Three games in nine days. Three cities in nine days. Nine points tallied in nine days.
"For our third game in nine days, I thought we looked strong," said New England Revolution head coach Steve Nicol after a 1-0 victory against Chivas USA on Saturday night at Gillette Stadium.
Nicol was relieved after an 88th-minute goal by talismanic midfielder Clint Dempsey extended his side's win streak to four matches. Especially after a difficult game against a defensive-minded Chivas USA side with supposedly fresher legs than his tired side.
"[Three games in a week] takes a toll," said Dempsey, named the MLS Player of the Month for April. "We prepared well for it during the preseason. We didn't look like the slower team in the late stages [Saturday]."
Not a bad start for a side that is notoriously slow out of the gates and struggling with injuries to three projected starters in midfield and one on the backline.
Substitutes such as Marshall Leonard, Avery John, and Andy Dorman have seamlessly integrated into the winning lineup, posing selection questions for Nicol as his wounded legion start to return.
"That's [a] great [problem to have]," said Nicol. "This time last year, we were wondering who was playing with all of the injuries and other factors. Now we're wondering who's going to play when everyone returns to the team."
Steve Ralston returned to the starting lineup after missing the previous two matches with a bronchial infection.
"He [was] knackered," said Nicol. "His last day of training was the Tuesday before our trip to D.C."
Ralston was replaced in the 63rd minute by the returning Jose Cancela, who recovered from a bout with the flu to contribute valuable minutes in relief of Ralston.
"Pepe was ill during the week," said Nicol. "We didn't want to start two guys who were struggling in the center of the park."
With Cassio (turf toe) and Joe Franchino (right quadriceps strain) expected to return soon, Nicol is spoiled for choice and for points.
Kyle McCarthy is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.