FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – At times this season the New England Revolution has executed a possession-based, attack-minded approach to perfection. Other times the Revs have been steadfast and hardnosed at the defensive end of the field.
The key now is putting the two together.
Last weekend’s gritty performance at Livestrong Sporting Park was an example of the Revolution’s defensive fortitude, but the Revs conceded the majority of possession in a 0-0 draw with Sporting Kansas City. It was exactly the type of performance head coach Jay Heaps wanted after the Revs allowed what he considered soft goals in previous matches, but combining that defensive resilience with a creative attacking game is the ultimate goal.
“That’s the hope; that we can mesh them,” said Heaps. “[The Kansas City game] is a building block for us defensively. We’ve had a couple games like that defensively, but we haven’t put together a full 90-minute performance where we have the passing we know we can do – that we’re good at – with those tight defensive responsibilities without giving up anything.”
In recent matches Heaps felt the Revs had been too dependent on their passing ability and had shirked their defensive responsibilities, leading to a pair of losses against Toronto FC and the Montreal Impact. Heading into Livestrong Sporting Park at the end of a three-games-in-eight-days stretch, Heaps emphasized defensive accountability and the players responded by notching their first road shutout of the season.
“We’ve been conceding goals that we shouldn’t have been conceding and they’ve been coming from just little mistakes defending-wise,” said Ryan Guy, who featured at a number of different positions against Sporting. “We did really well [against KC] defending. From (players) one through 14, we really put in a good shift. We didn’t let up in the back and now it’s our job to put both defending and attacking together and hopefully put in a great performance.”
The Revs’ next chance to combine their efforts at both ends of the field will be this Sunday night at PPL Park, where they’ll take on the resurgent Philadelphia Union. Playing away from home the primary focus will likely once again be on the defensive side of the ball, but there’ll also be an increased emphasis on the passing game as the Revs aim to break down one of the stingiest backlines in the league.
“We’ll try to put it together against Philadelphia,” said Shalrie Joseph. “Offensively we’ve just got to start getting back to the basics which is working hard, creating chances and getting goal-scoring opportunities. Defensively we’ve just got to be like we were in KC. Dig in deep, work all together, stay in our shape, stay together and make sure we get that result we need in Philly.”