Photo: Barb Colligon
Three games, three goals for Jack McInerney, who finally sits alone atop the Union’s scoring chart.
With his options limited by the suspension of Sheanon Williams and injuries to Danny Cruz and Freddy Adu, manager John Hackworth selected a conservative lineup to face a Revolution side who have been far more substantially hit by the injury bug in 2012.
New England stinks
Those injuries have affected New England at every level, from Saer Sene’s goalscoring, to Lee Nguyen’s playmaking, to Stephen McCarthy’s physical defending, to Chris Tierney’s set piece delivery. But injuries are part of the game, and the rest of Jay Heaps’ side looked to have their minds on the offseason far too soon.
While it is understandable to see rookies like Kelyn Rowe and Alec Purdie struggling under the adversity, it is quite another story to see veterans like Clyde Simms and Benny Feilhaber shrink from the fight.
Of course Jerry Bengtson should have tucked home in the first half, but aside from that and Ryan Guy’s late header, the Revs rarely even had the ball in the attacking third.
Some credit is due to the home side for being good enough to win this one, but in truth, New England lost this contest far more than the Union won it.
Too many cooks in the kitchen
At home, facing a feeble, struggling opponent, Hackworth’s approach was again too cautious.
Two holding midfielders—three if Gabriel Gomez is included—were always going to be too overkill against a Revolution squad that could only boast Feilhaber as an attacking threat through the center of midfield.
With Keon Daniel and Michael Farfan on the wings, Hackworth deployed a five-man midfield, all of whom were looking to create.
But what about finishing?
For Hackworth’s 4-2-3-1 to be successful, all three of the attacking midfielders must get into the box to support the lone striker, while trying to finish chances themselves. Danny Cruz’s boundless energy was missed, and even Freddy Adu’s desire for goal would have had been an improvement over Gomez’s center of the park torpor.
Of the three midfield attackers that Hackworth did choose, Michael Farfan looked the only player to even try his luck in the box, with Keon Daniel preferring to orchestrate from distance and Gomez, as in any real foot race, coming in last.
All hail Jack McInerney
From forgotten man to focal point of the Union attack, McInerney is the first young Union striker in the history of the club to actually grow and develop. Period.
Drafting so young always meant that the Union would be required to take their lumps while waiting for the inexperienced to find their stride.
Hackworth deserves some respect for showing patience with McInerney through good and bad, continuing to thrust his young striker back into the fire, however much necessity may have been a factor.
And McInerney is finally taking his chances. With a swagger to his game that comes from finding his touch in front of goal, it was almost surprising when he did not bury his early chance against Shuttleworth, a rare optimistic sentiment when discussing the Union’s strike force in 2012.
But where he might have hung his head in the past, McInerney redoubled his efforts, crashing the New England box like a bull in a china shop. Whether it was Barnes or Soares trying to track him, McInerney ran smartly to make space for himself and fearlessly to try and latch onto the opener.
With Josue Martinez looking for all the world a bust, Antoine Hoppenot remaining very effective as a late game substitute, and Chandler Hoffman still a complete unknown, Union supporters can at least hang their hats on the knowledge that they possess a legitimate, double-digit goalscoring threat for 2013.
Zac MacMath – 5
After panicking against Jerry Bengtson in the first half, MacMath got his dancing shoes on to deny Fernando Cardenas before getting down quickly to smother Ryan Guy’s late header. His poor handling and distribution have officially been upgraded from a minor issue to a major concern.
Ray Gaddis – 6
Burnt tracks up and down the right flank as Michael Farfan looked for him early and often. Remains one of the few Union players who understands the value of a low driven cross, especially with only one undersized player crashing the goal.
Amobi Okugo – 6
Smart and composed under pressure, Okugo stepped higher to deprive the Revolution possession in the final third. Hopefully he enjoyed the walk in the park because in the final three matches, nor maybe even in the rest of his career, will he see an offense as impotent as New England’s.
Carlos Valdes – 6.5
A clutch performance from the captain who neutralized Bengtson, New England’s only realistic attacking threat. Got the ball back into the attack quickly as he insured that the Revolution’s rare attacking foray was always a one-off.
Gabriel Farfan – 6
Up against a makeshift fullback in Ryan Guy, Farfan’s activity and involvement kept the Revs defender on the back foot, unsure of whether to key in on Keon Daniel or stick with the marauding fullback. Made Hackworth’s selection job all the more difficult, as he clearly looks the best option at left back.
Brian Carroll – 6
With very little pressure applied by either Benny Feilhaber or Clyde Simms, Carroll had an easy night. With three attacking options in midfield, and two dangerous fullbacks, the veteran midfielder moved the ball on quickly to keep the Revs under constant pressure. Even put in a beautiful through ball of his own, only to see McInerney miss out on scoring the opener.
Michael Lahoud – 5
Consistent as ever in moving the ball quickly without any real positive influence, Lahoud was rightly deemed surplus against a Revolution attack that never showed up.
Keon Daniel – 6.5
After a nervous, timid start in which he was reticent to take chances, Daniel found the pace of the game, turning in his best match in a Union shirt. Sharp on both sides of the ball, Daniel also took over free kick duty, serving in consistently dangerous balls even before McInerney turned in the Union’s winner. While it was undoubtedly a step in the right direction, Daniel must turn in similar performances against quality opponents before his selection should be automatic.
Gabriel Gomez – 4
With both pairs of flank players threatening to open up the Revs defense and McInerney working tirelessly to find the opener, Gomez was the only player who failed to raise his level. Never turned up to fill his role as attacking fulcrum and when he pushed forward to support McInerney, he was far too slow to cause any real trouble.
Michael Farfan – 6
Back on the wing where he looked so strong in his rookie season, Farfan looked capable of creating a goal throughout, whether he was leaving players in his wake on the dribble or picking apart the Revolution defense with his well-weighted passing. Shows a veteran composure and headiness on the ball, forcing his defender to commit to the tackle before effortlessly passing beyond him.
Jack McInerney – 7
A second consecutive Man of the Match performance from the tireless McInerney. Kept his head up after missing an early chance and stormed the box with unceasing energy until he finally won the match for the home side. With no other attacker getting into the box with consistency, McInerney rose to the challenge, running at Shuttleworth’s goal at every opportunity.
Antoine Hoppenot – 6
Tortured the Revolution defense with his hard running and tight marking. Simms, Guy and Feilhaber (twice) all went into the book after Hoppenot proved more than they could handle.
Roger Torres – 4.5
Moved the ball more quickly and effectively than Gomez, but nearly gave away another penalty with a bump in Feilhaber’s back late in the match. Torres’ problem is not actually that he doesn’t play defense, but rather how goes about defending.
Chris Albright – 5
Again used to batten down the hatches as the Union sweat out a victory, Albright did the job, including an important header won at the top of the Union’s box.
Jorge Gonzalez – 5
His theatrics and wild gesticulation get old quickly, but in a match so lacking in quality, Gonzalez did his job. With nothing on the line for either team, Gonzalez made sure the match didn’t descend into petty fouling and when New England lost their cool late in the match, the referee showed no hesitation in doling out both yellow and red cards.
Preferred Starting XI against Houston at BBVA Compass Stadium on Saturday, 20 October
MacMath; Williams, Okugo, Valdes, G. Farfan, Carroll, Lahoud; Daniel, Adu, M. Farfan, McInerney