Heaps' move of Sene pays off

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Jay Heaps had seen enough of his leading scorer getting kicked, shoved and roughed up by opposing center backs. So the Revolution head coach decided to do something about it.

Instead of sending forward Saer Sene out to his usual spot at the top of the formation, Heaps utilized a 4-5-1 formation with Sene in a different role. A role in which he wouldn’t endure another 90 minutes of physical punishment. A role that would give him room to operate.

That role? Starting right-sided midfielder. It was a curious move. But it was one that Heaps believed would help Sene’s performance against Seattle.

“(Saturday’s formation) was more to open it up so Saer didn’t have to get a knee up his back all the time,” Heaps said after Saturday’s 2-2 draw. “And (also) to get into a spot offensively.”

Sene didn’t hesitate to make Heaps look like a tactical genius. In the 6th minute, Blake Brettschneider found Sene open on the doorstep with a clear look on goal. But Sene’s effort sailed high over the bar.

“I thought that by putting Saer wider, it opened up some space for him,” Heaps said. “And it paid dividends right away when he almost could’ve scored.”

However, the forward-turned-outside midfielder didn’t miss on his next opportunity. On another Brettschneider pass, an unmarked Sene easily slid it through to score his team-leading eighth goal of the season in the 12th minute.

So much for needing time to adjust to the role.

“This was not new for me,” Sene said of his deployment out on the right. “This is a position I feel good (about), (using) on my left foot. I have a lot of options. I can go inside on my left foot or play in my right back.”

Meanwhile, the tactical switch was also designed to open up opportunities for another scoring threat.

With three healthy central midfielders, Heaps put Shalrie Joseph and Clyde Simms in holding positions to allow Benny Feilhaber to continue operating in the hole -- an area where the creative attacker has been particularly effective in recent weeks.

But the change wasn’t just about maximizing his playmaker’s abilities. In fact, Heaps admitted that the idea behind the midfield triangle may have also been employed to keep Feilhaber away from a certain central midfielder on Seattle’s roster.

“It also had a lot to do with (Osvaldo) Alonso,” Heaps said. “You’ve got to give respect where respect’s due. We didn’t want Benny to go man-on-man with him and have to defend Alonso going forward and back.”

Even though Feilhaber didn’t find the back of the net, Heaps credited his technically talented midfielder for putting in a solid two-way effort.

“Benny did put a good clip in defensively,” Heaps said. “And in the second half, (he) had more energy it looked like to orchestrate. He almost got through there at the end a couple of times when he was moving, but he had a lot of legs left.”

Granted, the changes didn’t net the Revolution three points on Saturday. But, overall, Heaps seemed satisfied with the way his players performed in the new-look formation.

“I think the game was an emotional game, obviously,” Heaps said. “And what we did, when we came out we changed up, obviously, you could see what we did tactically and took advantage.”