Much like the transition from the winter snow that usually covers the Gillette Stadium turf until mid-March to the spring thaw, the New England Revolution have a notorious habit of starting slowly.
Each of the past two seasons, Steve Nicol's team has struggled for points at early junctures of the season before peaking in time for a deep playoff run. The pattern continued, too, earlier in Revolution history, as former Revolution head man and current Rapids head coach Fernando Clavijo was sacked after a poor start in the 2002 season.
With an away draw at San Jose and a home victory against Columbus, New England has an unprecedented four points to open the season. While a seemingly expected return following the axiom of tying on the road and winning at home, this is the highest point total at this point of the season in the 10 years of the club.
"I'm optimistic after we got a win and a tie to open the season," said Revolution midfielder Clint Dempsey. "We're trying to climb up the table. We're just doing what is necessary."
"Coach Nicol placed an emphasis on the strong start," said Revolution midfielder James Riley. "I know that this team has struggled out of the gates in the past. Lots of things have gone wrong at the start of the season here. I just want us to keep playing good football and getting points."
Taking into account a haphazard preseason schedule that saw the Revolution spend more time on the practice field than in games, the start is even more surprising.
One factor cited by Revolution players is the form of their U.S. international contingent in World Cup qualifying. Steve Ralston, Clint Dempsey, and Pat Noonan have made the squad for the past two qualifiers, while Taylor Twellman has trained with the side and made appearances in friendlies.
When the quartet returned, things clicked.
"Having those guys helped," said Revolution defender Jay Heaps. "Now we're going to push [forward]."
"It definitely helps," said Riley. "When they came in, it helped us a lot. They had a lot of confidence after being with the national team. They cultured us a bit."
For his part, Dempsey attributes the change to a more tangible solution: finishing chances.
"This year, the difference is that we're putting the ball in the net," said Dempsey.
Dempsey does not want his teammates to let early season success blur the ultimate goal of lifting MLS Cup at the end of the season.
"Every season, we have that problem of starting slowly," said Dempsey. "We are just going to take it one game at a time."
Kyle McCarthy is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.