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 MLSsoccer.com 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.”