The New England Revolution looked something very close to dead one month ago after a loss at Chicago – a loss to a team appeared to be chasing the very same playoff spot Jay Heaps and his Revs were after.
And the Revolution looked almost dead two weeks ago when New York’s Tim Cahill scored that dramatic equalizer so deep into stoppage time at Red Bull Arena, blocking off New England from what was looking like a massive three points on the road.
And yet New England just keeps hanging in there. Last week’s 1-0 win at Montreal was huge – although it would have meant little without a big follow-up tonight in a match against Columbus, a team that was all but mathematically out of the race.
Well, Columbus is officially out of its now. And Heaps’ team, against considerably stacked odds, is very much in it.
Young MLS sensation Diego Fagundez was left unmarked at the far post for his 12th goal this year – his 12th goal! It was the match-winner in yet another massive result for the Revs, a 3-2 win at a Gillette Stadium that was suddenly alive with hope.
Fagundez guy is just 18 years old, and yet his goals have been so important to the Revs this year. It wasn’t just the critical goal Saturday, either; Fagundez played with the awareness and wherewithal of a player 10 years older.
Now Heaps’ team has this: one more match against Columbus in Ohio (yes, the same team it just beat – more goofy MLS scheduling). A win at Crew Stadium may not be enough to get the Revs into the playoffs for the first time since 2009, but they probably won’t get there without one.
There’s still a chance, at least – and one more win would probably give the Revs a good chance.
Here are the highlights from Saturday, including Fagundez’s match-winner:
For a lot of us, that meant delving into statistics and seeing what matched the eye test. Many started Googling the name “N'Golo Kante“, the dynamic disruptor who’d move to Chelsea in August.
He’s a household name now, with some personalities even arguing that he should buck the trend of Ballon d’Or nominees including only major statistic producers (There was a time when names like Fabio Cannavaro and Matthias Sammer claimed the honor, you know).
For our purposes, we’ll use a pair of advanced stats sites and the good ol’ eye test. (Of the sites we’re using, Squawka seems to skew toward high attack scores, while WhoScored tilts a bit toward the back, so life is good if a player hits both sites’ Top 50).
Before getting into our team — we promise no 10-picture, click-to-reveal-next stuff — some stats that stood out.
— Three players have had outstanding “short” seasons for different reasons.
Leicester City’s Wilfried Ndidi took a short spell to adjust to the Premier League after arriving in January, but has been the Foxes’ most influential player in their recent turnaround).
Bournemouth’s Nathan Ake essentially was the Cherries’ first-half success before heading back to Chelsea where Antonio Conte won’t move him ahead of Marcos Alonso or Victor Moses (and that’s actually understandable as you’ll see below).
Chelsea’s Cesc Fabregas just doesn’t feature a ton for Conte, but in limited time his per-90 stats on Squawka trail only Eden Hazard and Alexis Sanchez.
Ander Herrera (Manchester United, 7.44, 36.64) – Long-heralded at Athletic Bilbao, Herrera is finally showing what made him so sought. One odd stat that may be explained by his willingness to run to any situation: he’s very high in average times dribbled past.
Idrissa Gana Gueye (Everton, 7.34, 20.57) – The best player in Aston Villa’s awful 2015-16, he’s been arguably as effective as N’Golo Kante. Seriously.
Matt Phillips (West Bromwich Albion) – Once the top player on a relegated QPR, Phillips is fifth in the Premier League in assists despite missing the last four matches with injury.
Christian Eriksen (Tottenham Hotspur, 7.41, 31.89) – Second in the PL in key passes, he doesn’t get the plaudits of English teammates Dele Alli and Harry Kane. The relationships are very symbiotic.
Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace, 7.44) – On an under-achieving team, Zaha’s statistics are wild. He’s the most-fouled player in the league, and attempts/completes the most dribbles in the PL. He gives the ball away a lot, too, but that happens when you’re the focal point of everything your team does in the attacking third.
Alex Iwobi (Arsenal, 30.54) – The Nigerian turns 21 in May, and has four goals and seven assists across all competitions.
“[Ibrahimovic] is a genius, he’s very intense because he wants to win everything, even football-tennis,” Herrera said to Radio MARCA.
“He assumes this role of doing or saying what he likes in front of the media because he does not care, he can say that he’ll score 30 goals or is the best because he can afford to.”
There’s certainly something to stature when it comes to saying what you feel (though on the other hand, being egotistical is rarely controversial. It’s not like Ibrahimovic is often railing on controversial soccer or social issues).
We’re sure there are plenty of players across all sports, casual and professional, who don’t understand hyper-competitive teammates, but we love a guy who doesn’t turn it down when it comes to on-the-field activities. Hopefully Ibrahimovic is the Jaromir Jagr of soccer.