Hard work paying off early for New England Revolution in 2011

Franco Coria has come on strong since signing with the Revolution in the summer. (Courtesy New England Revolutoin)

By Ryan Fleming

Plain and simple, last year didn’t go right. There were many factors that lead to the demise of the New England Revolution’s 2010 season. The absence of their captain, Shalrie Joseph, the injury-ridden roster that was forced to go through transformations week in and week out. But right now, the Revs find themselves in a much different position two games in the new season, with smiles and a constant yearning for more

“We’re never happy, we’re always wanting more,” said Revolution manager Steve Nicol after Saturday’s 2-1 win over D.C. united. “Sitting on the sideline you see more things that go wrong than you actually do when you pat a player on the back when they do things right.”

New England finds itself sporting a 1-0-1 record with an impressive draw with Los Angeles Galaxy and after Saturday night’s win over the emerging DC United. The Revs are one of the more peculiar stories of the league thus far. What has to be the most eye-bulging part of the team is it’s defense.

At the end of the 2010 season, New England allowed a league-high 50 goals, showing that its defense was as easy to penetrate as any in the league. The story is taking a different turn this year. Nicol added some experienced veterans such as Didier Domi and Ryan Cochrane, drafted AJ Soares out of the University of California and picked up Franco Coria from Argentina. So far the combination of Soares and Coria seems to be most useful center back paring, only allowing one goal in he combo’s two appearances. Despite the knock Coria picked up about halfway through the United win, the Argentine is arguably Nicol’s best addition.

Another glaring issue the Revs faced last year was an impotent offense. Three goals in two games is nothing to wave a stick at, or call off the emergency beacon, but with the markedly improved play of second-year forward Zach Schilawski, New England seems to be generating more chances – something the former Duke forward attributes to hard work in training.

“The biggest difference has been in training,” Schilawski noted following Saturday’s game. “Training is really competitive, tons of competition for spots this year, which only makes everyone better.”

Everyone seems to have improved, giving more on the field, using physical play to boss the opposition around and not just trying to use speed to their advantage. All together the team seems to be getting to the point where they’re all on the same page. Last season started out similar to this one, with the Revs starting out fast, posting a 2-0-1 record, before the season turned sour and Joseph entered the league’s substance abuse program.

Joseph is here, leading the Revs midfield and currently the team in scoring (two goals). With a revamped back line, an improved Schilawski and a core of new players that are not only eager to bring their talents to this club, but doing so with an immediate impact.

“We’re definitely on the right track now, but there’s definitely a lot more we can do to improve our game,” Joseph said. “We can be more patient, keep more possession and start creating more chances.”

Joseph is right, there is always room for improvement. But with two impressive results and expansion side Portland that’s allowed five goals coming to town on Saturday, points should be picked up and goals scored. Portland will be another test to see if this hard work is pulling off with expectations now high to start the season.

Ryan Fleming can be reached at ryan.fleming@thesoccerguysonline.com.

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