The word of the day is SHAPE, SHAPE, SHAPE. If the Earthquakes learned anything from the performance against Columbus, I believe it can be described in one word. Yep you guessed it. Now repeat after me: SHAPE.
I can't emphasize it enough. In soccer, failure to keep one's shape in attack as well as defense provides chance after chance for your opponent. This is the rule, attack with four defend with six. It almost doesn't matter who the Quakes roll out on Saturday, as long as those players are willing to stay close together, communicate, and work back, the team will remain in the game.
In the England/France friendly this year, the English probably had a little bit better of the game, with the French content to play somewhat uninspired football. However, as soon as Ashley Cole took off without conscience, as he sometimes does, the French struck. One pass, one goal — game over.
Against Columbus, San Jose initially kept their shape, possessed the ball and had two very good breakaway opportunities. Against New England, the Quakes must sit in, and cannot afford to get stretched out.
New England started their last match away from home in a 3-6-1. The Revolution usually play a 3-5-2. Not sure which one we'll see as Ralston, Twellman and Mansally all seem to have taken a knock, but we'll probably see the following: Reis in goal with Heaps on the left, Parkhurst in the free role and Albright on the right. In the midfield, Joseph and Larentowicz anchor, with Ralston on the right (usually), and Khano Smith on the left. .Against Chivas, Ralston and Castro partnered as attacking mids, so Wells Thompson, usually their first sub, got the start on the right. In that Taylor Twellman was coming off injury, he did not start and the Gambian Mansally got the nod and was the lone striker in a 3-6-1 vs. Chivas. I would imagine Nicol goes back to a 3-5-2 if everyone is healthy. Look for Twellman and Mansally up top with Thompson and Dube or Cristman coming on late in the match.
Reis is as good between the sticks as anyone in the league and never seems to get exposed giving away a bad goal. Heaps is a good athlete although a bit unpredictable (and not in a good way); Albright we know loves to get forward but in a three will be required to stay at home. Parkhurst, whom everyone except me seems to rate so highly, is a good defender with "clean feet" so to speak, but he's not very athletic and can be beat in the air.
The Revs midfield might be the best in the league. Larentowicz, in addition to being the muscle, is maturing and passing the ball better. Shalrie Joseph is on every MLS coach's wish list and stands next to Rico Clark as the two best defensive mids in the league. I don't know much about the new play maker Castro but since he was pulled about two thirds into their last match he probably lacks fitness. Bermudian Khano Smith is a handful. His long strides seem to take him right past players and James Riley, who knows him well, will be very busy.
If Ralston is on the field he represents one of the best passers to ever play in MLS. When Twellman and Ralston are on the same page, look out! Up top the Revolution have some new faces with the departure of Noonan. Mansally and Dube are the speed guys. Dangerous. Cristman is a good strong young player but hasn't been on the pitch lately. Not to mention, of course, Taylor Twellman. Lethal in and around the box, Twellman requires service to be effective but gets it through Ralston, Smith and Thompson.
To top it off, New England has the best coaching tandem in the league. Kinnear is MLS's best but Nicol and Mariner have done an amazing job. They get limited resources and their owner puts them under the shadow of his baby, the Patriots.
Back to the Quakes. In order to get a result at the Razor, San Jose must play as they did against Columbus during the first twenty minutes. Sit in, stay compact, then break on the Revs back three as New England becomes impatient.
Stop the Revs from playing — be physical
Defend like champions
Play smart and we can get a result