TUCSON, Ariz. – Like most New England Revolution fans, head coach Jay Heaps was left frustrated by Wednesday night’s late collapse against Real Salt Lake. Carrying a 2-1 lead into the closing stages, the Revs conceded twice in the final three minutes as victory swiftly turned to defeat.
But Heaps will be much more disappointed if a similar scenario plays out in the regular season, especially now that the Revs have had a chance to learn from their preseason mistakes.
“Last night I thought we did a few good things and to have it erased in a negative connotation because of the result is pretty disappointing,” said Heaps. “With that said, I like having those experiences now, to be honest with you, so we can talk about it and we can work on it. The players that think of themselves as leaders and players I think of as leaders, they need to do better there.”
Leadership is a vital aspect of closing games. It’s in those pressure-packed moments when younger players turn to their more experienced teammates for guidance, and when leaders need to take control.
The Revs made a conscious effort to add more veteran leadership this past offseason – signing experienced Europeans Kalifa Cisse, Andy Dorman and Jose Goncalves – in part to help in those exact situations. But with the Revs limiting minutes on Wednesday night, both Cisse and Goncalves weren’t on the field for the closing stages.
In the regular season, those players will be relied upon to help close games, whether it’s by communicating with a teammate, slowing the pace or simply making the smartest and safest play.
“It’s instinct,” said Heaps. “If it’s 2-2 and there’s 30 seconds left and you give the ball away, maybe that pass doesn’t go to that guy; maybe it goes over into the corner. Maybe it’s your ball on a throw-in and it’s a conversation you have to slow the game down. They’re intangibles.
“Those are what leadership and experience are all about. Take a knee, talk to a guy, play quicker, make the right play, kick the ball out of bounds or talk to your goalkeeper during a goal kick. We used to do all of it and we need more of it.”
After playing the first half against RSL, Goncalves could only watch from the bench as the Revs saw their late lead slip away in the final three minutes. But once the regular season gets underway, the 27-year-old veteran of Switzerland, Germany and Scotland hopes to help the Revs avoid any more late collapses.
“It’s very frustrating to lose the game in the last few minutes,” Goncalves said. “We got back into the game, we were doing well, moving the ball, creating some chances, and in the end we did it for nothing. They score two goals in [three] minutes. That can’t happen again. We must be very clever; much more clever than that.”