For frustrated Revs, scoring first not paying dividends

Pat Phelan, New England Revolution

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — In eight of their past 10 matches, the New England Revolution have grabbed the game's first goal.

Early success usually leads to positive final results in MLS, but the Revs have failed to cash in on their recent tendency to strike first. Those eight games have yielded just eight points and a 1-2-5 record as opposing sides have taken advantage of the Revolution's inability to maintain those bright starts over the course of 90 minutes.

“I think we just need to focus and not let our foot off the gas,” New England defender Darrius Barnes told MLSsoccer.com. “We'll start off great, it'll be perfect and we're playing in their half. Next thing you know, we'll go up a goal and then we sit back, pack it in and play defensively. It's not something that we want to do, it's just, for some reason, something that happens with this team.”

The measured approach isn't necessarily by design, but time and again the Revs have nursed their second-half advantage to allow opposing teams to push forward without worrying that the Revs will keep up the threat and make them pay for it.

Revolution midfielder Chris Tierney, like most of his teammates, believes his side must push out from their own half and sustain the momentum generated by scoring the match's first goal.

“After we scored those goals (the first two against New York in a 2-2 draw on Aug. 20), we tucked back a little bit and started worrying about keeping them off the board as opposed to really putting our foot on the gas and trying to get a third,” he said.

The conservative mindset in the waning stages has caused the Revolution problems throughout the campaign. New England this season have conceded 25 times (of 39 total) in a match's second half (third most in MLS), including 11 times in the final quarter of an hour.

Although those numbers likely do not provide much encouragement for the Revs to push further forward to preserve a lead, they believe they can rely on their defensive shape to secure the desired result.

“We have to try to encourage players to keep going forward and keep it tight,” Barnes said. “Defensively, we're strong at the back and we can contain the firepower that other teams have. If we continue to keep guys pushing forward and creating chances out of it, we can make teams worry about us instead of us worrying about them for the last 20 to 25 minutes of a game.”