FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Composure, character and energy.
Those were the buzzwords out of Revolution camp ahead of Saturday’s match in San Jose (10:30 pm ET, Direct Kick, MatchDay Live). New England coach Steve Nicol believes his side must display an energetic approach in order to secure a result against the resurgent Earthquakes.
“They had a great win at the weekend [against Columbus] and they scored three great goals, so we have to be on our toes,” Nicol told MLSsoccer.com earlier this week. “It's always a tough place to go play for a whole host of reasons. We have to make sure we're up for it and ready to go.”
The task at Buck Shaw Stadium usually includes a hefty dose of commitment given the venue's narrow confines. Although San Jose will miss the suspended Brandon McDonald as they wage those expected battles, the Revs must still rise to the occasion from the opening whistle to procure a second consecutive victory.
“With the field being so small, I think it's going to be one of those games where those 50-50 challenges will determine the game,” Revolution captain Shalrie Joseph said. “We're going out there to play against them in their home stadium. We're going to have to come out ready to play at the whistle. The game's going to be so quick and so fast. There will be limited chances throughout the game — whoever gets the first one will [decide the game].”
Although the small surface at Buck Shaw does constrain the proceedings a bit, it does not preclude either the Revs or the Earthquakes from carving out those sought-after opportunities. The onus, however, will once again fall on the Revolution's technical quality on the ball as the visitors attempt to work through the tighter spaces and improve upon the meager return of one goal in the past three games.
“It's like everything else,” Nicol said. “If you're on your game with the ball at your feet, then you'll be able to combat whatever is thrown at you. That's the key.”
Nicol could name an unchanged side from Saturday's 1-0 victory over Vancouver. Rajko Lekic (left knee contusion), the only doubt from that game, traveled with the Revs to the Bay Area after recovering from the knock he suffered against the Whitecaps.
Lekic looks likely to start, but Ousmane Dabo (right adductor strain) and Marko Perovic (left knee injury) remain sidelined. Didier Domi (left quadriceps strain) returned to full training this week and will hope to displace Darrius Barnes at left back.
The chosen starters will attempt to submit a composed and coherent performance on the Revs' fourth trip to the West Coast this season. The previous three trips to the Pacific time zone have yielded two points, though the Revs will hope to erase the bitter taste of their last foray — a 3-0 defeat at Chivas USA on April 30 — on this westward trek.
In order to achieve that goal, New England must start to display the consistency required to regularly pick up points on the road. Revolution defender A.J. Soares said his side is capable of meeting that challenge if it relies on its character and its cohesiveness.
“[It's really about] sticking together as a unit — no matter how we're playing — and making sure that we're encouraging each other, really covering each other and playing as a team,” Soares said. “We've showed good character in a lot of games. When you come out with character, you're going to be in every single game you play.”