At the end of a stretch of three games in eight days and with the temperature landing at a searing 99 degrees right before kickoff, it was no surprise when New England entered Saturday night's 0-0 draw at Sporting Kansas City with a pragmatic approach in mind.
Revolution coach Jay Heaps wanted his players to strip away the frills from their work on the ball and train their focus on keeping a solid defensive shape. He deployed a 4-5-1 formation without a natural forward at the outset and tasked his players to get through until halftime without conceding.
HIGHLIGHTS: SKC 0, NE 0
With a disappointing midweek defeat at Montréal in the back of their minds, the Revs adhered to those principles, created a couple of chances to pose questions of the home side and ultimately secured a much-needed result ahead of next Sunday's trip to Philadelphia.
“Hopefully, this is a good step for us,” Heaps told Revs Wrap/csnne.com after the match. “Unfortunately, we've gone into games thinking that we can just pass it through everybody and win the game. Tonight, we got back to the basics. It was a good, hard-fought match for us.”
The steamy conditions left the Revs – perhaps a touch fatigued from their exertions and their travel schedule this week, though their work rate did not suggest it – willing to expend most of their energy on the defensive end.
“It's difficult to talk about because both teams had to deal with the heat, but it's true,” Revolution midfielder Ryan Guy told Revs Wrap/csnne.com after the match. “It was very hot today. Fortunately, coming in here, you have such a great atmosphere here. You tend to forget about it because we're all equal on the pitch. Certainly, we were sweating a little more than normal.”
All of that earnest toil ultimately produced a gritty result at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park and served as a potential platform for the Revs to push onwards during the second half of the season, according to Heaps.
“These are the kind of games we can use as a stepping stone,” Heaps said. “We can say, look, that's how you defend. Now if we match that with the way we play when we play well, then we're going to be a good team.”