FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- All it takes is one mistake to turn a win into a draw, or a draw into a loss, which is why the New England Revolution (10-11-7, 37 points) aren’t taking Saturday’s clash against D.C. United (3-19-6, 15 points) lightly.
Although last-place D.C. is en route to one of its worst finishes in franchise history, Revolution coach Jay Heaps is paying no heed to their record. Rather, he sees a team that’s capable of making his club pay for its mistakes.
“I'm looking at what they bring to the game,” Heaps said. “Quite frankly, after watching the film on D.C. against Chivas USA and against Los Angeles, they moved the ball really well and dominated for (much) of the game.”
D.C. may have moved the ball well in their last two matches, but it wasn’t enough to snap their current winless run, which currently stands at six straight (0-4-2). Even so, D.C. does pose a certain danger to clubs like the Revolution, who are attempting to put together a postseason run.
With little on the line, D.C. will no doubt look for any and every way to make it difficult for their conference rivals, much like they did in a 0-0 draw back on June 8. And even though the Revolution grabbed a 2-1 win at D.C. on July 27, they had to dig their way out of an early deficit to get the result.
“(D.C.) wants to come in and spoil our fun, and (they’re) a rival,” Revolution midfielder Kelyn Rowe said. “So it's going to be a big game no matter who's in the run or not. They're a good team that hasn't had a good season, so we have to punish them early and not let the throttle down.”
Last week in Chicago, the Revolution succeeded at doling out punishment early. Rowe scored the opening goal in the ninth minute, and it looked like the guests would get a much-needed win. But staying on the throttle proved to be their biggest problem. In the second half, the Fire mounted a comeback and pulled off a 3-2 win to knock the Revolution out of the fifth and final playoff spot. The loss marked the club’s second straight, with a surprisingly porous team defense seen as the culprit.
“We’re disappointed in that,” Heaps said. “I think (giving up) seven goals over two games isn’t good enough, whether we have 10 men or not. We want to be tighter defensively, we want to be smarter defensively, and a little bit more proactive defensively and not so much reactive.”
To avoid a repeat of last week’s loss in Chicago -- or their 4-2 loss to Montreal on Sept. 7, for that matter -- Rowe believes it’s going to take a renewed emphasis on dropping back and plugging the holes when they don’t have possession.
“It’s 11 guys on the field defending,” Rowe said. “If you’re far up the field, you don’t want (to give up) an easy ball over the top and it’s nothing that the center backs want. You’re going to get an earful if it happens.”
The best way for Rowe and his fellow midfielders to avoid getting an earful from the defenders is simple. Every player on the pitch must fulfill their defensive obligations, even against a cellar-dweller like D.C.
“It’s not just 4-5 in the back and the goalie,” Rowe said. “It’s everyone. We have to make sure we’re behind the ball and putting pressure on the ball.”