New England Revolution blank San Jose with new center back pairing

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The New England Revolution came into San Jose on Wednesday night having allowed 13 goals in their past four MLS matches, all defeats.

So, naturally, it figured that a defense featuring two new center backs and an attacking-minded playmaker on one wing would go ahead and post the Revs’ first shutout in more than a month as New England came away with a road point from a 0-0 tie against the Earthquakes.

Andrew Farrell and Je-Vaughn Watson started at center back for New England coach Jay Heaps, replacing the injured Jose Goncalves and suspended London Woodberry. And jack-of-all-trades Kelyn Rowe popped up at right back for just his second start there this season. Nevertheless, San Jose managed only one shot on target for goalkeeper Brad Knighton to corral.

“Everyone defended, which is really important,” Heaps told reporters. “I think at times, one or two guys will take a play off, and that can’t happen. . . . They bought in, rolled up their sleeves and for 90 minutes, we defended really well.”

Heaps made sure to support his makeshift crew, using Gershon Koffie at the base of midfield in a diamond 4-4-2 setup. With that welcome shield in place, the Revs were able to keep at bay a San Jose team desperately seeking a home win to bolster their chances in the wild scramble for the sixth and final Western Conference playoff spot.

“I think he was really good tonight,” Heaps said of Koffie. “We obviously tinkered with the lineup and went with a little different formation. . . . We wanted to overload the midfield, but we wanted Gersh to be the one who was protecting the two center backs. And I thought tonight he was really good. He was physical, he was strong, he’s got good feet. So we were excited with what we saw there.”

There was also a fine performance from Rowe, who typically would be trying to facilitate New England’s attack, rather than shadowing Quakes left winger Simon Dawkins. Rowe, who ranks second on the Revs with four assists, quelled Heaps’ fears that he would find it too tempting to get forward, potentially leaving space for San Jose to attack.

“He worked defensively, he made plays,” Heaps said. “I was worried a little bit that he was going to go too high too soon, but I thought he had a really good tactical game.”

The point broke New England’s four-game losing streak, but there is still more work to be done if the Revolution are to claw their way past Orlando City and D.C. United and into the East’s postseason picture.

“We know what it takes to get to the playoffs,” Rowe said. “We know what it takes to be a good team. . . . Once we get out of the rut, once we stop leaking goals, like we did tonight -- once we get a couple of wins, we’ll be fine.”