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Revolution not defensive about back-line play

By Frank Dell’Apa
Globe Staff / May 16, 2011

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FOXBOROUGH — Coach Steve Nicol decided to revamp the Revolution back line after last season, as the team completed its worst defensive performance since he became coach in 2002. The Revolution displayed improvement in the early part of this season, but there seemed to be something missing. The goals-against average had been reduced but no shutouts had been produced — until last week.

But after taking a 1-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps Saturday night, the Revolution extended their shutout streak to 213 minutes. The reworked back four has been a factor in the recent defensive successes, but there have been other factors at work — goalkeeper Matt Reis has recovered from injuries and Revolution opponents have been at reduced strength.

“I’m finally feeling good, finally out of the training room,’’ said Reis, who underwent three surgical procedures last year. “I feel like I’m kind of getting back into the groove and, hopefully, we can keep it up.’’

Kevin Alston and Darrius Barnes provided strong cover at the fullback positions and Ryan Cochrane and A.J. Soares combined well in central defense against the Whitecaps. Barnes is the only central defender remaining on the roster from last season, but he has been mostly used as a reserve outside back this year.

“A.J. and I since the beginning of preseason have had really good chemistry back there,’’ Cochrane said after the Vancouver game. “We really work well together back there. Our positioning is pretty good and that really helps out a lot. This was a really good team defensive game. You saw a lot of the midfielders chasing down balls for us, even on top Rajko [Lekic] was chasing down balls and winning balls for us and that really relieves pressure at the back. It’s good to come out of a game where we didn’t play particularly well with 3 points.’’

Shalrie Joseph provided the Revolution goal with a 49th-minute penalty kick after Benny Feilhaber was taken down.

“We can take a lot of positives from what we did defensively,’’ Joseph said. “But offensively, we’ve just got to create more chances and be better with the ball. But the back four was outstanding for us and that’s what we’re going to need. We’re going to find one [goal], we just can’t give up a goal. We’ve got creative guys up front and through the midfield, and until we find that one we just can’t give up anything.’’

The Revolution created scoring opportunities off an improved passing game, but lacked consistency.

“It’s just everybody concentrating and staying focused for 90 minutes,’’ Joseph said. “I think that’s where we look sloppy throughout the game, when we don’t concentrate enough, we don’t take care of the ball. But we had some good possession and we’re going to work on it this week and try and be better in San Jose [Saturday]. It’s all about inconsistency, that’s what’s killing us right now. We do some good stuff here and there and then sometimes it doesn’t look like we know what we’re about.’’

The Revolution’s lack of composure allowed the Whitecaps to rally late in the match.

“With the passing there were times when we were really, really good,’’ Reis said. “That’s something to build on. But towards the end of the game we just made it a little too difficult on ourselves. We need to do a little bit better seeing the game out and just passing it around them. We didn’t do that as well as we could and that’s something we can work on.

“We did give the ball away in bad spots but it didn’t end up hurting us. The more we can hold the ball . . . if we lose it in the final third, they still have to go through all of us, and usually we’re in good spots. It’s something to work on but two shutouts in a row is great.’’

Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at f_dellapa@globe.com.

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