FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New England Revolution scored the first goal in each of its three matches on a recent three-game road swing, and the Revs will be looking to do the same when they return home to host Chivas USA on Saturday night at Gillette Stadium.
But unlike the final two games of that road trip – in which the Revolution surrendered first-half leads en route to a pair of draws with the Colorado Rapids and Sporting Kansas City – the Revs will be aiming to maintain their advantage for the full 90 minutes.
“We just have to be a little bit better when we do get the lead to try and keep it, because that’s been kind of our downfall,” said Benny Feilhaber, who scored his first MLS goal in the 2-2 draw with Colorado. “We’ve been able to get the lead in a lot of these games recently and we haven’t been able to hold it, so hopefully we can change that.”
Playing with the lead has been a new experience for the Revs in recent weeks, as they scored the first goal just seven times in their first 19 games. While they managed to ride Stephen McCarthy’s 73rd-minute strike to a 1-0 win over D.C. United to start their road swing, the Revs couldn’t hold on after Feilhaber (25th minute) and Rajko Lekic (38th minute) handed them first-half leads against the Rapids and Sporting KC, respectively.
According to Ryan Cochrane, the key for the Revolution is to continue pressing for more goals even after going ahead, something the veteran defender doesn’t feel like his side did in the second half against Kansas City. Playing tentatively as they tried to protect a lead on the road, the Revs were outshot by a margin of 17-2 after the halftime break and ultimately conceded an 89th-minute equalizer.
“If you look at the game in Kansas City, after we got the lead, in the second half we kind of bunkered down and we didn’t have any play, really,” Cochrane said. “I felt like we kind of just stopped playing and were defending a lead, and you can’t do that because then they’re just going to be all over you.
“Saying that though, we’ve been scoring goals, which is good,” he continued. “Early on this season I felt like the team defending was coming along a little bit quicker than the attacking, and right now the roles are a little bit reversed. So from a defensive standpoint we have to just stay tight, maintain our shape and make sure that we keep playing.”
The Revs’ chances of protecting a lead increase dramatically when playing at home, where they’ll be for three of their first four games to open the month of August. While the Revs are just 1-1-4 when scoring first on the road, they’re an unbeaten 3-0-1 when doing so at Gillette Stadium.
With just 12 games remaining on the Revolution’s regular-season schedule and ground still to be made up to get back into the playoff picture, the club is anxious to build upon its recent turnaround and capitalize in its remaining home matches.
“It’s always really important to protect our home,” said Cochrane. “We haven’t done a great job of it this year. But saying that, to finally get off the skid a few games ago at D.C., I think was probably a turning point for the team. I think we’ve looked better in spurts. Saying that, going into this home game (against Chivas USA) I think we’re a little bit more confident than we have been all year.”