FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - The New England Revolution got back to work on Tuesday morning on the back of a second consecutive convincing home win, this time against Chivas USA on Saturday night. Having scored seven goals in its last two games, Steve Nicol's squad is beginning to resemble the one that led the Eastern Conference standings from start to finish in 2005.
Taylor Twellman has responded to his exclusion from the USA World Cup squad with three goals in three games, while the Revs midfield has also increased its offensive output.
Shalrie Joseph, who had netted twice against the Los Angeles Galaxy a week previously in a game that also saw Steve Ralston notch his first of the season, scored the winner in the 3-1 win on Saturday. He joined Andy Dorman on the evening's score sheet, and with a goal threat now more evident from more areas of the team, the logical question for Nicol is: What's changed?
"Nothing really, we are just taking our chances," said the Revolution boss. "The ones we took in the last two games are the same ones we missed in the earlier ones."
There has certainly been a more clinical look to the Revolution over the past fortnight. Training has focused more on sharpness, involving small-sided games with limits on touches taken. Virtually every practice session features at least one shooting drill as well. The benefit of the work put in on the practice ground has been evident in the last two games, but Nicol is keen for things to get even better.
"On Saturday, in the first 10 minutes we had three or four opportunities where we could have had a shot and we didn't take it. We will keep practicing on it and banging the drum on it and, hopefully, it gets through eventually," said Nicol.
After two wins against struggling opponents, the next four games for the Revolution will give Nicol and his side a good idea of exactly where it stands in relation to the movers and shakers in the top echelons of MLS. This Saturday, the Revolution are in Frisco to take on FC Dallas, before a home game against Houston Dynamo a week later. Road trips to D.C. United and the Chicago Fire follow that.
Ahead of those tough tests, Nicol will be hoping for swift returns from a number of his injured players in time for the tests that lie ahead. Marshall Leonard (Achilles tendon) is out for several months, while other potential starters such as Pat Noonan (hamstring), Daniel Hernandez (ankle), Khano Smith (knee) and Leandro de Oliveira (knee) also missed last Saturday's game.
Furthermore, Joseph was kept out of the majority of training on Tuesday as a precaution following his complaint of groin tightness towards the end of the Chivas game, though he and Noonan are listed as probable for Saturday.
With Clint Dempsey (USA) and Avery John (Trinidad and Tobago) away on World Cup duty, the depth of the Revolution squad is being severely tested at present. In spite of this however, Nicol admits that the only thing to be done is to carry on training as normal and hope the injury list clears up soon.
"We just have to be sensible," said Nicol. "Because of the numbers we want to keep it short and sharp. We have to get our training in and get our sharpness and keep ourselves going and, as long as nobody does anything stupid, like silly tackles, we're fine. Things will happen and we accept that. It's just common sense and if we use that then we will be in good shape for the weekend."
Andrew Hush is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.