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June 16, 2012
Many positives in Revs’ scoreless draw with Columbus

By Adam Burrows
New England Soccer News Contributor

Coach Jay Heaps had high praise for center back Stephen McCarthy after the Revolution shut out Columbus on Saturday.
Coach Jay Heaps had high praise for center back Stephen McCarthy after the Revolution shut out Columbus on Saturday.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
FOXBOROUGH, Mass.--It’s difficult to find much inspiration from a scoreless draw before a hometown crowd, but the New England Revolution can take some solace from creating numerous quality chances in the opening half and from stifling the visiting Columbus Crew with solid defense.

With Clyde Simms still unavailable, Jay Heaps again deployed Benny Feilhaber in an advanced midfield position, dropping Shalrie Joseph back into a deeper holding role.

With Feilhaber distributing, Fernando Cardenas and Lee Nguyen attacking off the flanks, and an active Saer Sene ranging wide in the offensive third, the Revolution were denied only by the woodwork and by a pair of alert saves from Crew goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum.

The former backup has notched five shutouts in 2012 and has allowed only one goal per game since stepping in for Will Hesmer after the durable Columbus leader in career games played underwent hip surgery before the start of the season.

The in-form Gruenebaum snuffed out a Jose Moreno breakaway and thwarted a close-range Cardenas effort, while the post provided the rescue in keeping out a sizzling Sene rocket from distance.

Despite coming up empty against their conference rival, the Revolution appear to be absorbing their rookie coach’s possession-oriented philosophy.

New England passed with purpose, worked combinations, and applied pressure left, right, and center, although strikers Sene and Moreno still struggled to link up with one another.

If the Revolution hope to move up in the Eastern Conference table, they’re going to need to find a way to get their Columbian striker on track.

On the defensive end, the Revolution disrupted the Crew flow, slowed the counter-attack, and prevented Venezuelan forward Emilio Renteria from inflicting damage.

The Black and Gold rarely tested Matt Reis, who enjoyed a quiet night thanks to the play of Joseph and his back line, in particular center backs A.J. Soares and Stephen McCarthy.

“They both put their bodies on the line, and they did well. Renteria is a pacey player and he can really cause a lot of damage. The three they had underneath him all popped in and caused us problems, but I think as a team we did well defensively. We just needed to get one in the goal.”

McCarthy continues to improve in his first season in central defense, and to form a strong partnership with emerging all-star Soares.

McCarthy’s anticipation and reading of the game grows more confident with each week, as he and Soares provide cover to the marauding instincts of fullbacks Chris Tierney and Kevin Alston, allowing them to roam forward and supply width to the attack.

“Chris likes to go, Kevin likes to go, and when you’re starting as a defender for the first time you’re a little scared to let them go,” admitted McCarthy. “But I think I’m getting used to it. We had to make plays tonight and we made them.”

Heaps singled out the second-year pro for praise in contributing to the team’s second consecutive clean sheet.

“I thought Stephen McCarthy was sensational defensively. He made some great plays. In the second half, we really tried to push the game. If you noticed, we went man-on-man a lot of the times there, so it was A.J. and Stephen one-on-one with their forwards.”

Next Saturday the Revolution will travel north of the border to play beleaguered Toronto FC, now under the direction of former Revolution assistant coach Paul Mariner.

Reis is looking forward to the reunion.

“It’s always great to see Paul. He’s a great man, and he’s going to have those guys fired up, and it’s really important for them to turn their season around. They’ll be at home, and it’s definitely not going to be an easy game. We have to just keep up our battling spirit and hopefully we can get a result.”

The Revolution, who have struggled on the road, will look to extend their modest two-game unbeaten streak and delay the TFC revival by at least one more week.

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