FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – It never used to take much to discern exactly how Chicago would plot to attack the opposition.
The recent addition of Sherjill MacDonald and the fine form of Chris Rolfe have transformed a team once overly reliant on its pace into a side that can create attacking opportunities in diverse ways.
Between the Lines: Patrick Nyarko
Even with those reinforcements now in tow and the variety of enticing options available to Frank Klopas and the Fire going forward, the defensive task ahead of New England at Toyota Park on Saturday night (8:30 pm ET, MLS Live) still starts with setting the line in the proper place to restrict those forays behind the back four.
“It's definitely important because it's no secret that they are a speedy team,” Revolution defender A.J. Soares told MLSsoccer.com. “You have to set the line right. You have to be in the beast mode mindset. Whether or not the line's right, you have to beat the guy to the ball. I don't care who it is or who you are running with, you can beat anyone to the ball. You can outfight any single person. We just have to do that.”
In order to facilitate those efforts, the Revs must devote particular care to their shape. Revolution coach Jay Heaps said his team needed to stay compact from back to front in order to pressure the midfielders properly and reduce the Fire's time and space in possession.
By communicating often to sort out responsibilities and maintaining the proper distance between the lines, the Revs can put themselves into the right spots to force more favorable passes and prevent the Fire from playing through them too easily.
“It has to be hard work,” Heaps said. “It's not just about being in the right position. It's 'well, now, this guy is coming into my zone or my area, I'm taking this guy, let's put a little pressure on him to make him go negative as opposed to letting him pick his head up and play.'”
Recent performances suggest the Revs understand how to implement those principles fairly well. Most of the seven goals conceded during the current six-match winless streak have occurred through momentary lapses instead of systemic breakdowns.
Revolution defender Stephen McCarthy said he and his teammates believe they are making progress as a unit at the defensive end and hope to cut out the recurring mistakes in time to claim a first regular-season win at Toyota Park, where they are 0-5-1.
“That's the problem: the film usually comes back pretty good,” McCarthy said. “And then we'll say, if we hadn't made that one error, this is a really good defensive game. That sucks, but it's good, it's productive and we'll keep moving forward. I think we're taking steps forward. Our shape has been good. We've been pretty tight at the back and we've looked pretty good, and then one thing will happen and it'll break down. I think we're moving forward. I really do.”