FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – In the shadow of a high-profile signing and a barrage of goals at the sharp end, the New England Revolution defense has quietly put its house in order during the club's five-match unbeaten run.
High-profile mistakes leading to draws with Toronto FC and Seattle obscured the fact that the Revs have cobbled together a strong defensive shape of late, limiting opportunities for the opposition during this recent stretch of good form.
Now with TFC visiting Saturday night (7:30 pm ET; TSN2 in Canada; MLS Live in the US), New England are in a position to atone for the errors committed in the 2-2 draw at BMO Field last month.
“We want to handle it differently than we did in the last game,” Revolution coach Jay Heaps said. “We didn't do well with it in the last game. We were prepared for it, but I think they did a nice job in that first half of attacking down that left side.”
“That left side” features TFC left back Ashtone Morgan (above, with Kevin Alston), who’s been in torrid offensive form under new coach (and ex-Revs assistant) Paul Mariner. The youngster contributed to both goals at BMO, his performance underscoring the importance of stemming service into the forward pairing of Danny Koevermans and Ryan Johnson.
It’s direct, but it’s been effective. The Revs learned as much first-hand before clawing back for the draw.
“You know what you're going to get with Toronto,” New England left back Chris Tierney said. “They're going to be well organized, they're pretty direct and they like to get it wide and get it into the box to two strikers who can hurt you with good service. We'll have to keep track of those two guys, but the game's going to be about us, how we manage it and how we keep the ball.”
It’s something the whole squad has worked on and improved in recent months. And something Tierney, for one, is eager to display for the full 90 vs. the Reds.
“I think we've actually defended pretty well, but it's just been a few mistakes here and there that have cost us goals,” Tierney offered. “On the whole, if you look at the amount of chances other teams have been creating, I think we've locked things down pretty well back there.”