Nicol: Possession is key to Revs' success

New England counting on holding the ball in Joseph's absence

As New England coach Steve Nicol contemplated the task that
faced his Revolution side in San Jose on Saturday night, he pinpointed
possession -- always a priority for the Revs -- as a critical underpinning to
success.

“It's important to be good with the ball,” Nicol told
MLSsoccer.com in a phone interview earlier this week. “It's a fast pitch and
it's not the biggest pitch ever, so people are going to be close to you. You
have to be good with the ball. That's your starting point.”

Nicol believes his side needs to improve its performance in
possession heading into the match at Buck Shaw Stadium. In the Revs' previous
two away matches, they have struggled to keep the ball consistently with
Shalrie Joseph (right hip flexor strain) sidelined in both encounters.

Joseph
didn't make the trip to the Bay Area, but Nicol said the objective hasn't
changed even without the influential midfielder in the starting XI.

“We need to be solid and, once we get it, we need to play
with the ball and we need to be better with it,” Nicol said. “When we played
D.C. away, we weren't particularly great with the ball, truth be told. Although
we got a great result with a couple of great goals, we can do a lot better as
far as playing-wise. Certainly, it's about the results, but to get the results
consistently, we need to be more consistent. That's what we're looking for this
weekend.”

One player who could make a difference in facilitating play
through the midfield may not feature from the outset. Marko Perovic made his
Revolution debut by playing the final 20 minutes in last Saturday's 4-1 win
over Toronto FC, but Nicol questioned whether the Serbian midfielder possessed
the match fitness to complete a full match after a lengthy spell on the
sidelines with former club FC Basel.

“To be honest, I'm not quite sure,” Nicol said. “Could he
play 90 minutes? I don't know. Unless he plays 90 minutes, we won't know
whether or not he is [capable of doing it]. Obviously, he's trained well all
week, but playing games and training are two different things. He hasn't played
in games for quite some time, so I can't really answer that. He'll be ready to
do whatever we want him to do, whether it's 20, 70 or 90 minutes or whatever.”

Although Perovic presents a tempting option to bolster the Revolution's
attacking arsenal, Nicol may instead opt to start Pat Phelan in Joseph's place
to bolster the defensive presence in central midfield. Phelan started the first
two matches in Joseph's absence, but dropped to the bench against TFC last
weekend.

Several players remain unavailable to the Revs as they seek
a third straight victory. Matt Reis (left shoulder and knee surgeries) and
Taylor Twellman (concussion symptoms) continue to rehabilitate long-term
concerns, while Mauricio Castro (right ankle pain) is also out.

Nico Colaluca
(left knee sprain) and Edgaras Jankauskas (right calf strain) increased their
work in training this week, but Nicol said neither player is ready to play at
this point.

Despite the injuries and the third away match in four weekends,
New England will be ready to attempt to replicate the 1-0 victory obtained in
this same fixture to kick off the 2009 campaign, according to Revolution
defender Cory Gibbs.

“All of those things affect us a bit, but we've got our head
around it like we always have done,” Gibbs told MLSsoccer.com in a phone
interview earlier this week. “We'll go out there and just play to the best of
our abilities, so we can get the three points.”