FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Throughout the New England Revolution’s recent offensive funk, head coach Jay Heaps vowed to keep tinkering with formations and personnel combinations until he found something that clicked.
True to his word, Heaps trotted out a new-look 4-1-4-1 setup this past weekend against the Philadelphia Union, deploying Kalifa Cisse in a holding role behind four attack-minded midfielders. Previously used as wingers, both Lee Nguyen and Kelyn Rowe shifted into the middle, while Diego Fagundez and Ryan Guy played on the wings.
The result was a dynamic attacking setup which played to the strengths of everyone involved, particularly Nguyen and Rowe, both of whom are inclined to drift centrally even when deployed on the wings.
“We put a lot of confidence in Kelyn and Lee to step up there and be two kinds of playmakers, with Kelyn trying to penetrate and pick up loose balls, and Lee to be more of the playmaker with the ball at his feet,” said Heaps. “The two of them have a nice style … Lee has a nice way of playing balls and Kelyn reads it pretty well.”
Nguyen and Rowe combined to set up Fagundez’s game winner in the 61st minute, while Nguyen added a goal of his own 10 minutes later to provide the final margin in the Revolution’s 2-0 victory. The Revs generated 19 shots against the Union, almost doubling the previous season-high of 11, registered on March 16 at PPL Park.
While the Revolution’s pair of central attacking midfielders were tasked with being the playmakers, Fagundez and Guy provided natural width on the outside. With the Union’s backline spread to defend the wings, space opened up in the middle of the field for Nguyen and Rowe to operate more freely.
“It was a lot of help and Lee could say the same thing,” said Rowe. “We had a lot of space in there. I could find the gaps in behind the two defensive midfielders and Lee kind of got the ball in between their forwards and midfielders. We found a lot of space.
“I was very comfortable and you could see that Lee was very comfortable, as well. I thought we combined very well with Ryan and Diego wide, and Jerry (Bengtson) held the ball up pretty well for us today. I think it’s something for the future that you’re going to see and we both like it.”