In the week leading up to Saturday’s match against the last-place Impact, the mindset amongst the Revolution was that they simply could not take anything for granted against their struggling opponent.
But putting that belief into action proved to be tougher than it seemed. Once the first whistle chirped at Stade Saputo, the Impact immediately put the Revolution on their heels by winning second balls, scoring early, pressing the issue, then scoring again to snap their guests’ seven-game unbeaten streak (6-0-1) with a surprising 2-0 win.
While the Revolution certainly didn’t put together a world-class performance on Saturday, coach Jay Heaps dismissed the notion that his squad may have underestimated the Impact.
"Absolutely not,” Heaps told the media in a post-match teleconference. “There was no underestimation; but in the same vein, I thought they were hard to truly prepare for because they play a variety of different systems.”
In a sense, plotting against the Impact can be a difficult task for any opposing coaching staff. Through the team's first 12 games in league play, coach Frank Klopas has already employed three different formations. And with injuries and Canadian Championship clashes conspiring against the Impact in league play, lineup tweaks have been a recurring theme this season.
Of course, that’s to speak nothing of the talent that Klopas has at his disposal, despite what his club’s record may read. Marco Di Vaio is coming off a sensational 2013 campaign that saw him collect a team-high 20 goals, while recent acquisition Jack McInerney has made it a habit of scoring clutch goals against the Revolution in recent years.
Though Di Vaio and McInerney operated for much of the match without the likes of Justin Mapp and Patrice Bernier, both of whom were left out of the lineup by Klopas, the forward duo still found ways to make their presence felt.
“They're both quality players,” Heaps said. “I thought they did a nice job creating space for (Issey) Nakajima-Farran and Andres Romero, so really it was a difficult match.”
What made it even more difficult was the roaming room the Revolution inadvertently afforded their hosts in the final third. In the hopes of catching Di Vaio offside, the Revolution used a high line, a tactic that backfired when the Italian striker and his cohorts stayed disciplined on their breaks.
While the Revolution’s performance improved in the second half, it was hard to ignore the evidence that in the first 45, the Impact were the hungrier team. With eight shots on target before the break, and a third goal nearly coming to pass before A.J. Soares’ last-ditch tackle on Di Vaio inside the box during first-half stoppage time, it was hard to tell which team resided at the top of the eastern table.
Heaps believes that the real culprit in Saturday’s loss was an opponent that had the talent and ability to make the most of their opportunities, rather than an overconfident approach from his squad.
“I don't think that anyone underestimated them because the message all week was that this team is very dangerous,” Heaps said. “If you give them anything, they'll take advantage of it, and that's what they did."