PORTLAND, Ore. – New England Revolution coach Steve Nicol said his side must rise to the challenge of playing in the cauldron better known as JELD-WEN Field when it tussles with Portland on Friday night (11 pm ET; FOX Soccer).
In their first season in the league, the Portland Timbers have established a fearsome and imposing reputation for their home atmosphere. Despite the complications posed by playing in front of a hostile crowd of approximately 20,000 home fans, the Revs should relish the opportunity to potentially subdue the Timbers Army, according to Nicol.
“If you're a real football player, then you enjoy playing in atmospheres like this, bottom line,” Nicol told MLSsoccer.com. “If you're the type of player that gets intimidated by it, then you're probably in the wrong place. This is why you play the game. You want to play in good atmospheres and in big games. It's there to be enjoyed.”
Another solid performance would no doubt make the experience more memorable. New England haven't lost in their past four matches – including a 2-0 home victory over FC Dallas last Saturday – and carry a bit of momentum into the contest.
While the Revs coped well with FCD's possession-oriented approach at Gillette Stadium, they will have to adopt a more robust defensive deportment in order to cope with Portland's more direct style of play. Opposing teams must remain committed and vigilant at all times against a Timbers side that likes to strike quickly down the wings and take advantage of set pieces whenever possible on one of the smallest playing surfaces in the league.
“It's a lot like playing in the old San Jose and at Spartan Stadium,” New England goalkeeper Matt Reis said. “You just have to watch it and make sure you're always switched on. That's something we did better last game, but we've struggled with (taking mental breaks) this year. Any ball that crosses midfield is a live ball.”
Application and focus will be at a premium as the Revs – complete with a choice to make between Ryan Cochrane and Franco Coria in central defense and with the recovered Pat Phelan (concussion) in their squad – seek to sustain their recent run of form. Nicol admits that the recent uptick in fortune will make life just a little bit easier as his side attempts to notch its first win in sixteen tries in the Mountain or Pacific time zones.
“It's nice coming off a win,” Nicol said. “It'd be nice coming off four wins, which we could have done, but we didn't. But it's nice to come off a win and try to carry that through (on Friday night).”
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