FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New England Revolution scored the opening goal in just five of its first 16 games this season and the club struggled to erase the holes it found itself in en route to a 3-7-6 start.
But the Revs have more than overcome that issue in recent weeks, scoring the first goal in eight of their last 10 games, including six consecutive times on the road. New England’s concern now is maintaining those leads, which the Revs have had difficulty doing as they’re just 1-2-5 in those eight games in which they’ve struck first.
The issue manifested itself twice in a four-day span last week in which the Revolution conceded a 90th-minute equalizer in a 1-1 draw with the Houston Dynamo before surrendering a two-goal halftime lead – including an 87th-minute equalizer – in a 2-2 draw with the New York Red Bulls.
“Obviously we’ve come away from those two games pretty disappointed,” said defender Ryan Cochrane. “We’ve given up goals late in games recently. We have to just put that behind us, get on the training ground and work hard this week.”
As the Revs go through their paces on the practice fields at Gillette Stadium, their primary focus will be on correcting the mistakes which have seen them concede sloppy goals at inopportune moments. While the Revolution has scored in all but one of its last 11 league games, the club has only registered one defensive shutout during that span.
According to the players, New England’s recent inability to maintain leads stems from the club playing conservatively when on top, easing off and inviting the opponent to attack rather than continuing to push the tempo in search of more goals.
“We just have to keep playing our game and do what we do well which is put the other team under pressure, play in their end and look forward,” said Chris Tierney. “I think after we scored those goals (against New York) we kind of tucked back a little bit and started worrying about keeping them off the board as opposed to really putting our foot on the gas and trying to get a third.”
“We get kind of complacent, especially with that New York game,” said defender Darrius Barnes. “I don’t remember the last time we were up 2-0 besides [the 3-3 draw with Real Salt Lake on July 4] and we kind of did the same thing. We sat back and absorbed their pressure instead of being on the front foot and taking things to them. We have to continue to try to play and encourage each other to play, because that’s the only way we’re going to continue to move forward and get bigger leads.”
While the Revs must find a healthy balance between attacking and defending when playing with the lead, they must also now overcome the mental barrier which is sure to creep up the next time they find themselves ahead of an opponent late in the game.
“Once we’re up, then things start to go wrong and it’s kind of that sense of here we go again,” said Tierney. “That’s something we have to get over and time’s running out, so the stronger we can be mentally, the better chance we have to win.”