FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Bruce Arena said it was tough to be overly critical of his team following their 2-1 loss to the Montreal Impact in last weekend’s season opener because the surface at Olympic Stadium wasn’t exactly conducive to attractive soccer.
But the New England Revolution head coach did pinpoint one area where he’s dedicating a bit of focus ahead of Saturday’s home opener against Chicago Fire FC: set pieces.
Dead-ball situations played a significant role last weekend in Montreal. Teal Bunbury’s opening goal came from a corner kick, while Adam Buksa nearly doubled the Revs’ lead just a few minutes later from another corner. In the second half, Wilfried Zahibo’s would-be go-ahead goal – eventually negated via Video Review – began with Gustavo Bou’s service from a free kick.
On the flip side, Montreal’s first goal originated from a corner kick, as Joel Waterman was able to run free to the near post and flick on a header to Romell Quioto for a back-post finish.
“We certainly have to have better concentration on restarts,” Arena said on Wednesday afternoon.
Defensive set pieces were a bit of a problem area for the Revolution last season, as they conceded seven goals from corners and six from indirect free kicks – totaling 24 percent of their overall goals against. As such, that’s something Arena will want to nip in the bud early in 2020.
But at the same time the Revolution’s prowess on attacking set pieces in Montreal was a promising development. New England scored five goals from corner kicks last season and just one from an indirect free kick, so there already appears to be significant improvement in that department.
The additions of Buksa (6-foot-3) and rookie Henry Kessler (6-foot-4) – joining the likes of Zahibo, Antonio Delamea, and Brandon Bye – give the Revs several aerial threats on every set piece, while the emergence of Bou as a dead-ball specialist alongside Carles Gil provides both right- and left-footed options.
New England will aim to be sharp on set pieces this Saturday afternoon when Chicago Fire FC visit Gillette Stadium for the 2020 home opener (1:30 p.m., TICKETS), kicking off a stretch in which the Revs will play five of their next six games at home.