Following yet another draw, this time against a Kaka-less Orlando City (I always feel it necessary to specify if Kaka was on the field or not. It makes a difference), New England find themselves with the current longest winless streak, as they have pulled four draws and a loss out of their last five games.
Therefore it is safe to say that the Revolution are in a spot of trouble. On the surface, it is pretty easy to see where the problem lies – up front. Charlie Davies’ off-field issues have interfered with him finding consistent game time and aside from him, Teal Bunbury, Juan Agudelo and Femi Holinger-Janzen (that name must be fake) have been unable to carry the load. Combined, those three have just one goal, and that one goal came from Agudelo against the Lions.
All in all, of the 11 goals that New England have scored this year, only two have come from the striker position. That striker return is tied for last in MLS with the New York Red Bulls, who got their first two goals from Bradley Wright-Philips against Orlando.
That’s never a situation where you want to be in, where strikers can’t seem to score.
Compiling upon the problem is the order of attack that New England is enlisting. Against Portland, the Revolutions launched 40 crosses. Forty. Ten were accurate.
Crosses are a useful tool, but not when used in an overabundance. That mark was over twice what any other team in MLS is averaging this year. It’s too much and, quite frankly, it looks like desperation. Crosses should not be coming in with that much regularity, there has to be some sort of penetration coming in and with guys that are as technically gifted as Fagundez and Nguyen, that goes without saying.
If Portland had been a one-off, I wouldn’t be writing this. But it wasn’t a one-off. Against Orlando, New England launched another 27 crosses. Five were on target. That’s 67 crosses in the span of two games, with just 15 reaching their intended destination. That is a lot of wasted possession and a lot of attacks that are left wanting by balls being whipped into the box.
And who are these crosses for? Well, naturally, they are for the strikers that are proving unable to score. Agudelo and Bunbury are fine aerial targets, but again, there is just one goal between the two. There’s a reason why that striker position is a rotating door. No one can establish any sort of relevance up there. But the midfielders haven’t been doing than any favors lately.
33 of those crosses are coming from midfielders like Nguyen and Fagundez, whose job it is to create chances. Again, crossing is a form of creation as well, but not at the rate at which it is being done.
There hasn’t been a real standout performance from New England to compare it to, but their 1-0 win against the Red Bulls will do the trick. In that match, New England attempted 19 crosses. That’s already considerably less. But only four came from the midfielders, who were finding other ways to penetrate the defense and not be so one-dimensional.
It’s not like crossing needs to be cut out altogether. But certainly it’s worth giving something else a try.