New England Soccer Today

It’s All About the Shape

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

Success is rarely a product of prolonged luck or coincidence. Rather, it’s the residue of improvement within a critical area, something that Revolution coach Jay Heaps can attest to.

Since watching his squad repeatedly stumble during the early part of the summer, Heaps worked diligently with his players to tighten up when and where each player is supposed to be on the field in relation to his fellow teammates. The result: a 4-0-1 record since mid-July, and a rediscovered swagger.

But the Revolution aren’t about to rest on their laurels, especially with the conference wide open with only eight games left in the regular season.

“We have to keep our shape solid,” Heaps told the media earlier this week. “I think we press at the right times. When we don’t, we have to have a really tough and tight shape, be hard to break down, and limit the exposure in certain spots where we felt we were getting vulnerable.”

While the record over the last five games is proof positive that the improved shape is working, a closer look at the details yields even more insight to the team’s resurgence.

Since the start of the unbeaten streak, the Revolution have claimed three clean sheets, and allowed only three goals. They’ve also held the likes of Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore and David Villa off the board, and that hasn’t been by accident, either.

“I think Jay and the staff have really focused on our shape in the last five weeks,” Revolution left back Chris Tierney told the media earlier this week. “It’s not just about the back four defending or the goalkeeper having a good game or anything like that. It’s about the team mentality in defending, playing on both sides of the ball, and I think we’re starting to do that much better now.”

Ironically, two players who’ve been crucial to the team’s shape are wingers Diego Fagundez and Kelyn Rowe, both of whom are typically known for their attacking prowess. But the young playmakers have committed themselves to the team shape concept, and have been rewarded with consistent playing time after being relegated to the bench earlier this year.

The Revolution’s renewed focus on getting personnel in the right place at the right time could not come at a better juncture of the season, either. When summer starts fading to fall, offense typically dwindles and defense becomes the primary point of emphasis for many clubs. Case in point: the Revolution’s recent win over the Union.

“At this time of year, games tend to tighten up a little bit,” Tierney told the media earlier this week. “So it’s a confidence builder for us when we go into a tough environment like Philly and get a 1-0 result. It wasn’t necessarily the prettiest game, but results are what matters at this time of the year.”

Accumulating points will continue to be the name of the game down the stretch for many teams in the conference. But for the Revolution, it’s all about how they’ll get those points that will be at the forefront for the coaching staff and players.

“We’re definitely a little more compact,” Heaps said. “But it’s a process, game-in and game-out. We’re working on it during the week so when we step out on the field, everyone knows exactly where they’re supposed to be in that defensive shape.”

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