FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Sometimes, defensive shape isn’t all about defending.
During its recent offensive explosion – 10 goals in the past two games – the New England Revolution has used its defensive posture as one of its most potent attacking weapons, forcing turnovers in dangerous areas to instantly create scoring chances.
The Revolution’s high-pressure approach was perhaps best illustrated in Patrick Mullins’ goal last weekend against the Philadelphia Union. Relentless ball pursuit from Lee Nguyen and Andy Dorman won possession in the attacking third, putting Mullins and Diego Fagundez in a two-on-one situation.
“Our players, they’re smart players,” said head coach Jay Heaps. “They realize that when everyone puts the work in, when you come out and you try to outwork the opposing team, your chance to do the thing you really want to do – which is play – comes out of that.
“That’s something we really want to drive home; if you outwork a team, there’s going to be a lot more opportunity to outplay them when the ball settles down.”
Heaps has extolled the virtues of team defending since taking the reins in New England, emphasizing that a solid defense has to start with pressure from the forwards as opponents try to build out of the back. Whether it’s creating chances from turnovers or simply forcing opponents into uncomfortable situations, every player on the field needs to be tuned in defensively for 90 minutes.
It’s an approach Heaps said requires tinkering from week-to-week based on different opponents, but defensive posture will always remain one of the Revolution’s top priorities, regardless of who’s lined up on the other side of the field.
“That’s preaching number one is how we want to be in a shape defensively and where we want to get pressure to the team, which changes a little bit against our opponent,” said Heaps. “It’s a tactical shift as to who we pressure and how we pressure, but I credit our guys; they’ve done a really good job.”