Revamped backline off to solid start

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – If defense is the foundation on which winning teams are built, early returns have the New England Revolution headed in the right direction.

The Revs have conceded just one goal through their first three matches while keeping clean sheets against the Chicago Fire and Sporting Kansas City. With a goals against average of 0.33, the Revs are tied with the defending champion LA Galaxy for the league’s best defensive record through Week 4.

New England’s backline has featured a mix of old and new through three games as veterans Kevin Alston and A.J. Soares have been joined by newcomers Jose Goncalves and Andrew Farrell. That group worked together quite a bit through preseason and the Revs are now reaping the benefits of the cohesion they’ve developed.

“We’re jelling well together,” said Farrell, who is the first No. 1 overall draft pick to start his team’s first three games since Marvell Wynne (New York Red Bulls) back in 2006. “If someone gets behind me, A.J.’s there to cover. If A.J. slips up – which hardly ever happens – I’m there and Jose’s there. We’re working well together.”

“That’s all defending is,” added Soares. “The default is hard work and backing each other up. If you do that, you’re going to be pretty good most of the time. I think the shape’s a little bit better in these first three games than what we’ve seen in the past in terms of being tight, covering each other and being in the right spots.”

Soares praised the Revolution’s team-oriented defensive system, claiming any of the club’s defenders could step onto the field and produce similar results so long as everyone worked together.

The key to the system is constant communication, not only between the goalkeeper and the backline, but also between the defenders and the rest of the players on the field.

“I think the back four’s doing a nice job,” said head coach Jay Heaps. “For me, the back four is more about the communication, the backline shifting and sliding. But it’s also getting the players in front of them in the right positions and limiting what other teams do well. We have to continue to do that.

“But at the same time, I think the communication continues to have to get better. Communication isn’t something you get better at game to game. It’s not a progression. It has to be perfect every week and that’s something we have to hold each other accountable to.”