FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Most professional athletes will tell you that the worst way to deal with a demoralizing loss is to sit around licking your wounds. Instead, it’s best to get right back to work on the training field and ideally have an immediate chance to prove yourself in a match situation.
Considering the current league-wide break for the group stage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the timing of the New England Revolution’s 3-0 loss to Seattle Sounders FC last weekend was far from ideal. The Revs returned from Seattle on June 6, exactly three weeks before their next league match against the Chicago Fire on June 27. Needless to say, three weeks to dwell on a performance like last weekend’s in the Pacific Northwest – in which the Revolution was outshot by a margin of 19-2 – is far, far too long.
“Sometimes, it’s difficult when you come back from a result like that in Seattle,” said assistant coach Stephen Myles, who ran the Revolution’s training sessions this week while head coach Steve Nicol was in Scotland for a family commitment. “It’s like falling off a bike. The first thing you want to do is get back on and have another go to put things right. These lads have that kind of determination.”
Fortunately for the Revs, they’ll have the chance to prove themselves long before the Fire comes to town on June 27. In the midst of World Cup fever and with Brazil one of the clear favorites to lift the trophy on July 11 in Johannesburg, Brazilian powerhouse Cruzeiro comes to Foxborough on Sunday night, June 13, for an international friendly against the Revolution. Kickoff from Gillette Stadium is set for 7 p.m.
This will be New England’s second international friendly this season after dropping a 4-0 decision to Portuguese club Benfica on May 19. It will also be just the second time the Revs have ever hosted a Brazilian club, as their only previous home match against a Brazilian opponent was in 1997, when they dropped a 1-0 decision to Palmeiras.
Considering Cruzeiro’s pedigree – the club has won 36 Brazilian championships, including the 2008 and 2009 titles – and the Revolution’s desire to improve upon last weekend’s performance in Seattle, Sunday’s match provides a fantastic opportunity for the Revs.
“After any loss, the first thing you’re thinking is, ‘When’s the next time I get to get on the field?’ I can’t imagine what it would feel like if we had to wait until the end of the month to go back out there,” said forward Zack Schilawski. “I think all the guys are looking forward to the Cruzeiro game. It’s another chance to get out there and turn it around.”
Throughout training this week, the Revs have targeted specific areas of improvement, with the goal of continuing that development on Sunday night against Cruzeiro. After struggling in many aspects in Seattle, everyone has their own ideas of what needs to be the focal point.
“Ball possession,” said Shalrie Joseph, showing no hesitation when asked what area needed improvement this weekend. “We played against Seattle and we didn’t see the ball at all. They were dominating throughout the whole game. Sunday, coming up against a team like Cruzeiro who loves to play with the ball, we’re going to have to do a lot better job of possessing the ball and just being better defensively, getting in spots and just defending as a team.”
Schilawski said the Revs will need to show progression in multiple areas, but stated urgency as one of the biggest concerns approaching the unofficial “second half” of the MLS season following the World Cup break.
“We’ve got to have a little bit more bite and we’ve got to fight a little bit harder to get possession of the ball,” he said. “That was a big struggle against the Sounders – we didn’t see much of the ball. We’ve got to have a little bit more desire to hold onto it and fight to keep it and fight to win it back (when we lose it).
“I think [the Sounders loss] was definitely a wakeup call that we’ve got to start now and work on it,” he continued. “We’re getting kind of deep into the season at this point.”
The Revolution’s ability to maintain possession received an instant boost earlier this week when the club announced the re-signing of MLS original Steve Ralston, who played eight seasons in New England (2002-09) before a brief stint as a player and assistant coach with AC St. Louis of the USSF D-2 Pro League. The league’s all-time leader in games played and assists, Ralston is a crafty player known for his superior passing abilities.
Ralston recently made his full return from a torn ACL – which he suffered in his most recent appearance with the Revolution last September – and joined the Revs for training this week while sporting a brace on his right knee. However, the brace is merely a precaution and Ralston claims he’s wearing it for the time being at the request of his doctors.
Also likely to make his “return” for the Revs on Sunday night is one player who never actually left: goalkeeper Matt Reis. The veteran netminder has yet to play this season after undergoing offseason shoulder and knee surgeries, but he’s returned to training in recent weeks and is hopeful of making his 2010 debut against Cruzeiro.
“It’s going to be interesting after the long layoff,” said Reis, who last played in a competitive match last November. “Hopefully it’s a lot like riding a bike and I can do it without training wheels.”
Cruzeiro’s visit also provides another opportunity for 2010 MLS SuperDraft pick and current trialist Jason Griffiths to impress, as the 23-year-old will once again be eligible to suit up for the Revs, just as he was against Benfica. Griffiths, a defensive midfielder out of the University of Kentucky, has been training with the Revolution since mid-May.
While the spotlight may shine brightest on Ralston, Reis and Griffiths, each and every member of the Revolution knows that they have a chance to put forth an improved performance this weekend.
“Fair due to the lads,” said Myles. “Everyone’s come out and said, ‘Alright, let’s get down to work and let’s keep working hard.’ When you’re in the situation we’re in at the minute, the only way to combat that is to dig down and work harder. Kudos to the lads: that’s exactly what they’re doing.”