New England Revolution: New England Revolution

Notes: Still plenty of motivation for Revs

September, 20, 2012
9/20/12
9:52
AM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Their playoff hopes may have been dashed in D.C. on Saturday, but don’t tell the Revolution that there’s nothing on the line during their final five games of the season. Far from it.

Although midfielder Ryan Guy admitted that there’s “less to play for” now that the Revolution won’t be making postseason plans, he’s quick to point out that there’s still plenty at stake between now and the Oct. 27 season finale.

“We’re still fighting for our jobs and we’re still fighting for our positions,” Guy said after training on Wednesday. “Now, we’re looking to next year. Guys are going to be competing for spots and we’ve got new guys coming in all the time.”

With trialists entering the picture, and a number of players under the microscope, these final weeks of the season are going to be anything but easy. And that’s just fine by Guy.

Even though each of their final five games won’t carry as much weight as they did earlier in the summer, the fact is that no one’s ready to throw in the towel.

“At the end of the day, we’re all competitors,” Guy said. “We all love the thrill and hate the feeling of defeat.”

Picking their spots

With the high-charged Red Bulls in town on Saturday, Revolution head coach Jay Heaps knows his squad can’t throw caution to the wind.

While some clubs may look at New York’s gaping goals allowed average (1.69) and become wildly ambitious, expect the Revolution to take a disciplined approach instead.

“We have to find the right times to defend,” Heaps said after Wednesday’s training. “And when we do break, we have to find their pressure points.”

To do that, Heaps may rip a page from last week’s game against D.C. Although his club may have fallen short in the 2-1 loss, they hit a number of pressure points after collecting a club-record 28 shots on Saturday.

“I thought we did a nice job of that on Saturday (in D.C.),” Heaps said. “We dictated (much) of the flow of that game. But we have to finish our chances. Right now, it’s a matter of us getting a lot of quality chances, but just not taking them.”

Guy to Guam

Following Saturday’s game, Guy will be flying out to the Philippines for his first international match for Guam, which is playing in next week’s Paulino Alcantara Peace Cup at Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila.

Guy, who hails from San Diego, Calif., is eligible to play for the island nation because his father, Jesse, was born there. And while the midfielder admits that he isn’t entirely familiar with his international teammates, he’s certainly looking forward to the experience.

“I’m excited,” Guy said. “I’ve really been a part of their culture since I’ve been going there basically every year of my life in some way to go visit my dad.”

Guy and his Guam teammates are slated to play three games next week: Tuesday, Sept. 25 vs. Philippines; Thursday, Sept. 27 vs. Taiwan; and Saturday, Sept. 29 vs. Macau.

While Guy doesn’t harbor any World Cup hopes for the squad, he is intrigued by the prospect of building the program from the ground up.

“As a new FIFA soccer nation, I think we’ve got a ton of potential,” Guy said. “We have a lot of young players. Hopefully, I can come in and (assume) a leadership role and really help them rise to the international rankings.”

Heaps pleased with progress at midpoint

July, 12, 2012
7/12/12
9:49
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Revolution head coach Jay Heaps likes what he sees midway through his first season on the sidelines.

In the first 17 games of the season, he’s watched his team not only employ the attacking style promised during his introductory press conference, but translate that style into results.

But even though the Revolution (6-7-4, 22 points) are a much improved squad this season, Heaps was hesitant to give a mid-season grade after Wednesday’s training hesitant.

Jay Heaps
Tom Szczerbowski/US PresswireJay Heaps' Revs team currently sits in sixth place in the Eastern Conference.

“It’s hard to say where you are,” Heaps said. “We feel we’ve made progress but I think we want to be a better team than we’ve shown, at least better in the standings.”

The reason why the Revolution aren’t better in the standings? Simply put: team defense.

Earlier this season, the Revolution allowed late-game goals to Dallas (Apr. 5), D.C. (Apr. 14) and Houston (May 19) -- thus depriving the side of a potential four point climb. That, combined with poor first half performances in Toronto (Jun. 23) and against Seattle (Jun. 30), have kept the Revolution on the outside of the playoff picture.

Even so, Heaps is encouraged by the way the attack has sharpened. He is encouraged that the mistakes are starting to get cleaned up. In short, Jay Heaps sees the potential. The potential of team that, he believes, will be better in the second half.

“We’ve shown well,” Heaps said. “But we feel we can be higher in the standings. That’s a good feeling to have. We know we’re leaving points on the field and if we can correct those (mistakes), we should be in a better position.”

GOALKEEPER CONTROVERSY?
With Bobby Shuttleworth’s 2-0 shutout against New York on Sunday still fresh in the minds of many, Heaps was non-committal about the second-string keeper’s short-term future in the first XI.

On Sunday, Heaps said he wanted to give his regular keeper Matt Reis -- who played every minute between the sticks prior to Sunday -- a rest. Thus the door opened for Shuttleworth to get the nod.

But Heaps also mentioned that the timing of the surprise start wasn’t unrelated to Reis’ struggles against Toronto and Seattle.

“The mistakes we were making in the back were due to air balls,” Heaps said. “That happens to be one of Bobby’s strengths.”

In the interim, Heaps said that Shuttleworth’s performance will likely warrant some tough decisions on the goalkeeper front in the coming weeks.

“Bobby got in the game and did a very good job,” Heaps said. “Now, I think as we approach game day, we’ll start making those hard decisions on who starts in goal.”

A FAMILIAR FOE
For the second time in four weeks, the Revolution will play conference bottom-feeders Toronto FC on Saturday.

Although Toronto conceded two late goals in their 2-2 draw to the Revolution on Jun. 23 at BMO Field, they’ve been unbeaten in four of their last five (2-1-2) and are playing some of their best soccer of the season as of late.

In light of that, Revolution center back A.J. Soares assured the media on Wednesday that he and his teammates won’t be sleeping on their conference foe come Saturday.

“Their team is growing,” Soares said. “They’re becoming better every day. They’re not a team to take lightly, by any means.”

BUILDING HOME FORM
Since Day 1 of his tenure, Heaps has preached the importance of being strong at home. And it seems like that’s a lesson the Revolution are taking to heart.

With Sunday’s 2-0 win, the Revolution’s home mark went to 5-1-3 -- a record which left back Chris Tierney believes is affecting their opponents’ mentality even before stepping onto the Gillette Stadium field.

“We know that a lot of teams don’t want to come here, which is a good thing,” Tierney said after Wednesday’s training. “That’s the atmosphere we’re trying to create: making it a miserable place for opposing teams to come in and play and I think we’ve done that so far.”

Keys to the game: Revs at Earthquakes

March, 9, 2012
3/09/12
1:16
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The Jay Heaps Era officially begins on Saturday when the Revolution step onto the field at Buck Shaw Stadium against the Earthquakes for the season opener.

Heaps, who was appointed head coach in November shortly after Steve Nicol parted ways with the organization, will be making his MLS coaching debut against a squad that beat the Revolution twice last year.

Even so, the Revolution will enter the game riding the momentum of a positive preseason under their new coach. The team went 6-0-1, and racked up wins against Real Salt Lake, Los Angeles and New York. Although Heaps admits that he doesn’t put too much weight into preseason results, there’s no denying that the victories served to bolster the squad’s confidence -- especially after last year’s dismal finish. And with 11 new faces on the squad this year, the re-tooled Revolution is anxious to put the 2011 season behind them.

Much like their adversary, the Earthquakes fell on hard times last year. Amid a season brimming with promise following a playoff in 2010, the Quakes stumbled right out of the gate and never fully recovered. Although striker Chris Wondolowski put together another All-Star caliber season (16 goals, 3 assists), the rest of the team was plagued by inconsistency. And after a 3-1-4 preseason record, it appears that the ‘Quakes may still have some kinks -- especially in the rear -- that may need untangling before they can return to their 2010 form.

Saturday marks the dawn of a new day, for both teams. With the records reset at 0-0-0, San Jose and New England are looking at the opener as the first opportunity to distance themselves from last season. So what will the Revolution have to do come out on top?

1. Set the tempo. With a successful preseason under their belts, there’s no excuse to come out tentative. The midfield needs to set the tone right after the opening whistle. Shalrie Joseph and Clyde Simms will need to assert themselves in the middle of the park and set up the outside wingers and forwards with accurate passes.

2. Close the gaps. If there’s one thing the Revolution has to continue to work on is shutting down passing lanes in front of its own net. But the onus shouldn’t fall on the defense alone. The midfielders will have to do their part to help out the back four when tracking back. After all, the best way to limit your opponent is to limit their options.

3. Play to the whistle. Last year, the Revolution was often guilty of easing up not only from the run of play, but in the waning minutes as well -- and their record (5-16-13, 28 points) reflected that. To avoid the same pitfalls, each of the 11 has to put forth their best from start to finish. Under Heaps, who preaches hard work and tenacity, anything less than full effort is unacceptable.

With a new coach introducing a fresh philosophy, Saturday’s opener will be the first of many tests. A test to find out where the team is after last season’s struggles. A test for the newcomers. A test for the rebuilt striking corps. A test for the Joseph-Simms central midfield.

Although the season may not be decided during the first week of the season, you can bet the Revolution are inclined to kick off the Jay Heaps Era on a positive note.

Brian O'Connell is covering the Revolution for ESPNBoston.com. He is the co-founder of New England Soccer Today (www.nesoccertoday.com), which covers professional soccer within New England. He can be reached at BOConnell21@aol.com.

Revs avoid letdown in 2-0 win over Dallas

September, 11, 2011
9/11/11
12:38
AM ET


FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When Shalrie Joseph scored the first goal of Saturday night's match in the 14th minute to give the Revs an early lead, their fans had to be anxious.

After all, in the Revs' last four games prior to Saturday’s showdown against Western Conference contender FC Dallas, the team scored the opening goal only to watch their early leads evaporate late.

But this time, the Revs scored early -- then late -- and held on to beat Dallas, 2-0, on a night in which the Revs' defense finally held their end of the bargain to secure the win.

“It’s huge,” Revolution midfielder Benny Feilhaber said. “It felt like [for the past four games] that we were just getting goals for fun in the first half and we couldn’t keep them. It was fantastic [to finally win].”

The difference between Saturday’s performance -- which snapped the Revs' seven-game winless streak (0-2-5) -- and their previous late-game disappointments boiled down to a reversal of form in the second half.

Instead of dropping numbers back and smothering their opponents, the Revs kept their forward line high, which, in turn, kept the Dallas defense honest and kept them from sending waves of attackers into New England territory. According to many Revolution players, including Feilhaber, it was a welcome change.

“Tactically, we didn’t drop into a shell like we had been,” Feilhaber said. “I think that kind of stuff doesn’t work.”

It certainly hadn’t worked for the Revs this summer. Since their last win back on July 20, the Revs had scored the first goal in six of their seven games prior to Saturday’s match. But in the second half of each game, the Revs dropped back, substituted attacking players for defenders, and flooded the rear, hoping to disrupt and smother their opponents’ hopes for an equalizer.

And in each instance, it failed. Miserably. Whether it was conceding an 89th-minute equalizer in Kansas City, or allowing a stoppage-time goal against Houston, it seemed as if the Revs looked at each match as an opportunity to find new ways to blow the lead, both at home and on the road.

But that all changed on Saturday night. With the Revs holding onto a precarious one-goal lead going into the final 10 minutes, they not only kept attacking but didn’t make any defensive-minded substitutions in the second half.

“Stevie [Nicol] made some good substitutions,” Revolution keeper Matt Reis said. “We weren't putting midfielders on for forwards.”

Not only did the Revs keep the pressure on Dallas’ defense, but they also secured vital goal late, thanks to Rajko Lekic’s left-footed laser in the 85th minute. And for the first time in nearly two months, it appeared that a Revolution lead was safe and sound.

Additionally, Lekic’s late goal not only proved that the Revs were no longer content to sit back and defend, but it showed that the team had no problem taking the game by the horns.

“[The second goal] just showed how we were still attacking. We were trying to score goals,” Reis said. “We weren't just sitting back. We didn't play the perfect game, but we got three points and we're not out of it yet.”

While the Revs may be staring at the playoff picture from a distance, Feilhaber believes that the focus should be the short term rather than the bigger picture.

“I still think we should be thinking [about] taking it one game at a time and putting in [good] 90-minute performances,” Feilhaber said. “We did that today, so now we can look forward to trying to build.”

Building will certainly be the key as the Revs look to inch their way up the standings, regardless of whether or not they make the playoffs. With a tough two-game road stretch ahead, the Revs will undoubtedly have to take it one game at a time.

“If we get three points here, three points there and we’re starting to climb up the rankings, then yeah, then maybe we can sneak in there,” Feilhaber said. “But that’s not where our minds should be right now.”

Notes:

-- With the win, the Revs snapped their seven-game winless streak (0-2-5) and recorded their first win since their July 20 victory at D.C. United.

-- It was the Revs' first win at Gillette Stadium since their 1-0 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps on May 14.

-- The two-goal margin of victory was the largest for the Revs all season.

-- Shalrie Joseph’s 14th-minute goal upped his team high to eight tallies.

-- Lekic’s 86th-minute goal gave him six on the season, good for second on the team in tallies.

-- Feilhaber’s assist on Lekic’s goal gave him a share of the team lead for assists (4) along with Chris Tierney.

-- For the eighth time in their last nine games, the Revs scored the opening goal (but only have two wins to show for it -- tonight’s 2-0 win and a 1-0 win at D.C. on July 20).

-- With the win, the Revs’ all-time record against Dallas at home went to 12-5-1, including 7-1-1 record at Gillette Stadium.

-- The Revs extended their home unbeaten streak vs. Dallas at Gillette Stadium to eight (7-0-1).

-- The Revs went 1-1 vs. Dallas this season, and haven’t lost a season series to Dallas since 1999.

-- Lekic’s 85th-minute goal was the first time the Revs had scored in the second half since Diego Fagundez’s 86th-minute goal vs. Chivas USA on Aug. 6.

-- Reis recorded his fifth shutout of the season and his first since the Revs’ 1-0 win at D.C. on July 20.

-- FC Dallas defender Zach Loyd, who normally wears No. 19, gave up his number for the night and went with No. 91 instead as a tribute to former Dallas midfielder Bobby Rhine, who passed away earlier this week at age 35. Rhine, who played for Dallas from 1999 to 2008, wore No. 19 for the Hoops.

Brian O'Connell is covering the Revolution for ESPNBoston.com. He is the co-founder of New England Soccer Today (www.nesoccertoday.com), which covers professional soccer within New England. He can be reached at BOConnell21@aol.com.

Rapid reaction: Crew 3, Revs 1

August, 13, 2011
8/13/11
11:43
PM ET
Benny Feilhaber gave the Revs the lead at halftime, but the Crew responded in the second half to coast to a 3-1 win at Crew Stadium on Saturday night.

Feilhaber, who scored in the 45th minute, put the guests up going into the locker room at halftime. But Kevin Alston’s own goal leveled it in the 54th minute before Julius Jones and Emilio Renteria scored in the 75th and 81st minutes, respectively, and catapulted the Crew toward victory.

The win keeps Columbus (10-7-7, 37 points) in first place in the Eastern Conference, and pads its lead over the Philadelphia Union to three points. Meanwhile, New England falls to 4-11-9 (21 points) and drops into eighth place with Toronto FC’s surprise 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake.

Road unbeaten streak snapped: With the loss, the Revs’ modest three-game road unbeaten streak (1-0-2) was snapped Saturday night. Their last loss prior to Saturday night was a 2-1 setback to Seattle on June 26.

Can’t close it in Columbus: Entering the interval with the lead, things were looking rosy for the Revs -- who had a 1-0-3 mark going into the half with the lead this season. But Alston’s own goal in the 54th minute, along with Jones’ and Renteria’s strikes late in the game, marked the first time this year the Revs blew a halftime lead and went on to lose.

Chasing the game: Once again, one of the primary reasons for the Revs’ 3-1 defeat Saturday night was their failure to hold the ball throughout the match. In fact, the Revs' possession percentage was an abysmal 38.5 percent on the evening.

Another night, another three-spot: For the second straight game, the Revs’ shaky defense gave up three goals to their opponents. Last week, the Revs watched Chivas USA put three on the board in a 3-2 home loss.

Revs drop below .500 vs. the East: With the loss, the Revs' record against Eastern Conference competition dropped to 3-4-3 on the season.

Nicol’s record vs. Crew drops, too: Revolution manager Steve Nicol’s all-time record against the Crew also fell below .500, as his career mark went to 10-11-9 in the wake of the 3-1 loss.

Reis keeps it competitive: Matt Reis tied his season-high save mark with six against the Columbus enterprising attack Saturday night.

Phelan the assist-man: With his assist on Feilhaber’s goal, Pat Phelan earned a share of the team lead with three assists on the season. The player he tied with? You guessed it -- Benny Feilhaber.

Caraglio’s endurance improves: Milton Caraglio, who made it to the 62nd minute during his MLS debut last weekend, played 79 minutes on Saturday night.

Fagundez makes another cameo: After a sensational MLS debut last weekend, Diego Fagundez returned to the pitch, coming on as a 79th-minute substitute. But, unlike last weekend’s performance, which steered the Revs to both of the goals against Chivas USA, the teenager failed to find the back of the net.

Quick return home: After Saturday night’s loss, the Revs will hurry back to Foxborough and ready themselves for a midweek matchup against the Houston Dynamo at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday night. The Dynamo edged the Revs 1-0 on April 17 at Robertson Stadium.

Revs look to extend unbeaten streak

August, 3, 2011
8/03/11
5:58
PM ET
After reeling off a three-game unbeaten streak (1-0-2) on the road, the Revolution (4-9-9, 21 points) will attempt to replicate their recent success when they return to Gillette Stadium on Saturday night for an inter-conference game against Chivas USA (6-8-8, 26 points).

The game will kick off at 7:30 p.m. and will be televised on Comcast SportsNet New England. A local radio feed is available on The Sports Hub 98.5.

For the Revs, the match represents an opportunity to inch their way toward the middle of the Eastern Conference standings. On the other end of the field, Chivas USA will aim to rebound from its 1-0 road loss to FC Dallas last weekend.

REVS NOTES:

-- On Tuesday, the Revolution signed their first-ever Designated Player with the addition of Argentinean striker Milton Caraglio. The 22-year-old, who previously played for Rosario Central in the Argentinian second division, attracted the attention of West Ham United last summer before the English side ultimately declined to offer him a contract. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound striker scored 11 goals in 49 games for Rosario and is expected to bolster the Revs’ attack down the stretch.

-- For the third time in their last four games, the Revs will be without a starter due to red card suspension. During last Saturday night’s game against Sporting Kansas City, center back A.J. Soares was issued a straight red card for a tackle on C.J. Sapong in the 82nd minute. Without Soares, the Revs may plug in Ryan Cochrane in the center of the defense alongside Darrius Barnes or Otto Loewy.

-- Rookie midfielder Stephen McCarthy, who left the Kansas City match due to injury in the 33rd minute after awkwardly falling on the ball, is listed as “doubtful” on the team’s Aug. 2 injury report with a left shoulder dislocation. Meanwhile, Pat Phelan and Franco Coria -- who played the entire 90 against Kansas City -- were added to the injury report this week. Phelan is listed as “questionable” with a right hip flexor strain while Coria is listed as “out” with a left MCL strain.

-- Saturday night’s game against the Goats will wrap up the Revs-Chivas USA regular-season series. On April 30, the Revs were thrashed 3-0 by Chivas at The Home Depot Center in a game dominated by the Goats from start to finish.

-- While the Revs may be enjoying a recent streak of success, their youth counterparts found themselves on the opposite end of the spectrum last week. During the Generation Adidas U-17 Cup tournament, which was held in the sweltering heat of Frisco, Texas, the Revs U-17 squad melted, going 0-4-1 against MLS Youth Academy competition.

-- Quote of the Week: “It’s nice... The atmosphere is great and it’s a lot better than playing in a baseball park.” -- Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis’ initial assessment of LIVESTRONG Sporting Park, Sporting Kansas City’s brand new stadium. Prior to moving into the new stadium, Kansas City’s home park was CommunityAmerica Ballpark, a minor-league baseball stadium that was not-so-favorably converted for soccer.

Rapid reaction: Revs 2, Rapids 2

July, 24, 2011
7/24/11
12:08
AM ET
Shalrie Joseph’s 90th-minute penalty strike helped the Revs seize a 2-2 draw against the Rapids at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Denver on Saturday night.

Benny Feilhaber opened the scoring in the 25th minute via a header to give the Revs a 1-0 lead at the half. But the Rapids replied in the 65th minute when Caleb Folan converted a penalty after Chris Tierney was sent off for a foul on Sanna Nyassi inside the box.

With only 10 men for the rest of the match, the Revs watched Kosuke Kimura score a circus goal in the 82nd minute when his free kick from beyond the halfway line escaped Matt Reis.

However, the shorthanded Revs were awarded a penalty after Kenny Mansally was fouled inside the box in the 89th minute before Joseph leveled it for good in the last minute of regular time.

The draw keeps the Revs (4-9-8, 20 points) in the seventh spot of the Eastern Conference standings, and four points behind D.C. United for the sixth spot. In the Western Conference, the draw keeps Colorado (7-6-10, 31 points) in the fifth spot.

Rocky Mountain lows persist: For the 10th straight time, the Revolution left Colorado without a win. Their last victory in Colorado came more than nine years ago, when the Revs beat the Rapids 2-1 on June 15, 2002.

Feilhaber returns: After serving his one-game suspension on Wednesday night, Benny Feilhaber returned to the starting XI against Colorado. Feillhaber was suspended after receiving a red card in the 66th minute of Sunday’s 3-0 loss to Philadelphia.

Set piece success: Both of the Revolution’s goals -- Feilhaber’s from a Kevin Alston throw-in, Joseph’s from the penalty spot -- came via the set piece. In fact, the Revs' last nine goals have come from dead-ball situations.

Late heroics: Joseph’s 90th-minute equalizer was the second-latest goal the Revs have scored this season. On April 6, Ilija Stolica scored a 93rd-minute goal to give the Revs a 1-1 draw against the Whitecaps in Vancouver.

Revs seeing red: Chris Tierney’s 64th-minute red card marked the third time in the Revs’ last four games that a red card was issued to a Revolution player. On July 4, Ryan Cochrane was issued a red card in the 67th minute at Real Salt Lake, while the aforementioned Feilhaber red card left the Revs shorthanded against Philadelphia on July 17.

Nyassi twins face off: When Revolution midfielder Sainey Nyassi came on as a substitute in the 68th minute, it marked the first time that he and his twin brother, Sanna, who started for the Rapids at forward, had shared the field in MLS competition.

Next up: The Revs' road stand continues on Saturday, July 30, with a match against Sporting Kansas City at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park. In their previous match-up, the Revs won 3-2 at Gillette Stadium.

Revs have plenty to prove vs. first-place Philly

July, 16, 2011
7/16/11
4:09
PM ET
Fresh off a 12-day respite from league action, the last-place New England Revolution (3-8-7, 16 points) will face a fierce challenge on Sunday night when they host first-place Philadelphia Union (7-4-7, 28 points) at Gillette Stadium.

Sunday’s match will kick off at 7 p.m. and will be televised live on Comcast Sportsnet New England. A radio broadcast will be available to listeners on 98.5 The Sports Hub.

The Revs will attempt to snap an eight-game winless streak against a team they’ve never beaten -- albeit in its only two meetings. Last season, the Revs settled for a 1-1 draw against the expansion Union on July 31 at PPL Park. But in the second leg of the series, Aug. 28 at Gillette Stadium, the Union beat the Revs 2-1.

New England enters the match with a lot to prove against the top team in the east. Two weeks ago, the Revs and Real Salt Lake traded blows in a chaotic 3-3 draw at Rio Tinto Stadium. Although the Revs jumped to an early 2-0 lead against their undermanned hosts, New England failed to close it out, and watched Salt Lake come back with only 10 men. The guests reclaimed the lead with a 63rd-minute goal from Shalrie Joseph, but Salt Lake equalized with an 83rd-minute Fabian Espindola goal as the Revs once again missed out on a golden opportunity to climb out of the Eastern Conference basement.

On the other hand, Philadelphia arrives in Foxborough with its own set of struggles: namely, the bone-dry well that is their offense. Last week, the Union battled the Earthquakes to a scoreless draw, despite the fact that the Union appeared ready and capable to put one on the board. But, as has been the case all season, the Union’s defense rescued them from defeat. With a conference-best 16 goals against, the Union don’t torch their opponents with offense; they suffocate them with an air-tight defense.

With a smart, disciplined defense in town, the Revs will have to do the following to force Philadelphia’s wall to crack.

1. See the ball, hold the ball. The Revs were taken to the woodshed in the possession department against a 10-man Salt Lake team on July 4. They can’t afford a repeat performance against an opponent that relies on its midfielders and defenders to play keep-away. New England’s midfielders must be collected and calm throughout, lest they find themselves getting overrun for the second game in a row.

2. Re-deploy the 4-4-2. After seeing success in the 4-4-2 at home, Revolution manager Steve Nicol returned to the 4-5-1 on the road against Seattle and Salt Lake, perhaps playing for the valuable road point against a pair of high-powered offenses. But, with the season well into the summer months, the Revs cannot afford to leave more points on the pitch. The 4-5-1 hasn’t worked. If the Revs harbor any hopes of taking three points from Philadelphia, their best option is the 4-4-2, a formation that produced far greater opportunities in the attacking third against Toronto and Chicago last month.

3. Find success on set pieces. Now that the Revs have passed the halfway point of the season, one thing has become patently obvious: The goals, however scarce, are not arriving from the run of play. Rather, they’re showing up in set pieces. Therefore, the Revs have to be particularly sharp on dead-ball situations, especially without Shalrie Joseph available due to yellow card accumulation. Otherwise, it could be another week without a win.

At this point in the season, each match on the schedule carries even greater urgency, especially for a last-place team. The Revs have the chance to shock an opponent with an obvious weakness. In order to do so, they’ll have to show the same disciplined form that kept Manchester United off the board for the first half of Wednesday’s friendly.

Feilhaber switch strengthens Revs

July, 14, 2011
7/14/11
11:39
AM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Sometimes the most important tactical decisions come not from the coach prior to the game, but from the players themselves after the match has already begun.

That was the case for the New England Revolution on Wednesday night when an on-the-fly switch by Benny Feilhaber helped turn what looked like a potentially disastrous first half into a strong, confidence building opening 45 minutes against Manchester United. After the Revs were constantly on the back foot in the opening minutes, Feilhaber, who was originally positioned right behind the Revs striker Rajko Lekic in their 4-5-1 formation, dropped deeper into the midfield beside captain Shalrie Joseph and Pat Phelan.

“He again used his brain,” said head coach Steve Nicol. “We hoped to have him playing in front of Shalrie and Pat, but he wasn’t getting on the ball. He made the adjustment himself to get on the ball and it certainly paid [off] for us.”

The move aided the Revs on both sides of the ball as Feilhaber helped the team better maintain possession in midfield, sparked attacks and made a few crucial saving tackles.

“Benny was awesome,” said Joseph. “He fell into the spaces and I just worked off of that. I told him if he could get it I’d work off of him.”

The pair were heavily involved in just about all of the Revs attacks with Feilhaber starting the play that led to Joseph’s 12th minute chance by sending a smart pass to find Chris Tierney in space. Tierney then found Joseph in the box with a cross that the Grenadian would head just wide.

While Feilhaber often wasn’t as far forward as he was on that early play, he managed to keep the offense going, showing great vision to find open teammates up the field on the attack.

“Whenever he had it he was picking our players out,” said Nicol. “That adjustment was his own. Again that shows you what an intelligent player he is.”

Yet it was his defensive effort that stood out the most early in the match. On an early United chance, Dimitar Berbatov was one-on-one with A.J. Soares and looked ready to round the rookie defender and go in alone on goal before Feilhaber stepped in to save the day.

“I was just trying to get back in a position to try and help us out,” said Feilhaber. “He was trying to take A.J. on to the right and I kind of came in from behind. He’s got a lot of technique, so he’s going to be able to do things. But maybe he’s not the fastest guy, so I just tried to kind of run back with him and kind of catch up and I was able to do that.”

But that was just one of several key tackles for the U.S. International. Feilhaber was extremely active on the defensive end, often tracking back even farther than Joseph and Phelan.
The experienced creative midfielder set an example for the rest of the team of the full commitment it would take to get a positive result.

“I was just trying to help the team defensively,” said Feilhaber. “That’s got to be the mentality for everybody really; just to try and get back when we lose the ball to help us out.”

And even in Feilhaber’s more advanced position early in the match, the main focus of his spot was to aid in the defense. As one of the key cogs to the offense and one of the few creative players on the Revs, one could hardly fault Feilhaber if his focus was on the attack, but against the Red Devils, everyone needs to know their role on the defensive end.

“Our initial goal was to try and take away some of the balls that [Michael] Carrick got and I was trying to do that,” said Feilhaber. “Obviously chasing one guy around the field gets tiring, so after the first twenty minutes I tried to come back to try and get the ball a little bit to try and spray it around, but also to kind of gain my legs back after chasing Carrick all over the field. I thought we did a little bit better in the second part of the first half [after I moved further back].”

Of course Feilhaber would later add to his contributions by setting up the Revs lone goal of the match, blasting a free kick that deflected off Kenny Mansally before going into the net.
The goal did little to prevent the eventual 4-1 loss the Revs suffered after a collapse early in the second half, but it was just another highlight to an impressive performance for the 26-year-old.

And thanks in part to Feilhaber’s strong game the Revs had at least one half they could be proud of.

Sean Donahue is the co-founder of New England Soccer Today (www.nesoccertoday.com), which covers professional soccer within New England. He can be reached at nesoccertoday@gmail.com.
Revs coach Steve Nicol and defender Ryan Cochrane joined ESPN Radio with Adam Jones today. Check out the podcasts of their appearances:

-- Head coach Steve Nichol

-- Defender Ryan Cochrane

Revs gear up for season's biggest challenge

July, 12, 2011
7/12/11
2:10
AM ET
The struggling New England Revolution (3-8-7, 16 points) face their toughest opponent of the season on Wednesday when English Premier League Champions Manchester United head to Gillette Stadium.

The game may not count in the standings, but with the Red Devils bringing a laundry list of the world’s best players there is plenty of reason for the fans -- and the Revolution players -- to be excited for the match.

“It’s something you dream as a kid to play against the best players in the world and when you get the opportunity to do it, you just have to embrace it,” said Revolution Captain Shalrie Joseph.

United recently proved their merits to the world by advancing all the way to the UEFA Champions League Final, the tournament that crowns the best team in Europe, only to fall to FC Barcelona. It was the third time in the past four years Man U reached the final, having won the tournament in 2008. The club’s English Premier League title this season was their fourth in the past five seasons.

And the Revs should see plenty of Manchester United’s top players on Wednesday. In international exhibitions there is always concern about teams not bringing their top players, but with English Internationals Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand, Portuguese International Nani, and the legendary Ryan Giggs all among the traveling squad, there will be no shortage of talent on display.

Undoubtedly the Revs will be huge underdogs entering the match, but that won’t stop head coach Steve Nicol from putting out the squad he feels will give his side the best chance to win.

“This will be a full squad, certainly,” said Nicol. “We’re not going to be putting in guys who aren’t ready for this. It wouldn’t help them, nor us. We’ll be starting with a first team, and obviously we’ll make changes and try and get some guys the opportunity to see what the game’s all about.”

The Revs do have some advantages, however. For United, it’s just the first match of their preseason, so the Revs will most certainly have an edge in fitness.

“Obviously our preparation is not 100 percent at the moment because we only started on the fourth of July for medical testing and then with training since then,” said Sir Alex Ferguson, who has managed the Red Devils since 1986.

An upset, while improbable, is not impossible. In fact, the Kansas City Wizards (now Sporting K.C.) defeated Manchester United during their last preseason tour of the United States by a score of 2-1.

In addition to an edge in fitness, the Revs have the obvious advantage of playing at home. That also means the pressure is on the Revs, more than Man U, to avoid embarrassment.

“We know it’s not their regular season so we need this more than they do, especially with the way we’ve been playing during the season,” said Joseph. “I think on Wednesday, even though it’s not an MLS game, it’s a league game in terms of what we want to do and where we want to go from there and being in front of our fans, we don’t want to embarrass ourselves.

“We want to go out there and give a good showing and make sure we battle, work hard, and at the end of 90 minutes, we should be pleased with our effort,” he added.

While a win for United is expected, a loss in their first preseason game would hardly be devastating. A win for the Revs, however, would be quite the achievement.

“It would be an understatement to say that if we go out there and get three points or get a win against the second-best team in the world it would do so much for our careers and so much for the Revolution organization that we beat Manchester United,” said Joseph.

But Nicol is perhaps more realistic in what would constitute success for his team. The Revs skipper is hoping for his side to put in a positive, confidence-building performance.

“If we can do well against a team like that in stages of the game then that will give us confidence moving forward in the season,” he said.

Last year the Revs suffered two crushing defeats in their international friendlies, falling 4-0 to Portugal’s Benfica and 3-0 to Brazil’s Cruzeiro. New England would fall to defeat in their next league match following each of those games as well.

For a Revs side mired in the midst of an eight-game winless streak, putting in a good show and gaining confidence could be vital to a team desperate to turn their season around.

Revs need to take charge in Seattle

June, 24, 2011
6/24/11
6:33
PM ET
After failing to collect maximum points from last week's two-game home set, the Revolution (3-7-6, 15 points) will embark on the first of two grueling road matches when they face the resurgent Seattle Sounders FC (7-4-7, 28 points) at the newly-renamed CenturyLink Field on Sunday afternoon.

The interconference contest will be the first meeting between New England and Seattle this season, and there's little doubt that the Revs would like to forget their last trip to Seattle. On June 5, 2010, the Sounders pounded the Revs 3-0, with all three goals coming in the first half.

And while the Revs avenged the loss with a 3-1 win at Gillette Stadium on Sept. 4, 2010, the prospect of playing the Sounders in Seattle, where its large and lively crowd give new meaning to the phrase “home field advantage,” is one very few MLS clubs look forward to.

But, with all due respect to Seattle’s most strident supporters, the Revs have larger issues to attend to on Sunday. Namely: their offense.

In last week’s home draws to Toronto (0-0) and Chicago (1-1), the Revs unleashed a surprisingly lively attack that put both of their Eastern Conference rivals on notice. And yet, all the Revs could show for it was this sobering statistic: one goal in 180 minutes. Suffice to say, the Revs are going to need a lot more firepower if they have any shot at keeping pace with the Sounders’ potent and unpredictable attack.

Speaking of the Sounders, Sigi Schmid’s side has ascended to the upper echelon of the Western Conference standings despite a slow start. And if there were any lingering doubts that the club had shed its early-season struggles, Thursday night’s decisive 4-2 victory over New York erased them, as Seattle played scintillating soccer from start to finish in front of a massive crowd (46,065).

Taking three points in Seattle may be fantasy to some, but in reality it’s not at all impossible. Just ask the Revs. In their first meeting at what was then called Qwest Field in 2009, the Revs not only stole a win but also kept the Sounders quiet on the scoreboard, blanking them 1-0.

Here are three things the Revs must do to claim their first road victory of the season on Sunday:

1. Be bold. There’s no room for defensive tactics in this match. Caution must be thrown to the wind, especially when points are at a premium for the sixth-place Revs. The Revs must abandon their inhibitions and come out aggressive rather than passive, lest they find themselves in a position similar to the one they were trapped in the last time they were in Seattle. As they say: Fortune favors the bold.

2. Get wide. Last week, the Revs' attack looked lethal when it utilized its speed (Sainey Nyassi) and skill (Chris Tierney) out on the wings. Granted, Seattle’s surprisingly-stout defense, which has allowed less than a goal per game this season, is far stingier than the ones the Revs faced last week. But, given the scattered offensive successes the Revs have seen this season, they’ll have little choice than to go with what works -- and what’s working right now is effective wing play.

3. Stay sharp. If there’s one thing that’s plagued the Revs all season -- besides its anemic offense, of course -- it’s the unsettling series of defensive mental lapses they’ve suffered in transition. Last week, it was Dominic Oduro's gate-crashing goal. The week before, it was Thierry Henry's audacious display inside the area. Seattle’s attack isn’t predicated on one player, but rather a series of contributors -- all of whom can put one through without warning.

All history aside, Sunday’s match features two teams going in opposite directions. The Sounders are soaring, as they ride the momentum of a five-game unbeaten streak. Conversely, the Revs are reeling, as they stumble through their current six-game winless streak (0-4-2). In order to simultaneously snap both streaks, the Revs will have to play their best soccer.

Lekic gets much-needed goal

June, 22, 2011
6/22/11
2:21
PM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- There’s no doubt that Rajko Lekic has the tendency to throw display his emotions when he fails to put the ball in the back of the net.

And in recent weeks, he's been extremely animated, as he’s watched an alarming number of potential goals pass him by.

But on Saturday night, the fiery forward finally punched one of those chances through to help give the Revs a point during their 1-1 draw to Chicago.

“It really was (a relief) to get back on the board,” said Lekic after the game. “I played eight games without getting a goal and I’m here to score goals. It was a tough time for me, but when I saw the goal go in the back of the net, it was a big (moment) for me.”

After scoring in his first home game against Sporting Kansas City on April 23rd, it appeared that the goals would flow for the former Silkeborg IF star, who scored 76 goals in 121 matches during separate stints at the club.

However, Lekic would have to wait nearly two months to find his second goal of the season. And while he waited, his frustrations mounted with each passing week he failed to put his name on the scoresheet.

"It’s been hard for him playing up from on his own to begin with," said Revolution manager Steve Nicol. "That’s never easy for anybody."

Never was it more evident than last Wednesday’s match against Toronto. With three gift-wrapped passes sent ahead to him, Lekic failed to score on each of them, and the striker began to unfairly target his frustrations at his teammates.

"In the last game (against Toronto)," said Lekic. "It was maybe a little bit too much (emotion)."

Saturday night was a different story altogether. With the Revs’ midfielders routinely providing good service to Lekic, the goal that had eluded the Danish striker finally arrived in the 48th minute.

With the Revs down a goal, Pat Phelan pounced on a loose ball near the top of the box and fired a wayward shot that Lekic quickly grabbed, then pushed toward the far post for the equalizer.

"I saw that Pat was going to shoot," said Lekic. "I was thinking if he missed the ball, I was all alone and I can get the ball in a free position and then make the goal hopefully. And that happened.”

While the striker may have had time and space to work with given the number of Fire defenders behind him when he took the pass, Nicol said it wasn’t as easy as it may have looked.

"The finish, on the one hand looks simple, but if you panic it becomes a lot harder,” said Nicol. “But, he kept his cool and just stroked it away and just finished."

While keeping his cool may not be the Danish forward’s forte, he displayed his patience again in stoppage time.

With the Revs desperate to take three points, Lekic took a hold of a Darrius Barnes long throw-in, tipped it up three times, then volleyed it inches wide of the far post.

"It was with the left (foot) and I can’t score with the left (foot),” said Lekic. “It was a good shot, but I can’t score with the left foot, sorry.”

Despite the fact that the shot failed to deliver the go-ahead goal, Nicol was nevertheless impressed by the dazzling effort.

“He almost pulled (that) one out his you-know-what,” said Nicol, with a laugh.

Although Lekic was happy to get the goal-scoring monkey off his back, don’t expect the animated goal artist to tone down his demeanor anytime soon.

"I’m a passionate guy," said Lekic. "And I want to win games -- every game, like the (rest of the) team, but I show it more than the other guys."

Brian O'Connell is covering the Revolution for ESPNBoston.com. He is the co-founder of New England Soccer Today (www.nesoccertoday.com), which covers professional soccer within New England. He can be reached at BOConnell21@aol.com.

Revs lack killer instinct in draw vs. Toronto

June, 16, 2011
6/16/11
2:02
AM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – There’s no escaping it: The Revs have not been at their best lately. Not on the scoreboard, and certainly not in the standings.

And as has happened consistently in the past month, their puzzling lack of production in the final third thwarted their best intentions on Wednesday night as the Revs (3-7-5, 14 points) had to settle for a 0-0 draw against Toronto FC (2-5-9, 15 pts.) at Gillette Stadium.

“We had plenty of the ball in the final third,” said Revolution manager Steve Nicol. “We were just lacking that killer pass, killer run or killer shot.”

The Revs should have had no problem showing their killer instinct against a Toronto team that has conceded a league-high 25 goals and appeared to have no intention of taking anything more than a tie on the road.

“They came in here and they were wasting time on their goal kicks,” said Revolution skipper Shalrie Joseph. “That should have given you an idea of what they came here to do.”

While Toronto may have played for the draw, there was little doubt that the Revs were playing with a clear sense of urgency from the opening whistle.

Three minutes into the match, Rajko Lekic put a Chris Tierney corner on frame to test Stephen Frei, putting the guests on notice that the Revs were desperate for three points.

New England knocked on Toronto’s doorstep again in the 20th minute when Tierney blasted a long-range rocket that forced Frei to the dive at the near post.

Despite two solid chances to take a lead going into the interval, the Revs fell short where it mattered the most: the score sheet.

“We were the team that was pressing,” said Nicol. “But it really is down to the final third and we didn’t have the quality when it was needed.”

Hoping to press the shaky Toronto defense even further and find the goal that escaped them in the first 45 minutes, Nicol inserted sparkplug Sainey Nyassi for Zak Boggs in the second stanza. It was a move that nearly paid immediate dividends.

Five minutes into the second frame, Lekic took a Nyassi pass inside the box, then fed it to Joseph, who ripped a shot that smacked Frei right in the chest before the keeper quickly collected it.

Eight minutes later, Kevin Alston delivered a ball deep from the right corner that fell right to Lekic. But the Danish striker, who struggled with his aim all night, sailed it wide of the far post.

It wasn’t the last time Lekic let a chance pass him by. In the 71st minute, Mansally seized a loose ball and space before he crossed it over to a lonely Lekic, who inexplicably missed the perfect pass near the far post.

“We just have to be better in the box,” said Joseph. “We were creating chances, but we just weren’t finishing them.”

“There were two [in which] the final pass [had] too much on it,” said Nicol. “That’s how close and how far away we are from scoring goals. We’re almost [there], but almost [there] doesn’t get you goals.”

With the score knotted at zero after 90 minutes, the Revs were afforded a final look in stoppage time.

Deep inside Toronto territory, Zack Schilawski weighted a perfect ball near the top of the box off for Joseph, determined to make his second shot on frame count. But, the skipper’s shot screamed over the bar and the eighth-place Revs walked off the pitch with only a single point, preventing them from leap-frogging sixth-place Toronto.

“I think we’re definitely frustrated and disappointed that we only got one point tonight,” said Joseph. “Being at home, you have to pick up three points.”

Despite the fact that they watched a series of sure-fire opportunities vanish in front of their eyes, the Revs took some measure of solace that the draw wasn’t for lack of effort -- or chances.

“We just need to be encouraged that we have plenty of the ball in the final third,” said Nicol. “We have to be positive, and we were as positive as much as we’ve been to get into the final third. But we just didn’t have that quality when it was needed.”

Revs at Red Bulls: Three keys for Revs

June, 9, 2011
6/09/11
1:52
PM ET
On Friday night, the Revolution (3-6-4, 13 pts.) will seek a way to snap their three-game losing streak against a New York Red Bulls (4-2-7, 19 pts.) squad that has gone winless in its last six league matches.

The nationally-televised tilt will be the first of the season between the long-time I-95 rivals. Last season, the teams split their two-game series, with each club securing a home win in the process. On May 29, 2010, the Revs captured a 3-2 win at Gillette Stadium, while New York avenged the loss months later when they claimed a 2-0 win on October 21, 2010 at Red Bull Arena.

Coming into Red Bull Arena, the Revs will attempt to bounce back from their 1-0 loss to FC Dallas last weekend in Frisco, Texas. In a game that saw the Revs midfield melt in the oppressive 97 degree Texas heat, Dallas dictated the game from start to finish and peppered the New England net with seven shots on frame. Matt Reis made a pair of spectacular saves to keep it close, but with few offensive threats on the other end of the field, the Revs walked off the Pizza Hut Pitch without points for the third consecutive game.

Meanwhile, the talent-rich Red Bulls, a preseason favorite to win the MLS Cup, have stumbled badly in recent weeks after starting the season with a 4-1-2 record, thanks in large part to injuries, national team call-ups, and an anemic attack. In last week’s matchup against Columbus, it appeared that New York’s first victory in over a month had arrived as final minutes fell off the clock. But, rookie Crew defender Rich Balchan netted the equalizer in stoppage time to steal a road point for the Crew in the 1-1 draw at Red Bull Arena.

Although the second-place Red Bulls are four spots and six points clear of the Revs in the Eastern Conference standings, the MLS originals are very much alike at the moment. Both teams are win-starved and struggling and both will be eyeing tomorrow’s match as a chance to turn around their respective seasons.

In order for the Revs steal points from their vulnerable foe and stake their first road victory of the season on Friday night, they’ll have to do the following:

Forget the 4-5-1 formation. It’s proven to be a failure, through and through. Rajko Lekic has been lacking service since he signed with the Revs, and it’s clear that he needs a strike partner to find more opportunities in the box, especially with midfielder Benny Feilhaber nursing a sprained ankle. Whether it’s Zack Schilawski, Kheli Dube, or Alan Koger, the Danish striker needs another teammate up top to threaten opposing defenses, as evidenced by the club’s last six lethargic performances.

Keep an eye on Thierry Henry. With Dane Richards, Dwayne DeRosario, and Juan Agudelo out of action due to CONCACAF Gold Cup commitments, it’s obvious that the Revs will have to pay particular attention to Henry, one of the league’s best playmakers. In recent weeks, the former Arsenal and Barcelona star has started to gel with striker Luke Rodgers up top. Rest assured that if the Revs defense snoozes for a second, Henry will seize the opportunity and make them pay dearly.

Test Greg Sutton. On paper, the Revs win the goalkeeper battle so long as Reis remains between the sticks. The Revs are capable of pitching a shutout against the erratic Red Bulls, but one point does them little good going forward. Without having to deal with defenders Tim Ream and Rafa Marquez, both of whom were called up for Gold Cup duty, New England must find ways to pierce the Red Bulls backline and test the veteran keeper, who’s been liable to let through his fair share of garbage goals this season.

On paper, it appears the Revs have the Red Bulls right where they want them: depleted and reeling in the wake of a hard-luck home draw. But, the Revs have obvious woes of their own as they’ve struggled to score all season. If New England has any hopes of taking three points on national television, they’ll have to dust the cobwebs off the attack and score some goals.

Brian O'Connell is covering the Revolution for ESPNBoston.com. He is the co-founder of New England Soccer Today (www.nesoccertoday.com), which covers professional soccer within New England. He can be reached at BOConnell21@aol.com.

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