High Pressure: The key to success for New England Revolution


May 24, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Revolution defender A.J. Soares (5) heads a ball to a teammate during the first half against DC United at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

It’s safe to say that the New England Revolution have been one of the top teams in MLS since the season opened in 2014, and there is a number of reasons why. Lee Nguyen has been dubbed the early favorite to win the league’s Most Valuable Player award, Patrick Mullins has impressed everyone with his play up top as the lone forward in just his rookie season, and Bobby Shuttlesworth has been spectacular in the net. However, I took it  further than the success of each player to determine the biggest reason why Jay Heaps’s side has been so dominant early on. As it stands, the Revs are at the top of the Eastern Conference with 23 points in 12 matches. With a 7-3-2 record, they have two more wins than any other team in the East. Sporting Kansas City, D.C. United, and the Houston Dynamo all have five wins thus far. Much of their success has to do with their ability to defend their home field. At Gillette Stadium, the Revs have compiled a 3-0-1 record. Despite their negative goal differential on the road in 2014, New England has scored 11 goals in their four home matches and just conceded their first goal against D.C. United on Saturday. While there are many reasons for their early success, the amount of pressure they put on their opponent high up the pitch may very well be the most vital. As soon as New England turns the ball over, they work hard to get it back. Applying pressure on the opponent rather than sitting back and trying to absorb the attack makes it hard establish possession against them. Between Patrick Mullins, Diego Fagundez, and Teal Bunbury, their organized pressure on the ball makes it difficult to find open teammates. While they are the ones winning the ball back frequently or forcing the turnover, much has to be said about New England’s back four that does a great job of covering any potential outlet that the opponent may have to relieve that pressure. More often than not, this either ends with one of the Revs’ midfielders winning the ball back or a long, lofted ball played toward their backs without much of a purpose.   As you can see in the video above, Lee Nguyen is unable to maintain possession of the ball and before United can even clear, he wins it back and springs Teal Bunbury into the corner for the easy cross for an assist. This is just a small example of what the Revs have done all season long. The speed in which New England is able to regain possession is nothing short of remarkable. It relieves a lot of the pressure from their back four that includes standout Andrew Farrell. Winning possession back allows more time for creative players such as Nguyen, Diego Fagundez, and Kelyn Rowe to get touches on the ball. Good things happen for the Revolution when their play-makers get the opportunity to get forward and attack, putting even more pressure on the opponents’ backs. Clearly, the Revs are doing a lot of things well. Whether it is their goal scoring outburst over their past few matches or their phenomenal at home, Jay Heaps has his squad playing at a high level and finding different ways to win. Each and every time, however, what they look to do starts and ends with their high pressure on the ball.