As the New England Revolution have sprinted to an undefeated record (5-0-1) in their first six games, a common theme emerges when observers ask how the club has achieved the unprecedented quick start.
"Our defense is playing great," said Revolution striker Pat Noonan. "The lead opens up the game for us. We can possess more of the ball. It keeps teams from getting dangerous chances."
"We're defending well as a team right now," said Revs midfielder Clint Dempsey. "It starts with our defense through midfield and the forwards."
Steve Nicol's club has allowed a meager five goals in its first six matches, tops in the league. Remarkably, only three of those goals have resulted from open play.
Compact defensive structure, combined with improved distribution out of the back, has permitted the Revolution to focus on a possession-oriented style of play that frustrates the opposition and allows the Revolution the ability to move forward at will while maintaining defensive shape.
Pressure from strikers Taylor Twellman and Pat Noonan starts the defensive effort. The flanks are shut down, while the middle of the field is congested with three central midfielders. Shalrie Joseph serves as the defensive hub disrupting opposing offensive surges before they threaten the three-man back line. The back three of Jay Heaps, Avery John, and Michael Parkhurst deals with any scraps, limiting the action for 'keeper Matt Reis.
The former Galaxy goalkeeper has shown well when called into action so far this season, but he is thankful that his teammates have kept the opposition at bay.
"I haven't faced too many tough shots," said Reis. "[In Saturday's 2-0 victory] Chicago had two chances when they got in [to the box]. Jay slid over and covered on one chance. [Teams] aren't getting back to here and when they do, they are not dangerous chances."
Much like his comrades, Reis has found the elusive stride necessary for continued success.
"I'm in a good rhythm," said Reis.
Kyle McCarthy is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.