Strong start critical against weary Sounders
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – In the club’s last two matches the New England Revolution has fallen behind inside the opening 10 minutes and has been unable to dig out of those early holes en route to a pair of losses to the Portland Timbers and Chicago Fire.
The Revs – who are 0-11-2 when conceding the first goal this season – will be looking to reverse that trend on Saturday night when Seattle Sounders FC visits Gillette Stadium in the first match of the Revolution’s three-game home-stand.
“It’s huge that we come out ready to play from the start,” said captain Shalrie Joseph, who leads the Revs with eight goals on the season. “I think once we score first, we’re a lot better team. It allows us to settle down, which allows us to play a little bit more of a possession game and just gives us that confidence that we desperately need right now.”
Scoring first was the Revolution’s modus operandi for a month-long stretch from Aug. 13 to Sept. 10, when the club struck the opening blow in five consecutive games and picked up points in all but one. It was a formula which worked to perfection in New England’s most recent home game, a 2-0 win over FC Dallas in which Joseph put the Revs ahead with a 14th-minute goal and goalkeeper Matt Reis was stellar in an eight-save shutout.
While the Revs admit they haven’t always made the most of their positive starts this season – they’re just 5-2-8 when scoring the first goal – they’ve yet to lose at Gillette Stadium when putting the first tally up on the board (4-0-3).
“It’s funny, I think in the weeks before (these past two losses) we were scoring a lot of goals early and now we’ve been conceding them early,” said Ryan Guy, who scored his first two MLS goals in last weekend’s 3-2 loss to the Fire. “I think if we can put [it all] together – not concede early, score early and not concede late – that’s a perfect game.”
Potentially aiding the Revolution’s desire for a strong start on Saturday night is the Sounders’ whirlwind travel schedule, which will ultimately see the club play three games in three different countries in the span of eight days. The Sounders, who’ve already clinched their spot in the 2011 MLS Cup Playoffs, arrive in Foxborough at the tail end of a punishing 10-day road trip which began last weekend with a 3-1 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps and continued midweek with a 2-2 draw against Guatemalan side Comunicaciones in the CONCACAF Champions League.
Having traveled directly from Vancouver to Guatemala City, and subsequently from Guatemala City to the Foxborough area, the road-tested Sounders could feature some weary legs on Saturday night. If that’s the case, the Revs plan to exploit it from the opening whistle.
“We know they’re going to be tired from traveling and playing so many games, so we have to push the pedal to the metal from the start,” said Joseph. “Try to play an up tempo game, try to play fast, keep the game flowing and just don’t let them breathe. It’s important that we get all over them early and if we can get that goal, it’s going to be huge for us.”