FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Jay Heaps had seen his New England Revolution side play stretches of attractive soccer in recent weeks, but the end result was one goal scored, zero points and a three-game losing streak.
With that in mind, Heaps called for a different approach on Wednesday night against the Colorado Rapids. Toughness and a healthy dose of determination were the key messages ahead of the midweek match and the result – a slump-busting 2-1 win – was just what Heaps ordered.
“We’ve played pretty and we’ve given away games,” said Heaps. “It really hit us on the bus back (from New York), so it was really about forgetting the pretty play. We needed to make sure we were tough and that’s what we went out and did.”
New England’s resolve manifested itself in a robust defensive performance in which the Revs kept a solid shape and worked as a unit for the full 90 minutes. Aside from a bit of loose marking on Jaime Castrillon’s 21st-minute header from Martin Rivero’s corner kick, the Revolution limited the Rapids to a series of long-range efforts.
“We were a unit out there,” said Heaps. “Unfortunately, in the three losses if you went back we probably played more technically sound, but we didn’t defend as a unit. Tonight that was something we asked our guys to do and we gave up a set piece, but other than that, there wasn’t a ton of [times] when they broke us down and we gave away goals.”
Heaps was also proud of the tenacity his side showed after going behind to Castrillon’s goal midway through the first half. It took just six minutes for the Revs to equalize through Saer Sène and by the halftime break they’d reversed the score line thanks to Fernando Cardenas’ first MLS goal in the 39th minute. It was the first time this season the Revs scored in a match in which they conceded the first goal.
From there the Revs relied on strong defending and the veteran presence of goalkeeper Matt Reis, who became the sixth goalkeeper in MLS history to reach 100 career regular-season victories.
“The focus going into it was we weren’t happy about losing three games,” said Reis. “It’s early in the season but we need to get points. We can’t fall too far back in the race and it was an honest team effort. I think that we didn’t play our best in the second half but we got a win, which is the most important thing.”
The Revolution’s next chance to add to its point total will be in just three days time as the club heads back on the road to face Real Salt Lake on Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium. Wednesday night’s victory over Colorado will serve as a confidence booster heading into the weekend, but the Revs will have their focus locked solely on the future in the coming days.
“It’s going to be a huge game, playing a game on the road against one of the best teams in the league,” said captain Shalrie Joseph, who made his 250th appearance for the Revolution on Wednesday night. “We just have to be ready to play. We can’t be thinking about this win tonight. We have to take the win and smile about it, then go play one of the best teams in the league.”