New England executes Nicol's game plan to tee

Revs are praised for team defense but possession needs to improve

In its first two games of the season, New England has
employed a simple game plan to frustrate the opposition: Keep it tight at the
back and strike opportunistically in the attacking third.

While the plan didn't yield any dividends in the
season-opening 1-0 defeat at Los Angeles, the Revolution gained all three
points in Saturday's 2-0 win at D.C. United by sticking to their approach.

“In the first half, we were solid defensively, but we
couldn't really get it going offensively,” Revolution midfielder Chris Tierney
told after the game. “In the second half, we came out a little
bit more confident. We defended really well. They didn't really create many
chances at all. We were solid defensively [all night], and we thought that over
time we were going to be able to tire them out and break them down and nick a
couple of goals.”

Kenny Mansally provided the difference with his late brace,
but the foundation for the victory stemmed from New England's resolute
defensive organization. Although United enjoyed plenty of possession in
midfield, the Revolution remained compact inside its defensive third and restricted
the home side to half chances. New England defender Cory Gibbs cited coach
Steve Nicol's principles as critical to the side's defensive success.

“Stevie makes it easy for us,” Gibbs said. “He doesn't put a
lot of pressure on us in terms of trying to organize us. He leaves it to the
experienced players to get [it done]. We're not getting so much pressure from
the coach.”

Nicol said his side performed well at the back and used its
shape to limit United's incisiveness in the final third despite conceding
possession for most of the evening.

“I thought we defended well,” Nicol said. “We just couldn't
keep the ball. We kept turning the ball over, so it's no surprise that they're
going to be dominating. I don't remember a chance they had where you're
thinking they should have scored. It's all challenges and bits and bobs. From
that point of view, we were great defensively.”

Although New England has managed to cobble together a
174-minute shutout streak by soaking up pressure, Gibbs said there is plenty of
room for improvement -- particularly in possession -- as the Revolution prepares
for its home opener against Toronto FC on Saturday night.

“Even in the first half of the LA game, we put all of the
pressure on ourselves by not keeping the ball,” Gibbs said. “We've stressed
that repeatedly. I think that's something we need to start doing better:
starting off games well. We came out with the three points, but there are
things we can work on.”