In rushing out to a league-best 16 points through six matches this season, the New England Revolution have exhibited flair heretofore undiscovered at Gillette Stadium.
Shedding an image of defensive and combative play, the Revolution have combined graft with a relentless commitment to attack that has demolished the competition.
The change has stunned observers, as they question how New England had changed its philosophy in the close season.
"We haven't changed anything," said Revolution head coach Steve Nicol. "We have 11 on the field playing regularly. Everyone knows what we're after."
Injuries hampered the Revolution for most of last season. Steve Ralston was regularly deployed in the back, while a variety of ailments robbed the Revs of a fixed starting XI from week to week.
Despite injuries to Ralston, Joe Franchino, Cassio, and Jose Cancela, this Revolution side has found depth in order to succeed in the early stages of the campaign.
"We chopped and changed [our personnel last year]," said Nicol. "Sometimes, we played a 4-4-2 and other times we played a 3-5-2. Everything was being dictated to us. Now we are dictating. You know what is going on this week."
As players have returned, each faces the difficult task of supplanting his replacement. James Riley was felled by a hamstring, opening Ralston's preferred right midfield berth. Andy Dorman played well in Cancela's stead, forcing the Uruguayan to the sidelines even upon his return to full fitness.
"We have a lot of competition in the center of the field, [with] four players for three spots," said Nicol. "Pepe [Cancela] did a great job, and then he got ill. Dorman came in when Pepe was ill. He didn't start last week, and Andy played well. Unfortunately, Pepe hasn't played."
Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis points to one dramatic shift for his side: consistent finishing.
"We're finishing chances [this year]," said Reis. "Last year, we'd tattoo the post."
Nicol notes that taking chances breeds further confidence and an increased chance of continued success.
"Confidence is huge," said Nicol. "You feel like you can take on the world. It's all about confidence."
Most importantly, his side has won five in a row. Through six matches last season, the Revolution had amassed six points.
"Winning games is huge," said Nicol. "Last year at this time, we didn't feel like we were playing particularly poorly, but we were losing games."
Kyle McCarthy is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.