New England Soccer Today

Closing Out Game Key v. TFC

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

The New England Revolution are in the midst of an impressive eight game unbeaten run, but there is still some cause for concern as the club has struggled to close out games over the past two weeks. On May 2, against the New York Red Bulls at Gillette Stadium, the Revolution had a 2-0 lead late, but allowed the visitors to make things interesting after conceding a goal to Sacha Kljestan to make it 2-1 in the 73rd minute. The Revolution held on from there to get the win, but weren’t so lucky this past weekend as after taking a 2-0 lead again, they conceded a 75th minute goal to Cyle Larin and 90th minute goal to Aurélien Collin and were forced to settle for a 2-2 draw in Florida against new expansion side Orlando City SC.

“We’re going to have a couple of conversations about what we need do better in that game,” said Revolution head coach Jay Heaps prior to training on Tuesday. “I mentioned after the game and I still feel this way, it was some of our best stuff and some of our worst stuff all in one. I like the way we started the game. We were very proactive in the game to go up 2-0, but unfortunately we just did not finish those last 30 minutes very well.”

Defending crosses, in particular, was an area of concern for the Revolution. Jermaine Jones, filling in again at center back, and Andrew Farrell seemed to struggle at times marking off the ball runs into the box with crosses coming in from the wings.

“I didn’t like the way we handled the crosses in the second half,” said Heaps. “In a big game like that I think it was a good learning experience. Everything was going against us. The moment, the other team was really putting it on, the crowd was, and I wish I could do a better job managing out the last couple minutes. Even as coaches and referees you get caught up in the moment. I felt that everyone was caught up in the moment and we as a staff have got to be better and the players have got to finish the game better.”

New England faces another stern test on Saturday with a star-studded Toronto FC team coming to town. Two U.S. International—striker Jozy Altidore and midfielder Michael Bradley—along with Italian International attacking midfielder Giovinco lead a Toronto team that looks very impressive on paper, despite only having nine points (3-5-0) after eight games this season. Like Orlando, the team is more dangerous than their record suggests.

“It’s a dangerous team,” said Revolution defender Chris Teirney. “They present a different look than I think Orlando does, so it will be a different preparation for us, but same things along the lines of they’ve got more quality than I think the points on the board show, so we’re going to have to button things up defensively and then we’re going to have make sure we play well offensively and put them under pressure.”

Further, Toronto has been the best team in MLS at scoring late goals. The Canadian side has a league leading six goals scored after the 75th minute this season. For the Revolution, another late lapse of concentration could end up costing more points.

“No matter who you’re playing, anyone can strike at any time,” said Heaps. “Some teams are better at coming on late than others and Toronto’s definitely a team that closes out really well. They’ve scored some goals to win some games at the end of the game.”

Of course closing out games only becomes an issue when you have a lead to begin with. So, while it’s certainly an area to improve, it’s also  a good sign New England has been getting ahead in games. In fact, New England has trailed for a total of just 22 minutes in their current eight game unbeaten streak.

“The good thing is if you’re talking about closing out games than you’re talking about us having leads,” said Tierney. “I don’t think it’s anything we’re super focused or super worried about, but it’s one of the many things we’re going to have to make sure we do well. The good news is we’ve been up in games, we’ve played well, and we’ve put teams under pressure, so I think if we continue to do that, we’ll continue to get good results.”

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