By Kevin Koczwara
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Revolution barely had a chance to get warmed up before S.L. Benfica opened up the score sheet en route to a decisive 4-0 win for the Portuguese Champions. Benfica took control of the game from the first minute of play and never let the Revolution feel comfortable or get into a rhythm.
Benfica started the scoring in the 15th minute when Filipe Menezes took advantage of a Revolution turnover in their own end. He dribbled into the box, unmarked, and slotted his shot past Revs goalkeeper, Preston Burpo, into the bottom right corner of the net. Benfica’s off the ball movement opened a hole in the defense for Menezes, Revolution defenders were forced away from the ball by Benfica players making positive runs into and through the box, opening a slot for Menezes to slot into and shoot from.
Benfica’s ability to move with and without the ball created options, opened up passing lanes and dribbling lanes.
“They’re not necessarily quicker, [but] there are more options, more guys moving off the ball,” said Revolution midfielder Nico Colaluca of Benfica’s ability to hold onto possession and create scoring chances. “There are two or three options every time, they are moving faster and that makes their game easier.”
The Revolution were barely even able to regroup before Benfica struck again. The Portuguese club executed a short-corner to perfection. Defender Cesar Peixoto opened himself up on the edge of the 18-yard box, received the pass and then sent a stinging cross into the box that Benfica defender, Sidnei headed into towards the back post in the 18th minute. Sidnei’s goal doubled the Portuguese club’s lead, but they weren’t done yet.
Benfica scored from a set-piece in the 32nd minute after a poor foul by New England just outside their own box. Peixoto stood over the kick and drove it low and hard into the slick turf of Gillette, hoping for a deflection or a funny bounce, and he got the latter as the ball skipped past Burpo and into the net, putting Benfica up, 3-0.
Benfica threatened the Revolution net time and time again. Benfica’s suffocating play forced plenty of Revolution mistakes, and New England payed the price.
The Revolution had only one shot on goal, and it came in the first half from trialist Jean-Baptiste Fritzon from a distance out. Fritzon’s shot never troubled Julio Cesar, Benfica’s goalkeeper. Cesar wouldn’t see any other shots for the 90 minute period as Benfica directed play.
As expected, the Revolution made some major changes at half-time. Nico Colaluca, Kenny Mansally, Zak Boggs, Joseph Niouky, and goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth all entered the game for the Revs at the start of the second half along with trial player Jason Griffiths.All of the half-time chanegs forced New England to put some players into new positions. The defensive backline did not have a single true defender in it for the start of the second half. It consisted of Khano Smith and Chris Tierney, who started the game in the midfield, Niouky, a midfielder by trade, and rookie forward Zak Boggs.
Benfica didn’t miss a beat after the halftime interval, picking up where they left off. They continued to control play and would add another goal in the 53rd minute. Alan Kardec bent a free kick from just outside the Revolution box around New England’s wall of players and into the bottom corner of the net. Shuttleworth had no chance to make a save.
A 4-0 defeat isn’t anything to be proud of, but the Revolution will have to look at the game and take something positive out of it going into this weekend’s league game against Toronto FC. Manager Steve Nicol saw the chance to play a big club from Europe as an opportunity to see how to play the game of soccer well and learn from that experience.
“One of the positive things we should take out of it is that the players should look at them and see what they do well,” said Nicol. “It’s not all tricks and stuff like that. It’s real football [soccer] stuff: it’s real nice touch, good passing and good movement. Those three things combined together, it’s fantastic.”
The Revolution will have to work quickly on those things because again they have a short turnaround between games. New England travels to Toronto on Saturday, still searching for their first win in May.
Kevin Koczwara is a contributing writer and editor for The Soccer Guys. HE can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.