FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Jay Heaps made no bones about what the injury-ravaged Revolution had to do to beat the playoff-bound Fire on Saturday.
Given the degree of difficulty the conference clash brought, the first-year head coach knew that there was going to be little room for error.
“For us to win (Saturday night), we needed to play almost a perfect game,” Heaps said after Saturday’s 1-0 win. “During the season, any time we played, we’d play perfectly anytime up to the 70th minute or give away a goal at a bad time.”
Of course, there’s never an ideal time to give away a goal. But in their previous three games, the Revolution had conceded backbreaking, late-game goals to New York, Houston and Philadelphia.
Granted, they rallied back against New York to grab a 1-1 draw. The outcomes in Houston and Philadelphia were different, with both opponents using strikes in the final 20 minutes to overtake the Revolution. Clearly, something had to change.
So on Saturday, the objective was clear: 90 minutes of mistake-free soccer.
In order to point the squad in the right direction, Heaps dropped forward Diego Fagundez into the midfield, essentially asking him to temper his attack-first mentality and add more to the defensive cause.
“I knew (Saturday) was going to be a lot of work,” Fagundez said after Saturday’s game. “I’ve been talking about it a lot with Jay in training so I came to the game focusing more on defense because attacking is something I was born with. Today was more about defense and helping out the team defensively.”
While Fagundez was doing his part to track back and help his defenders out, another Revolution player was doing his best to stay focused on preventing the Fire from finding the back of the net.
On a night in which he faced only a single shot on goal, the challenge presented to goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth was simply to stay alert.
“As a goalkeeper, you always have to stay tuned in to what’s going on,” Shuttleworth said after Saturday’s contest. “The way I stay tuned in is I try and be as vocal as possible. So talking to A.J. (Soares) and Darrius (Barnes) and those guys along the back line where if I’m being vocal with those guys, I’m snapped into where the ball is and where the play is and helping to try and prevent people from getting into those gaps.”
In front of Soares and Barnes in the Revolution's 4-1-4-1 formation was defensive midfielder Clyde Simms, whom Heaps had the most praise for following the defensive midfielder’s effort to blanket Fire playmaker Chris Rolfe.
“I think that Clyde did an amazing job,” Heaps said. “He had a quiet night, but when you go back and look (at) the work Clyde put in tonight, wherever (Chris Rolfe) was, Clyde was there.”
In hindsight, it wasn’t a perfect performance by any stretch. However, the collective effort exhibited certainly proved to be enough to get the victory, which, however way you slice it, was a step in the right direction for the Revolution.
“We’re still developing and maturing,” Heaps said. “As we continue to go and you see the things we’re trying to do, the players are really picking up on how we go into games.”