Heaps to heart ahead of Saturday's 0-0 draw at Gillette Stadium.
Heaps has time and again reinforced his desire to obtain and retain possession through his talented midfield group. By and large, the Crew set out to make that task far more difficult than the Revs would have preferred.
The final passing statistics (68.5 percent passing accuracy on 378 total passes, according to statistics compiled by Opta) and the Crew's advantage in possession (54.1 percent to 45.9 percent, according to Opta) reinforced Heaps' contention that his side just didn't pass the ball well enough on the night.
HIGHLIGHTS: NE 0, CLB 0
“The concern wasn't even the finishing – if we get chances, we're going to convert them, we know that,” Heaps told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday morning after he had reviewed the tape from the weekend. “Our passing was a little bit loose. We didn't complete enough passes. We didn't play our game.”
The game the Revolution did play, however, produced more than enough chances to win. Instead of playing through the middle, the home side moved directly through midfield and occupied some of the space conceded in the wide areas during the first half.
While the Revs still want to keep the ball reliably in possession, they are more than happy to try to exploit the space in behind the back four if the other team permits such opportunities, according to Heaps.
“I give credit to Columbus for clogging up areas where we are comfortable, but as the game went on, I thought, we had more chances to win and that's the most important thing,” Heaps said.
In the end, the stumbles in possession may prompt other sides to adopt similar tactics in the future as a means of combating the Revolution's preferred methods. If they do, then Heaps said he is confident that his players have the technical ability to combat that type of approach and secure points anyways.
“An extra man here or there on a tight pitch is what we're good at,” Heaps said. “I'll take our chances with Benny Feilhaber, Lee Nguyen, Shalrie [Joseph], Kelyn Rowe, Fernando [Cárdenas] playing quickly when we can. But, at the same time, to find that space in behind is more important. I think that's what Lee did well, what Fernando did well in the first half.”