Jay Heaps gesticulates at Gillette Stadium

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New England Revolution made their objective clear ahead of the 2017 season: Improve and revamp their defense.


They did that, in part, signing center backs Antonio Delamea and Benjamin Angoua to Targeted Allocation Money-level deals, and welcoming full campaigns for goalkeeper Cody Cropper and holding midfielder Xavier Kouassi, their two marquee signings from 2016. Flash forward to late July, however, and the Revs’ broader vision hasn’t quite panned out.


Through 20 games, New England has allowed 34 goals, the Eastern Conference’s third-highest total. The Revs have recorded four shutouts, but all came at home, a factor that’s contributed to their 0-7-3 road record.


So, what gives? Simple lapses in communication, according to head coach Jay Heaps.


“When guys aren’t talking and they’re on an island, it’s very difficult to defend,” Heaps said after Wednesday’s training session. “We discuss it all the time in our meetings and on the field – when one guy is communicating, two or three guys get better. When five or six guys are communicating, 11 guys get better. We need to continue to talk so that the entire team feels engaged defensively.”


Veteran Chris Tierney, now in his 10th season with New England, harped on their result this past weekend, a 4-3 home win against the LA Galaxy. For the left back, the victory was a boost with the Revs eight points out of a playoff spot, but larger issues loomed.


The Revs allowed three goals off crosses, including two on second chances from corner kicks. Tierney said the Revs can't repeat that performance this Saturday against Philadelphia (7:30 pm ET; MLS LIVE).


“We’re have to defend well and that’s our No. 1 point on the board going into the game this weekend,” Tierney said. “We have to concede less goals if we want to win games. We’re not going to get away with conceding three like we did against LA and expect to win every week.”


Right back Andrew Farrell, now in his fifth season with New England, went a step further, saying he feels each game has a different problem. He pointed to missing marks, not providing help defense and an inability to make plays in clutch situations.


Part of those struggles, Farrell said, is that Angoua, Cropper, Delamea and Kouassi have experienced a “crash course” in adjusting to the rigors of MLS. Still, the 25-year-old remained optimistic that New England can patch things together.


“Finding that groove, finding that consistency is something we’ve struggled with,” Farrell said. “It’s injuries, people missing, suspensions, all that stuff – guys having not good enough games. If we can find the right fit, we’ll do a good job.”


Still, it’s a vexing problem for Heaps, who lined up as a defender for 11 seasons in MLS. And with 14 games remaining in the 2017 campaign, Heaps said the Revs can ill afford to switch off for any play.


“Within the course of one game we can be really difficult to break down, then for a five- or 10-minute span we allow passing lanes, we don’t get pressure to the ball, we don’t have good cover and our balance is off,” Heaps said. “Those four things, that’s defending. If we don’t those for 90 minutes on almost every play, then we’ve been punished. We have to avoid that.”