The 5-0 New England Revolution victory over the LA Galaxy is going to end up being a mile marker for the LA season, either positive or negative. Certainly there's plenty to talk about in the absolute meltdown. I asked a few questions of Steve Stohr from The Bent Musket, to get some perspective on what went down. Part two will have my answers to his questions.
1) With three straight clean sheets, what has clicked into place for the Revolution defense?
TBM: The clicking didn't start with these three clean sheets. With the exception of the early-season 4-1 loss to New York, this defensive unit has come together in a big way, and it all starts with Jose Goncalves. You may have noticed him wearing the captain's armband on Sunday; he quietly took hold of that leadership position and has made everyone around him better. He's big, imposing, incredibly athletic, and talented on the ball, with excellent defender's instincts. Even when A.J. Soares went down through injury, Goncalves was able to mesh with Stephen McCarthy, and the effect he's had on Andrew Farrell's development can't be measured.
Another thing you would have seen in the match on Sunday is the inspired goalkeeping play of Bobby Shuttleworth. After a strong finish to last season, there were many who thought Bobby was going to get the nod as the starter in 2013, but a poor preseason put Reis back in the driver's seat. Injuries and personal tragedy ended up limiting Reis to just two games, so Bobby took over, and after a rocky start (he was in goal in New York), he's since turned the corner and is now playing like one of the best keepers in the league. He made six saves against LA, and has been a key figure in this, the league's best defense.
2) Diego Fagundez is only eighteen and his voice still cracks, but he's red hot scoring a goal and dishing two assists. Is the kid ready to be an every match guy, or is there still a learning curve?
TBM: The last time Diego Fagundez wasn't in the starting lineup was April 13th at Seattle. He went 60 minutes in the 4-1 loss to New York, and then the following week kicked off the Revs' recent tear in style, scoring his first goal of the season in a 2-0 win over Philly. In fact, Diego's the team's leading scorer with five goals, and has four in his last four games. I want to get off the hype train a little bit and say there's still a learning curve and he's still got a ways to go, but recent evidence says that he's arrived in a big way. Teams can't handle him. He's brilliant on the ball, has good vision, and his movement in the final third is incredible. He's 100% ready to be an every day player, and thankfully it seems like the coaching staff realizes it, too.
I think the most exciting thing about Diego is that we still haven't seen the best of him. The sky really is the limit for this kid, and he just seems to grow and progress with each minute he spends on the pitch. It's unreal.
3) Landon Donovan certainly thinks the match turned on the controversial goal. Did you see a drastic change before and after? And what did folk of the calls as it all unfolded?
TBM: Actually, I didn't see a dramatic change at all. I thought prior to the second goal the match had become somewhat bogged down, with neither side getting much by way of clear looks. After that goal, I thought the Galaxy woke up, and if you had asked me for a predicted result anytime between Lee's goal and the 87th minute, I would have said 2-1. I wouldn't have been surprised at all to see LA get two back and earn the draw, either. It's not that I'm not confident in the Revs' defense, but the Galaxy were really turning the screws, and the Revs were retreating into a pretty intense defensive shell. The explosion that started in the 87th minute really came out of nowhere to me.
It was really confusing in the press box when the goal happened, at least at first. We had the NBC Sports Network broadcast going, which was obviously a little bit behind, and with the windows closed in the box you couldn't really hear the crowd over the televisions. I remember watching the ball go in the net and thinking it had been called back for something, but I quickly figured out that the goal counted. After that it was just a matter of watching the replay on TV.
I think Jay Heaps summed it up best after the game. The head referee's decision is the final decision on the field, and he can overrule any of his assistants. He said that he'd been on the other side of those sorts of plays before, and it always ticked him off, too, so he obviously felt for the LA players a little bit. Frankly, though, only a couple players on the team saw the linesman and not the referee in the middle. Bazakos clearly indicated a free kick for the Revs, and they reacted while the Galaxy players didn't. I'll give Donovan a pass because his back was to the referee, but otherwise it's a concentration issue to me, first and foremost.
4) The wind sure looked intense on television. How much do you think the wind affected the proceedings yesterday?
TBM: The first ball the Galaxy put on target was, I think, a Juninho or Sarvas cross that got caught in the wind and turned into a ludicrous dipping shot on goal. The wind in the stadium was pretty intense, but you could tell it was at its worst in front of the goal at the Fort end, where Bobby Shuttleworth spent the first half. Even looking back at Diego's goal in the second half, if you watch the initial pass he plays to Juan Agudelo in the corner, it looks at first blush as though he over-hit it and Agudelo did well to track it down. Look again. The wind took that ball - a ball that was played on the ground - and nearly blew it out of play. You can see the ball accelerate when it should be decelerating. I don't envy either goalkeeper for playing in that goal on Sunday. That said, I'm not sure it actually contributed to any goals. Bobby made his saves, and I don't think wind had anything to do with the four goals that got hung on Cudicini at that end.