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Formation shift to bolster defense pays off

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The view from the technical area wasn’t getting any prettier in the days leading up to last week’s clash against Sporting K.C. So Jay Heaps decided to do something about it.

Although the Revolution have bought into Heaps’ “attack first, ask questions later” mentality, the first-year head coach saw that a change was needed. And it was obvious why.

Formation Shift To Bolster Defense

“We’ve been letting in goals,” Heaps said after training Wednesday. “It just seemed like we gave up softer goals than we should have (against Toronto and Montreal).”

Formation Shift To Bolster Defense

So, with that in mind, Heaps penciled in a curious 4-5-1 formation that left leading scorer Saer Sene on the bench. In Sene’s place was Ryan Guy, a midfielder who’s never been slow to track back in transition.

Formation Shift To Bolster Defense

The result? A 0-0 draw that many felt was a positive result in light of the Revolution’s recent defensive woes.

Formation Shift To Bolster Defense

While the Revolution may have failed to scratch the score sheet last Saturday, the fact that the defense delivered the team’s first shutout on the road — and against the king of the conference, no less — was seen as an encouraging development.

Formation Shift To Bolster Defense

“We went in there with a good game plan and we executed it,” Revolution center back AJ Soares said after Wednesday’s training. “It’s nothing more than that, really. I thought it was a good performance.”

Formation Shift To Bolster Defense

While the Revolution didn’t have much to show for their attacking efforts, Heaps was pleased by some early attacking flair.

“We did have some play in that game in the first 30-40 minutes,” Heaps said. “But for me, it was the overall defensive effort that stood out.”

A surprising addition to the Revolution’s injury report Tuesday was midfielder Benny Feilhaber, who’s listed as “questionable” with an ankle injury.

Although the central midfielder played the full 90 at K.C. on Saturday, Heaps mentioned that Feilhaber picked up the knock in the early stages of the second half in K.C.

And while Feilhaber was able to participate in a portion of the drills during Wednesday’s training, Heaps is taking a cautious approach given the playmaker’s injury.

“We’re going to be day-to-day with Benny,” Heaps said. “He was gallant in that game. But even though he hurt that ankle early in the second half, he played the rest of the game and he made a big play at the end there to kick the ball out of bounds.”

If there’s one thing the Revolution want to avoid against Philadelphia on Sunday, it’s a reprisal of their last trip to PPL Park.

Back on Sept. 7, New England watched a three-goal lead evaporate in a 4-4 draw that many felt was the low point of a season that was, by then, already on its way to rock bottom.

One player who’s hoping the Revolution avoid a similar fate is right back Kevin Alston, who walked off the field following last year’s draw in disbelief.

“We don’t want to give it up like we did last year,” Alston said after Wednesday’s training. “That one was tough to swallow.”

But, with a revamped roster and a new head coach on board this season, Alston and his teammates haven’t spent much time dwelling on it. In fact, Soares was quick to dismiss the notion that last year’s stunning draw still lingers in the back of their minds.

“That was a totally different team,” Soares said. “So I don’t even think we can compare them. We don’t even think about that game because it’s a completely different team, a different game plan, and different players.”

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Formation shift to bolster defense pays off
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