Thursday, July 31, 2014
Strong start helps Revs snap 8-game skid
By Brian O'Connell
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- One game at a time. It's a mantra the Revolution have adopted since coach Jay Heaps took the reins after the 2011 season.
But on Wednesday, they shifted from that approach by channeling the same energy from Saturday's game against the Columbus Crew to jump out to an early lead they built upon late in Wednesday's 3-0 win over the Colorado Rapids.
Lee Nguyen, center, celebrates his second-half goal against the Rapids.
"I thought we came out again the right way," Heap said. "I thought it carried over well from Saturday, and we got good pressure and good commitment from everyone on the field."
That pressure was evident from the outset. With the Rapids missing leading scorer Deshorn Brown and reliable defender Shane O'Neill, the Revolution wasted no time going for the jugular against their weakened opponent.
In the 10th minute, a throw-in from Kevin Alston found a loosely marked Charlie Davies along the left. The Revolution striker immediately sent it central for Lee Nguyen, who took a few touches, then smacked a shot that Drew Moor inadvertently ushered into his own goal.
And just like that, the Revolution had pulled ahead of their opponent for the first time in more than two months, even if it required a little bit of help from the Rapids.
"It feels great just to have the lead," Nguyen said. "[We] didn't know what it felt like to have the lead for a little while, and it was good."
The goal may have been a positive development for the attack, which had scored only four goals over the course of the team's eight-game losing streak. While there were certainly more smiles seen from the likes of Davies, Nguyen and Kelyn Rowe, the early lead had a ripple effect on the rest of the team.
Instead of having to fight back from a deficit, which often put undue pressure on the team to respond, the Revolution were finally able to settle in and start calling their own shots. The defense linked with the midfielders with greater frequency, spurring more chances in the final third.
While the buzz around Gillette Stadium following Wednesday's match might have centered on the Revolution's three-goal outburst, Heaps pointed out how the improved defensive approach allowed his team to clean up the mistakes that had become commonplace in recent weeks.
"Everyone was locked in," Heaps said. "I think we've had a couple of those games with one mistake here, one mistake there [and] that really causes a problem. But I think tonight everyone was spot-on in how they approached the game defensively."
That brand of defense not only kept Colorado off the board going into the half -- the first time the Revolution had kept their opponent scoreless at the half since May 24 -- but it allowed the entire team to start squeezing the Rapids even more in the second half.
"The first 10 minutes [in the second half] are the most important," Davies said. "We didn't want to give them confidence to think, 'OK, we had a bad first half, but now, we can get back in the game.' We had to keep the ball, had to keep pushing it down their throats, and we were able to do that."
Feeding off the energy that allowed them to get on the board early, the Revolution continued to press the issue in the latter stages. Substitute Steve Neumann exploited a gap in the Rapids' defense and nearly broke through before a sharp elbow from Thomas Piermayr cut him down. From the spot of the foul, Nguyen curled a majestic free kick that bulged the netting in the upper 90 to widen the gap in the 75th minute.
"When you hit the ball as sweet as that, you really don't feel it coming off your foot," Nguyen said. "And that's when you know you hit it pretty well. It was a great feeling to go up 2-0 and be able to relax after that knowing we had a little bit of a cushion."
Three minutes later, it was Nguyen who played the role of setup man when he put a ball forward for Rowe, who pushed it through to put to rest any doubts about the team's ability to carry the positives from Saturday's loss and translate them into success four days later.
"I felt that, to be honest with you, the letdown from Saturday was big," Heaps said. "I'm proud of our guys for the quick turnaround. We were really prepared for tonight's match, and the guys were ready for that."