FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The scene repeated itself week after week.
When the opening whistle blew, the New England back four knew the pressure would eventually arrive. It almost always does when the other team enjoys plenty of time on the ball.
The repetitive defensive grind contradicted everything the Revolution wanted to do in preseason. In the Revs' blueprint, they bossed the match and controlled the majority of the possession.
It took nine games and the long-awaited introduction of Ousmane Dabo to attain relative parity on the ball, but New England finally managed to give their beleaguered defense a breather and posted their first clean sheet in Saturday's scoreless draw against Colorado.
“A.J. [Soares] and the back four have been under attack all season,” Revolution midfielder Shalrie Joseph told MLSsoccer.com after the match. “We haven't allowed them any breaks where they can catch themselves. I don't think any of them are complaining that they are tired or that they've been chasing [against Colorado].”
New England's ability to push out of their end and retain possession in the middle third did more than simply release the pressure off the back four. It also allowed the Revs to pick up better defensive positions when they did lose the ball, because they conceded possession higher up the field.
“[Retaining possession] helps us out a ton, because we're not just defending for the whole game,” Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis said. “If we do lose the ball, we're not losing it in bad spots. We're losing it at the other end of the field and they have to go through the whole team to create chances. ”
The territorial shift limited Colorado's chances in the attacking third – the Rapids posted just one shot on frame – and provided a tangible glimpse of how the Revs improved their all-around play.
“It's better,” Dabo said. “If we keep the ball, the defenders can rest a little bit more. It's better for the team. I think we can do even better in the future. We have to know each other more and more.”
Although Dabo looks unlikely to inspire further improvement against Vancouver on Saturday after straining his right adductor in training yesterday, he and his teammates will hope to continue the upward trend this weekend.
Room for improvement exists in front of goal (two shots on target) and on the ball (46.7 percent of possession against the Rapids, according to Opta stats on MLSsoccer.com), but the Revs will hope to continue their defensive efforts – and a few of the reasons behind them – as they search for three points this weekend.
“I said to A.J. after the game that we did our job and we kept a zero for the first time this year,” Revolution defender Ryan Cochrane said. “I think we're really pleased with that. If we can get more of those, I think the defenders will be pretty happy.”