FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The best moment in New England's 1-0 victory over Portland made the victory considerably harder to obtain.
Saër Sène notched the Revolution's first goal of the season by heading home Chris Tierney's cross less than a minute into the contest.
While the Revs were thrilled to take the early lead, Sène's early strike altered how the rest of the match unfolded and ultimately forced them to play more defensively than they intended. For a team that gave away a league-worst 27 points from leading positions in 2011, the prospect of trying to maintain that lead presented a particularly difficult set of challenges.
WATCH: Full Match Highlights
“Sometimes when you get a goal like that, it changes your game plan a little bit,” Revolution coach Jay Heaps told MLSsoccer.com after the match. “It took us a little bit of time to settle in. As the game went on, there were things against us, things that were hurting us, but we fought through it. That was what was the most special part of the night. When it got tough, we got tougher.”
The pervasive selection crisis made it tough enough on the Revolution backline from the outset. With Darrius Barnes, John Lozano and Stephen McCarthy all ruled out through injury or suspension, Shalrie Joseph left his usual role in central midfield to partner A.J. Soares in central defense. Joseph's versatility allowed him to slot in without missing a beat, according to Heaps.
“He played unbelievably,” Heaps said. “He and A.J. had a good partnership. To be honest, we were hoping to have [just signed] Flo Lechner start there. Shalrie was playing a lot of midfield during the week. I had to pull him aside yesterday when Flo needed some additional testing. Shalrie had to be reactive and be the captain that he is. I'll tell you what, I thought he was spot on all night in that spot. He was able to lead us from there.”
While the makeshift rearguard fared well enough against Portland's direct style of play in the first half, they grappled with yet another unexpected complication during the second half when Kevin Alston departed with a suspected broken nose after 70 minutes. The situation forced midfielder Ryan Guy to play right back as the Revs buttoned down to protected their lead.
“I have been asked to play in different positions,” Guy said. “With myself and Shalrie playing in the backline, we're not exactly used to that. It's something we're absolutely delighted to do for the team. When you get a win, it doesn't matter where you're playing. We're absolutely delighted to win.”
In the end, it didn't particularly matter that the Revs ultimately held out with two midfielders, a converted midfielder (Tierney) and a center back in their back four. For this team in this particular match, the final outcome mattered far more than the process used to achieve it.