There’s an axiom within journalism, called Betteridge’s Law. It states “Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no”.

The logic behind the law is: if the answer were to be “yes”, a simple statement of fact would make for a much stronger headline.

Coincidentally, you may have noticed, this article is titled with the question “Did we learn anything from the Revs 3-1 season opening loss in D.C.?”

While Mr. Betteridge isn’t far off in his assessment, I do think it’s worth digging into the game to see what we can learn.

The Revs opened their 2024 campaign on the road – as they have every year since 2008. They put on their white and red “defiance” kits, lined up in a 4-2-3-1 and… well, things kind of went downhill from there.

DC out-shot New England 30-10, produced more xG (4.64-0.79) and out-possessed the Revs 54%-46%. Christian Benteke rewarded DC fans with the first hat-trick of 2024, owing a some gratitude to Giacomo Vrioni and his pair of first-half-yellows. Carles Gil did produce a signature moment of magic, but the Revs were thoroughly outplayed from the opening whistle.

All told, it was a gut punch for Revs fans who desperately hoped to turn a corner after a dreadful end to 2023.

Let’s dig into the disappointment, and see what (if anything) we can learn from the season opener.

Early-Season Sloppiness Reigns

Let’s start with the least surprising element of the season opener: New England displayed the types of poor passes, poor touches, and miscommunications that are typical for early season games.  Fluid soccer requires pinpoint accuracy, near perfect timing, and anticipation.  Those are all qualities that tend to take a dip following extended down time.

Exacerbating the early season sloppiness was the fact that the Revs had also traveled to Panama, mid-week, for a CONCACAF Champions Cup match against C.A. Indipendiente De La Chorrera.  The Revolution managed a 1-0 road victory in that contest, but juggling CCC and MLS regular season matches is no small task.  Not just for the Revs, either.

The Champions Cup takes place at a tough time for MLS clubs who are often entering the competition before, or at best just after, the start of their season.  CCC clubs in other leagues may be part-way into their schedule when they are more likely to have shaken off the proverbial rust.  As a result, many MLS teams put emphasis on preparation for the CONCACAF tournament ahead of league play.

None of that, however, would seem to excuse Giacomo Vrioni for picking up a pair of yellow cards within the first 25 minutes of the match.

Vrioni’s first yellow came as a result of jumping in front of a DC free kick in an attempt to delay/interfere with a restart.

DC was swarming the Revs from the jump, and the Revs were already on the ropes in the 12th minute.  But that’s a poor excuse for the Albanian striker.  Delaying a restart is very clearly written in the rules as a yellow card offense, so for Vrioni to take an easy yellow so early in the match is a confusing choice.

More baffling was the yellow he picked up just 13 minutes later.  Seemingly aware that he was on a yellow card, he left his feet on a late challenge clattering into Christopher McVey. Any time you go to ground on a yellow you risk a red card ejection.

Many fans already weren’t sold on Vrioni as the main striker, and this match certainly won’t help.

Press is a Perennial Problem

If there is a reason to commiserate with Giacomo Vrioni it would be that that it’s hard work chasing shadows.  DC ran circles around the Revs in the early going, finding success by running hard and tackling harder.

This, in itself, isn’t terribly surprising – we see this every year in MLS.

High-pressing, high-energy teams tend to have higher success early in the season.  Often, that success dries up in the summer when the temperature is hotter and the prospect of sprinting for 90 minutes becomes more difficult. But it’s very effective early in the season when opponents are more prone to unforced errors.

The historical example was the “energy-drink soccer” displayed by the New York Red Bulls, which relied on capitalizing on the mistakes of their opponents.

That tactical philosophy has grown beyond just the confines of Red Bull Arena in recent years.  Notable recent examples would be St Louis City’s historic start last year, and even the Revs early success under Brad Friedel in 2018.

DC United is coached (in theory) by Troy Lesesne, who was plucked from his USL coaching gig with New Mexico United by the Red Bulls and who filled in as their interim last season.  The ‘energy drink’ influence was apparent on Saturday, setting a high line of confrontation and allowing New England little time on the ball.

Teams that play that way have given New England problems, even going back several years.  Under Bruce Arena they were a team that wanted to play with possession, and it seems like Caleb Porter won’t change that.

Teams that want to play with the ball are more susceptible to a press. And to the counter.  The Revs will need to be more in sync this season if they are to avoid the pitfalls of previous seasons.

Gil, Bajraktarevic, Chancalay Bring the Fight

There were a few glimmers of hope from this New England side, even in a disappointing loss.

The best news seems to be that Esmir Bajraktarevic looks to be an “MLS starter” caliber player, which shows good progress from the 18 year old.  He had 50 touches, created 1 chance and was the most fouled player in the game at 7 times.

DC seemingly didn’t have a better idea of how to stop him.  From a defensive standpoint he also won his only aerial duel and all 13 of his ground duels.  His play nearly gave the Revolution a PK early in the second half.

He linked up well with Carles Gil, creating some chemistry with the former MVP.

For his part, Gil was as good as ever.  He capped off a strong carry with an inch perfect shot to level the match (briefly) in the second half.

In fact, the attack as a whole looked much better in the second half, even with a man disadvantage.

New(ish) DP Tomas Chancalay has continued showing his skill in this match, nearly scoring on two occasions.  The second of which involved him combining with Carles Gil and skillfully taking a shot from the top of the box on the full volley.

Those three attackers seemed fluid and, once they settled down a bit, very dangerous.  If New England can shake off the poor result and continue to gel, there should be plenty of goals in their future.

Photo Credit: New England Revolution

Load More Related Articles
Load More In News
Comments are closed.

Check Also

Bruins Free Agency: Who to Target at Center

The Boston Bruins are entering the offseason with $22.8m in cap space and large roster hol…