Where Should Heaps Deploy Benny Feilhaber? 2012 Analysis

This image summarizes Benny -and the Revs'- 2012 season.It’s been a tough year for the New England Revolution, especially recently as they’re mired in a 0-5-3 run, scoring just 3 goals. While some can be chalked up to bad luck, could it have something to do with tactically where Heaps is playing Benny Feilhaber? Are there any trends of note? Yes – according to Benny’s transfermarkt performance data, it appears Heaps’ tactical naivety is impacting the quality of Benny’s performances and by extension, costing the team results.

Notes: I bolded the games I thought Benny played well (as did the team). Also, the 2 games where Benny’s position was a ? have been omitted from this analysis.

Here’s the breakdown by position, result, opponent and any trends:

  • When Benny plays left mid the team is 1-1-1..(@SJ, vs Col, vs Hou)

All of these games were against physical and grinding clubs. Mediocre Rev performances resulted because physicality presents a very difficult match up for these Revs, who lack a true midfield enforcer.

  • Right Mid: 1-1-1 (vs Van, @ DC, vs Sea)

These teams are the more skilled, less grinding type teams in MLS yet the revs had one of their best performances of the year vs Vancouver and got a point at the death out of Seattle.

  • Attacking Mid: 2-2 (@SKC in April, @RSL, vs Chivs NYRB)

These teams are among the most skilled, yet apart from at SKC the Revs had 2 of their 3 most comprehensive wins of the season with Benny deployed at attacking mid. Even the 2-1 loss @RSL was respectable considering how tough it is to play there.

  • Central Mid: 0-1-3 (vs Cbus, @TFC, @ SKC, vs Mtl)

Except for the end of the game @TFC when the revs looked dangerous, these were all poor performances against teams the Revs should have gotten points off.

Now compare this to the team’s performance when Benny plays further back…

  • Defensive Mid: 0-4 (vs TFC, @Mtl, @Philly, vs SKC)

These are some of the worst team performances of the entire season. Notably, in each of these matches, Heaps deployed Nguyen at CAM and partnered Benny with Simms at defensive mid. Based on the winless results and overall performance, this is not working.

What does this mean for the Revs?
The data says for Benny to have the greatest impact on the game and for the Revs to have the greatest chance of winning, Benny should play further up the field at Attacking Mid.

The best formation in 2012 has been:


Nguyen  Simms  Cardenas/Rowe

Back 4** – Tierney, McCarthy Soares Alston

* What’s fascinating is 2 of the 3 most comprehensive performances this year have had Brettschneider/Sene up top, but that’s an argument for another day.
** The back 4 has been a constant both in wins and losses, so my focus is on the variability in the lineup up-field.

Bottom Line: If the Revs hope to win more games Heaps needs to abandon his vision of playing Nguyen centrally at CAM with Benny pushed back to DM, partnering with Simms. The data is telling us loud and clear this tactic is simply not working and his stubbornness has potentially cost the team 12 points already. Is it too late? Maybe, but it should be interesting to watch what he does the rest of the year and into 2013.

If the Revs really are more analytical then they should the use the available data to inform their decisions, which it appears, hasn’t been the case to this point.