Backline stands tall in second straight shutout

Heaps praises center back pairing of Stephen McCarthy and A.J. Soares

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – After keeping just one clean sheet through the first 12 games of the season, the New England Revolution picked up its second consecutive shutout in a 0-0 draw with the Columbus Crew on Saturday night at Gillette Stadium.

While the Revs will be frustrated not to have taken the full three points on a night when Crew goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum made a series of spectacular saves, they can take comfort in a defensive performance which limited Columbus to just two long-range shots on target.

“It’s huge,” said center back Stephen McCarthy. “The whole back four, that’s what we’re striving for. To put two (shutouts) back-to-back, that’s huge. I think it’s really something that we built on and we’re trying to go forward with, so I’m excited about it.

“We said we had to keep them in front of us and I think we did that better,” McCarthy added. “But more importantly we were more compact as a four. We were trying to slide guys in a little bit and I think that helped.”

Two weeks ago the Revs blanked the Fire in a 2-0 victory but received a bit of help from the woodwork as Chicago struck both posts either side of halftime. Against the Crew the Revs didn’t need luck as they were never seriously threatened and goalkeeper Matt Reis had only to make a pair of comfortable saves.

Head coach Jay Heaps was pleased with the defensive performance and gave much of the credit to his center back pairing of McCarthy and A.J. Soares.

“I thought they did well tonight,” Heaps said of his central defenders. “I thought Stephen McCarthy was sensational defensively. He made some great plays. In the second half, we really tried to push the game. If you noticed, we went man-on-man a lot of the times there, so it was A.J. and Stephen one-on-one with their forwards … Overall, I thought those two had a good game.”

The Revs will look to continue their defensive resurgence – and return to their goal-scoring ways – next weekend against Toronto FC, now led by former Revolution assistant Paul Mariner. Toronto FC will host the match at BMO Field, a venue at which the Revs have never claimed a shutout nor won a match.

“It’s always great to see Paul,” said Reis. “He’s a great man. He’s going to have those guys fired up and it’s really important for them to turn their season around. They’ll be at home and it’s definitely not going to be an easy game. We have to just keep up our battling spirit and hopefully we can get a result.”