Revs aim to “kill the game” at Real Salt Lake

Steve Nicol wants his side to limit the crowd’s involvement at Rio Tinto Stadium

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Last weekend at CenturyLink Field, the visiting New England Revolution set out to establish a solid defensive mindset, hit on the counterattack and effectively quiet Seattle Sounders FC’s sellout crowd of 36,212.

By capitalizing on a third-minute corner kick and limiting the Sounders to one long-range shot in the opening 30 minutes, the Revs accomplished the task at hand by taking a 1-0 lead into the late stages of the first half. But a pair of goals from Tyson Wahl (34th minute) and Alvaro Fernandez (40th minute) just six minutes apart revived the crowd and gave Seattle a halftime lead which the home side never relinquished.

“The game was dead,” said head coach Steve Nicol. “It was ideal for us. It’s exactly what we spoke about before the game. Try to kill the crowd, try to take the heat out of the game and that’s exactly what we did until the free kick that was given against us (which led to Seattle’s first goal).”

Although the Revolution ultimately left the Pacific Northwest with zero points to show for its efforts, the club’s performance in the early stages of last weekend’s loss provided a blueprint for future matches in hostile road environments.

As it were, that blueprint could come in handy in the Revs’ upcoming meeting with Real Salt Lake on Monday, July 4, at Rio Tinto Stadium. RSL has lost just once in its last 33 regular-season home games and has established one of the greatest home-field advantages in Major League Soccer.

Should the Revs claim a result at Rio Tinto Stadium – and potentially snap their current seven-game (0-5-2) winless run – they’ll need to be solid defensively for the entire 90 minutes.

“I’ve always thought the most important thing to break out of a slump is to play sound defense and not give up anything,” said Benny Feilhaber, who returned from a right ankle sprain last weekend against Seattle. “When you’re in a slump and you can’t score, you can’t just decide you’re going to have a bunch of opportunities, you’re going to go forward and you’re going to get crosses in. You just can’t do that. That’s the hardest part of the game is creating opportunities and scoring goals.

“So in order to get out of that funk, you have to not give up goals,” he continued. “If you tie a couple of games 0-0, so be it. Maybe you get a lucky goal and you win a game 1-0. But we have to be stronger defensively and not give up anything.”

Captain Shalrie Joseph confirmed that while the Revs will be pushing forward in search of a goal when the opportunity presents itself, the team’s primary focus in Utah will be limiting Real Salt Lake’s potent attack.

“We just have to be a little bit sharper, defend well, don’t give up too many chances and get that first goal,” said Joseph. “We’ve been chasing the game a little bit too much for the past couple of games and it’s important for our team mentality that we get that first goal or just keep the game going to 0-0 until late in the game. Then hopefully we can find that [goal].”

From Nicol’s perspective, if the Revs can replicate their performance from the opening stages of last weekend’s match at CenturyLink Field on Monday at Rio Tinto Stadium, they’ll put themselves in a position to capture their first road win of the season.

“It’s a bit of the same as we did at the weekend,” Nicol said. “We want to go there and kill the crowd, kill the game, try and get ourselves ahead again and this time hopefully things will go with us and we’ll stay that way.”