FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – You’ve heard of a must-win game, but what about a must-shutout game?
That’s how center back A.J. Soares felt about last Sunday’s eventual 2-0 victory over the New York Red Bulls after the Revs conceded what they considered four “poor” goals in a pair of 2-2 draws with Toronto FC and Seattle Sounders FC.
“Every game’s equally important, but it was a must-win for us,” said Soares. “It was hugely important. We had to win the game. In my opinion, we had to get a shutout. There was no other option. I think it was really important and it’s something we can build on.”
The shutout against New York was the Revolution’s third in the past five games – after keeping just one clean sheet through the season’s first 12 matches – but the club was still concerned with the method in which the goals were conceded against Toronto and Seattle. All four goals arrived via crosses from the left side and were finished with headers in the middle of the box.
Enter goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth, who earned his first start of the season against the Red Bulls due in large part to his aerial prowess. Meanwhile, the backline combined intense preparation with a heightened sense of focus to cut out the lingering mistakes and shut down New York’s high-powered attack.
“Our style of play is open and attacking and free flowing, so sometimes you’re going to give up goals,” Soares admitted. “Everyone was a little bit more focused in the New York game, myself in particular. (It was about) just really studying New York beforehand and making sure going into the game knowing exactly what they were going to do the whole time so you have an answer to everything that they throw at you.”
The Revs did seem to have all the answers against New York, limiting the Red Bulls to three shots on target and allowing just one effort – Kenny Cooper’s second-half drive which struck the post – to beat Shuttleworth cleanly. Now with Toronto FC set to visit on Saturday night to close out a three-game home-stand, the Revs are hoping for a similar performance against another Eastern Conference rival.
“I think we’ve actually defended pretty well; it’s just been a few mistakes here and there that have cost us goals,” said left back Chris Tierney. “But I think on the whole if you look at the amount of chances the other teams have been creating, I think we’ve locked things down pretty well back there.
“The thing about the defensive performances is that they’re a reflection of how good we use the ball when we have it,” he added. “It’s not necessarily the defensive performance, but if we keep the ball and use it well in their half, then the less we have to defend. So it’s a combination of things, but we’re happy with the shutout and we’ll look to improve on that and keep things going.”