Print and Go Back ESPN.com: New England Revolution [Print without images]

Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Revs gear up for key post-bye stretch

By Brian O'Connell

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Not all bye weeks are created equal. Just ask Jay Heaps.

During their first bye week of the season -- back on April 21 -- the Revolution used the extra time to rest up before the taxing, three-games-in-eight-days stretch that awaited them.
Last week's bye, however, followed a different script. The focus was on fine-tuning rather than tapping the brakes.

The reason? Well, a quick glance of the calendar might shed some light.

"We're right in the mix right now," Heaps said after training on Tuesday. "We need to make sure that we're fresh, but at the same time, we need to understand how important this part of the season is."

With the second half of the season just around the corner, Heaps is hoping to impart upon his players how crucial the coming weeks will be.
Not only are four of the next five at home, but all are important conference clashes for the Revolution, who currently sit fifth place in the Eastern Conference.

One thing he'd like to see his team improve upon? You guessed it: Preserving points in late-game situations -- especially on the road.

"We've won some important games at home," Heaps said. "But some of the games on the road, we have to do better of managing the game. In the second of half of the season, we cannot allow points to slip away, especially when we're in command."

NYASSI UPDATE:
Managing injuries and minutes is one of the less glamorous aspects of coaching. But so far, Heaps is encouraged by the progress of midfielder Sainey Nyassi.
The 23-year-old Gambian international suffered a hamstring strain during the preseason and hasn't seen a single minute with the first team since. But in Sunday's reserve match at Columbus, Nyassi saw 34 minutes on the field -- a sign that his return might be on the horizon.

"It's a great first step for him (getting onto the 18-man game day roster)," Heaps said. "We're happy with where he is right now."

That's good news for the Revolution attack. Although the attack has started to click in recent weeks, one component that's been missing is speed -- something Nyassi brings in abundance.

"He's exactly what we need right now -- a little bit of pace wide," Heaps said. "We need to have a little bit more of that speed to stretch the field. And not just length-wise, but you also need it width-wise."

Heaps also mentioned that defensive midfielder Clyde Simms -- who participated in the first part of practice on Tuesday -- is closer to returning than fellow midfielder Ryan Guy. Both players are listed as "out" on the team's June 12 injury report.

SAME STORY, DIFFERENT OPPONENT:
In their last match, the Revolution grabbed a 2-0 win over a scrappy, counterattacking Chicago squad that was known for grinding out results.

This week, the Crew will bring much of the same elements to the table against the Revolution. And while the Crew aren't an exact replica of the Fire, Revolution midfielder Benny Feilhaber says the approach won't be any different.

"It's exactly the same," Feilhaber said. "They're two points ahead of us. So winning this game -- it's a six-point game. Winning this game is huge. Losing it is awful. And tying it keeps us looking over our shoulders."