ORLANDO, Fla. – Despite earning a pair of 2-0 wins over the University of Central Florida and members of the U.S. Under-17 National Team program, head coach Steve Nicol wasn’t particularly pleased with what he’d seen from his New England Revolution in the first two games of the 2011 preseason.
That wasn’t the case on Wednesday, as the Revs rounded out their 11-day trip to Orlando with a third consecutive shutout victory, this time by a 1-0 score line over 2010 MLS Cup runner-up FC Dallas.
Sainey Nyassi scored the game’s only goal in the 10th minute, placing a shot inside the far post after receiving a pass from Zack Schilawski.
“We were pretty disappointed with what we’d done in the last couple of games, to be honest,” said Nicol, who opted to use only three substitutes against FCD to recreate a regular-season game situation. “But today I thought we looked much, much better.
“We definitely passed it better today, and we made a couple of chances,” he continued. “Obviously we won the game, which is always good, but (there were) certainly a lot more positives today than there were in the last (two) games.”
Standing out amongst the positives was a solid defensive display, led by the central defensive pairing of Ryan Cochrane and A.J. Soares and backstopped by veteran goalkeeper Matt Reis. Rounding out the defense were outside backs Didier Domi (left back) and Zak Boggs (right back), all of whom played 90 minutes and helped the Revs to a third consecutive shutout.
“I thought the backline did well,” said Nicol, noting his satisfaction at having not conceded a goal during three games in Orlando. “[Domi] was solid as a rock, clean on the ball – just exactly what we want. [Soares] was strong. He read a lot of plays really well and dealt with everything nice and crisp, calm and in a good manner.”
“We feel comfortable together,” Cochrane said of his budding partnership with rookie Soares. “We’re really good at communicating with each other. There were some things in the first half which we talked about at halftime that we needed to fix, and I think we did a pretty good job of that.”
Also of note for the Revolution was improved possession, a topic which was much maligned throughout the 2010 season and has been an area of focus during the current preseason.
“I think we moved the ball around pretty well,” said Cochrane. “I think the pitch kind of played into that. [The grass] was a little bit thicker, so it made for a little bit of a slower game. It’s good to get a feel on the ball, passing the ball around because I think when the regular season starts, the game’s going to go a lot quicker and the pace is going to be a lot higher.”
Reis made four saves – including an acrobatic stop with his thigh after being stranded outside the box by an errant back pass – and for the most part, liked what he saw in front of him.
“I thought it was very good,” he said. “I thought we did everything that we were trying to do. We kept the ball, which is something that we’ve been talking about this trip. We did a great job. We got an early goal and held off.
“We were a little tired at the end,” Reis admitted. “But toward the end of the game when it was time to keep the ball and pass it, we did, which was a great sign.”
With their Orlando excursion complete, the Revs will now head back to New England for one week before departing for Kennesaw, Ga., for another 11-day trip from March 3-13.
As Nicol looks ahead to a trio of games against the Columbus Crew (March 6; March 9) and Houston Dynamo (March 13) during that trip, he’s hoping for more of what he saw on Wednesday afternoon.
“It’s always good to win and it’s always good to not [allow] any goals,” he said. “We’re always pleased with that, and we’ll try to keep that going.”