FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Much of the attention following the New England Revolution’s recent 2-0 win over the Philadelphia Union focused on the Revolution’s slump-busting offensive performance. But the club quietly put together a solid defensive performance, as well, bouncing back from a 4-1 loss to the New York Red Bulls by keeping a fourth clean sheet in seven matches.
It was an important result for the Revs, who were keen to prove that their true defensive character was not on display at Red Bull Arena, but rather in the six other matches in which they’ve conceded just two goals.
“I think the New York game was a bit out of the ordinary of what we’ve been doing this season,” said goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth, who made a few key saves to preserve the shutout against Philadelphia. “I think four shutouts in seven games kind of speaks for itself.”
Even with somewhat of a new-look backline, the Revs were solid against the Union. Chris Tierney continued on the left side of defense with Kevin Alston out indefinitely, while Stephen McCarthy stepped in to replace the injured A.J. Soares in central defense.
Perhaps just as important to the defensive performance was Kalifa Cisse, deployed as a deep-lying midfielder just in front of the Revolution’s backline, where the veteran helped snuff out many attacks before they started.
“Teams will beat you and break you down, but it’s everyone defending,” said head coach Jay Heaps. “It’s not just the backline. It’s how Kalifa sat in front of Jose (Goncalves) and [McCarthy], and how McCarthy came in and had a solid game. Everyone stepped up and that’s huge.”
The Revs will need to be similarly solid on Thursday night when they visit the high-flying Portland Timbers, who boast the league’s third-best offensive record with 14 goals scored. Questions surround the potential availability of right back Andrew Farrell – who limped off late in that win over Philadelphia – but the Revs nevertheless remain confident in their defensive resolve.
“Each guy that’s stepped in has done a job and has been really good,” said Shuttleworth. “I can’t say enough for the backline and what these guys have done, and the guys in front of them – Kalifa and Clyde (Simms) – all those guys have been really tremendous. I think it’s really good. We need to keep building on that, keep our shape, keep our lines and keep it nice and tight back there.”