Beaten-up Revs bond together for early surprise
New England entered the season as an inexperienced and
unheralded group, stripped of several key players through injury.
After collecting a road victory at D.C. United on Saturday
night and stringing together a 174-minute scoreless streak in their first two
matches of the season, the Revolution emerged from the first two weeks of the
campaign stronger than many expected.
“There's a good feeling about this group for sure,” New
England goalkeeper Preston Burpo told MLSsoccer.com after the Revolution's 2-0 win
at RFK Stadium on Saturday night. “Guys are confident and you can tell guys
want to play for each other.”
Revolution coach Steve Nicol has relied on a stingy
defensive core to provide the foundation for the club's early season competitiveness.
A series of injuries -- Darrius Barnes (right hip flexor strain), Shalrie
Joseph (right hip flexor strain), Matt Reis (left shoulder and knee surgeries)
and Taylor Twellman (head and neck symptoms) -- have forced the Revs to rely on
MLS neophytes like Zak Boggs, Joseph Niouky, Zack Schilawski and Seth Sinovic
to help fill the void.
Despite the inexperience of several early contributors, New
England has established a stout defensive shape and competed in both matches
despite troubles in possession and in the attacking third.
New England defender Cory Gibbs said the team's early season
success -- particularly on the defensive end -- shows how well the Revs has
managed to overcome the difficulties placed in front of them.
“It's very exciting,” Gibbs said. “Everything was against us
in terms of the injuries, who we're playing against, playing away from home
twice and we've pulled it off. We've conceded one goal in the first five
minutes from a lack of concentration, but we haven't given up a goal since. We
want to keep it that way.”
As New England starts to prepare for Saturday's home opener
against Toronto FC, Nicol said the victory over United will inject the
Revolution with belief as the side seeks to continue to collect points and
expand upon its defensive performances.
“It's huge,” Nicol said. “The one thing we lack in certain
areas is experience. Winning games when you're putting everything out there
helps your confidence. It just keeps you in it and keeps you going. Hopefully,
we keep learning and keep getting better and better. I think we can get a lot
better, that's for sure. But if we can keep winning while we keep learning,
then it's even better."