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Pierce longs for old days

FOXBOROUGH -- Rusty Pierce has received lessons in pragmatism since joining the Revolution four years ago. Pierce has performed for teams that have inevitably turned to a direct, linear game, with little emphasis on creativity or imagination. The style paid off the last two seasons, but the Revolution might have overly relied on direct play in spending most of this season in last place in the overall MLS standings.

"We have always been a blue-collar team," Pierce said yesterday. "We haven't played the most attractive soccer, and if you are playing that way and your work rate goes down, you are not going to get the results. It's not that we are not working hard, it's concentration. It's the little things that are the difference between winning and losing, the intangibles. Sometimes you can be unfortunate, sometimes you can be unlucky, but with a bit more concentration you won't have those breaks go against you."

Pierce, despite injuries, has played in most of the Revolution's most crucial matches since 2000, and has a total of 105 MLS appearances for the Revolution. Should Pierce play in the final five games of the regular season, starting against Colorado tonight, he will tie Mike Burns for fourth on the Revolution's all-time games list. Pierce replaced Burns at right back during his first season, but has become a regular central defender under coach Steve Nicol.

"That first year [2000] was awesome because we had players with a lot of character and experience," Pierce said. "I don't think this team has as much experience and leadership. Not that one team is better than the other. This team has more talent, but [the 2000 team] had intangibles. You looked at the guy next to you and knew that he would do absolutely anything in his power to help you win the game."

The Revolution overachieved four years ago before crashing to a 6-0 loss to Chicago in the playoffs. The Revolution appeared to have a promising group this year, but struggled with injuries since Carlos Llamosa (knee) went down in the final preseason match, and have failed to find a winning combination. The Revolution (5-11-9) have a five-match winless streak and are 1-3-5 since July 14.

"We might not be as strong because of injuries, but players go down in all sports," Pierce said.

"We have the same goals ahead of us. There are obstacles, but I don't see this as any different than the last two years. Whether we start the season quickly or slowly, we find ourselves in a situation like this. We have had a good team the last couple of years and it's not a question of not having players. It's not having focus. At some point in the year we hit this slump, and the last two years we bailed ourselves out.

"We look at ourselves as a very good team, not a poor team hoping to exceed expectations. We are very much an underachieving team. We have to win our last five games." . . .
Defender Steve Howey (pulled thigh muscle) could be replaced by Jay Heaps in the starting lineup. "Our players are as good as the other teams'," Nicol said. "This game is going to be all blood and guts and thunder, who really wants it enough. When it comes down to a fight I don't think there are too many teams that want to fight us. But we have to be sensible, use our brains, and not go around kicking and punching for 90 minutes. We need team leaders who will calm players down and charge them up at the right times. It's not an easy balance to strike, but we have to do it."

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