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Friday, June 14, 2013
Defense lifting Revolution

By Brian O'Connell

By now, it’s clear that success starts in the back for the New England Revolution (5-4-5, 20 points).

Entering Saturday’s contest against the Whitecaps (4-5-4, 16 points) in Vancouver, the Revolution is riding a five-game unbeaten steak (3-0-2), thanks in large part to a tireless defensive effort that’s kept opponents off the board for 395 minutes.

Not surprisingly, the mindset for this weekend’s trip to the Pacific Northwest is simple.

“We want to carry in our shutouts, obviously,” Revolution midfielder Kelyn Rowe said after Wednesday’s U.S. Open Cup match. “The defensive work has been amazing throughout the whole back line, plus Bobby (Shuttleworth), through the midfield and even up top.”

Last week, their defensive efforts saved them from a potential embarrassment at the hands of the basement-dwelling D.C. United. While the 0-0 draw wasn’t what the Revolution envisioned from last Saturday’s match, the back four and Shuttleworth certainly held up their end of the bargain and helped extend the club’s unbeaten run.

As for the attack, Revolution head coach Jay Heaps hinted that he’s not concerned about last week’s scoring outage, which came at the hands of the worst defense in the league.

“I think our tempo was good at times against D.C., but it’s been better,” Heaps told the media after practice on Thursday. “I think we were a little narrow. I think we have to use the field a little more to our advantage, use some of our width a little bit better.”

They’ll need to use the space afforded to them by the BC Place pitch if they intend to steer the attack in the right direction and hand the Whitecaps their first home loss of the season.

Although the Whitecaps defense isn’t nearly as sound as the Revolution’s, Martin Rennie’s club makes up for it by getting on the board -- and often.

In their last four games, the Whitecaps have scored a total of nine goals, with the likes of Camilo Sanvezzo and Russell Teibert leading the way during that span.

“They take advantage of mistakes and they’re good in possession,” Heaps said. “They have experience and they’re a team that has a lot of the pieces (to succeed).”

Vancouver currently sits in the seventh spot on the Western Conference table. Much like the Revolution, though, they’re a team that’s on the rise, collecting a pair of impressive wins against the New York Red Bulls (2-1) and Los Angeles Galaxy (3-1) in recent weeks.

The fact that the Whitecaps haven’t been blanked since May 4 means that the Revolution will probably have to channel the same form up front that brought them four goals during Wednesday’s 4-2 U.S. Open Cup victory.

“We’re hoping some of these goals (from Wednesday) would have come on Saturday (vs. D.C.), but they didn’t,” Rowe said. “So we want to be able to keep (that) going and right now, we’re on a streak where we haven’t lost.”

There’s no question that the back four has shouldered the burden to keep that streak intact last week. This week, the offense may have to do some of the heavy lifting in order to prolong it.