New England still looking for their missing finishing touch
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Most players in the New England Revolution locker room targeted six points from this week's two-game homestand.
It is now impossible for the Revs to meet that target after a 0-0 draw with Toronto FC on Wednesday, but the task hasn't changed all that much ahead of Saturday's date against Chicago (7:30 pm ET, MatchDay Live).
“It's the same situation as [the game against Toronto],” New England goalkeeper Matt Reis told MLSsoccer.com of the match against the Fire. “We need three points. We all know that it is a desperate time for us. We know we have to play like our backs are against the wall.”
The upcoming schedule — the Revs will play five of their next six matches on the road after this date against the Fire — increases the pressure to snap the current streak of five matches without a victory.
“Saturday is going to be little bit more desperation and a little bit more [urgency],” Revolution midfielder Shalrie Joseph said. “We need to take the game to Chicago early and try to put them on their heels.”
Joseph said he believes that the goal-shy Revs need to strike first — they have banked three wins and two draws when they have scored the opening goal — to boost their confidence and shake free from their season-long struggles in front of goal.
“We just need to try to get that first goal,” Joseph said. “It's very important that we score with the young team that we have. It's going to help our confidence so much if we get that goal. It'd be a huge monkey off our back, you could say.”
New England posted season highs in corner kicks (19) and shots (11) against TFC in midweek, but those opportunities did not yield any goals. Revolution coach Steve Nicol said his team needs to convert once in front of goal to turn their persistence into production.
“That's how close and how far away we are from scoring goals,” Nicol said. “'Almost’ doesn't get you goals. We have to keep banging away. All it will take is a good ball, a good break, a good finish or something. You hope that will open the floodgates and we'll start putting the ball in the net a lot more often.”
Benny Feilhaber could bolster those efforts as he appears poised to make the substitutes bench for the first time since spraining his right ankle in a 1-0 defeat to the LA Galaxy on May 28. Feilhaber joined in with the Revs training on Tuesday and participated fully on Thursday and Friday, and Nicol told reporters on Friday morning that he planned to include the US midfielder in his squad.
Injuries will almost certainly force Nicol to make two changes to the starting 11 employed against TFC in midweek. Franco Coria will likely partner A.J. Soares in central defense after Ryan Cochrane strained his left hamstring against the Reds, while Sainey Nyassi could replace Zak Boggs (doubtful with a right MCL sprain) on the right flank.
Despite the continued problems with injuries and the persistent struggles in front of goal, the Revs remain optimistic about their performances in the past two matches and their hopes of snapping an eight-match winless drought.
“We need to just keep our heads down and keep working,” Revolution midfielder Pat Phelan said. “We need to not get too frustrated and start changing our game plan and the way we play. We're doing the right things for the most part, but it's just the final touch [that we're missing]. We can only control so much. We can control our mentality.”