FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – A.J. Soares has a simplistic view of the New England Revolution’s tactical system.
The lineup is a puzzle made up of 11 distinct pieces, all of which fit together perfectly to form a cohesive unit. As long as every piece is in its proper place – doing the job it’s designed to do – the entire puzzle comes together.
When that’s the case, the pieces (players) are interchangeable so long as they perform the duties assigned to their position. It’s one of the primary reasons the Revs have found success this season even when injuries and suspensions have forced lineup changes on a week-to-week basis.
“We have a system here that everyone knows,” Soares said. “Whoever goes on the field understands what their role is, so it’s not even necessarily about playing with each other too much. Obviously that helps, but the truth is, everyone knows that if you’re in this position, you have to do this job. When we get out there it’s like a puzzle. Everyone does their little piece and hopefully it adds up to a win.”
The puzzle-piece concept is particularly noteworthy in the U.S. Open Cup, where clubs often use lineups which look significantly different than the ones used in the league week-to-week. Teammates are familiar with each other from training, but the 11 players on the field often have little to no game experience as a unit.
That’s likely to be the case for the Revs when they host the New York Red Bulls in the fourth round of the Open Cup on Wednesday night. With a trip to Vancouver looming the following afternoon it’s expected that the Revs will dig into their depth against New York, and as such they’ll likely feature a group of players who don’t have significant experience together in game situations.
That’s less of a concern, however, when the players fit into a system which plays to their strengths. It also helps that the players likely to see action on Wednesday night are those who are desperately hungry for game action.
“Not much changes what we do tactically from group to group, so players are being inserted in and I think we understand our overall philosophy of how to play and how we want everyone to play,” said head coach Jay Heaps. “So they’re already a step ahead in that regard.
“But also, guys want games. We’re really in a stretch where guys are chomping at the bit, guys are in my office and we’re talking about where they’re going to get their minutes, how they can get their minutes. It’s not easy to break into our lineup right now and that’s why there’s competition.”