The Couch Captain: The Streak

USA TODAY Sports

After another clean sheet on Saturday Night, the New England Revolution set a franchise record by running up their current shutout streak to 395 minutes. How has Jay Heaps found all the right answers?

Let's face it, no one likes to break down a 0-0 draw, especially when one of the teams involved is D.C. United. In predictable fashion, the game wasn't terribly attractive, was bogged down in the middle quite often, and even got a little chippy at times.

Given the fact I've been all over the place recently and missed a Couch Captain here and there, I thought we'd take a broader view of this streak and look at how the team has been able to put together the greatest shutout streak the franchise has ever seen.

THE LINEUP

While at times it's gotten a bit dicey due to injuries, suspensions, and now international call-ups in the case of Jerry Bengtson, this team continues to perform when the next man is called upon. It's all very Belichick-ian. The Revs lose Kevin Alston and all of a sudden Chris Tierney just slots right in and it's like nothing changes. A.J. Soares was out for a period of time and then Stephen McCarthy reminds us all why he was last year's best defender and most improved player.

It's truly a testament to the coaching staff, namely Jay Heaps, how this team just continues to earn results despite the changing pieces. Juan Agudelo has brought such a new dynamic to the side with his blend of speed and power, which has allowed Saer Sene to not really have to rush back while recovering from knee surgery. With the Agudelo acquisition, the Revs lessened the blow of losing Bengtson for chunks of time throughout the summer.

Next, in the midfield, we're seeing one of the most incredible meteoric rises to stardom this club has seen since the likes of Clint Dempsey and Taylor Twellman. Diego Fagundez has gone from homegrown talent, to super sub, to one of the hottest goal-scorers in MLS.

There's no denying that his move to the right flank has seemingly allowed him to evolve into the kind of dangerous, creative, attack-minded player most of us thought he would be, and it only makes the Revs more dangerous now with options on both flanks that can hurt you. When you add in the fact that Heaps is allowing his flank players to swap sides mid-match to increase the flow and their dynamic attack, it's no wonder the Revs have had two 5-goal outbursts in the last 3 matches (counting that 5-1 beating in the USOC).

Lastly, of course, is Robert Shuttleworth, Professional Gentleman of Leisure. It's his team back there now. Heaps hasn't truly come out and said that Bobby is his number one, but let's face it, he's statistically the best keeper in MLS, and hasn't come out of that net in quite some time. Matt Reis has been a perfect mentor to Bobby, and you can truly see the results beginning to shine through in a BIG way.

STYLE OF PLAY

The 4-1-4-1 remains, but the pieces are constantly changing. The first big change that came to my mind was when Heaps deployed Agudelo out on the left flank against Toronto FC, which I didn't even remotely see coming after hearing how he struggled out wide with Chivas USA. To me, this move showed that Heaps was going to get his best players on the field no matter how he had to do it. I love that about this team lately.

I mentioned how the flanks have been switching sides during gameplay, and what I also find really interesting is how they're also not afraid to cut inside and open up gaps in the defense either. Agudelo, Fagundez, and Sene ALL have absolutely no problem cutting inside and dribbling at defenders, and we have seen on multiple occasions how it's been unlocking defenses and giving the Revs creative players opportunities to play silky through balls to oncoming attackers.

We've seen different players at the CDM/Anchor position, and they've each brought a little something different. Kalifa Cisse, when healthy, has been a brute force. While I sometimes don't appreciate the yellow cards and the hot temper, it really goes a long way in letting opposing players know that every tackle and every 50-50 is going to be contested with some malice.

With Scott Caldwell, you're getting a smaller player that's more technically gifted, in my opinion. Also, Caldwell may just be my favorite passer of the ball on this team. His vision, and the subsequent delivery, are both outstanding. Next time he's on the field, definitely take note of how he opens up great passing lanes.

Defensively, the influence of Jose Gonçalves (can you believe it took me this long to mention him?) is immense. His physical presence and strength is second-to-none, but it's his understanding of his positioning and his vision that have truly shown his leadership. Countless times it's been JoGo covering for an over-stretched outside back, and I personally love the muscling off forwards as they try to reach the ball in an effort to avoid a goal kick. This team is clicking, and Gonçalves is in the middle of it all.

GOING FORWARD/FINAL THOUGHTS

Goal scoring drought aside, the Jerry Bengtson call-up is going to sting a little. He does several other little things well, but I have complete faith in this crop of attacking players to be able to cover for him while he's gone. While Saturday Night against DC was a bit of a bump in the road and what now seems like a rare goose-egg offensively, I fully expect the team to be able to cope with the loss of their DP striker.

Quite frankly, there's nothing one can add other than "more of the same please". I think the only "test" I can foresee that makes me wonder little bit is the next time this Revs team concedes first. The Revs haven't trailed in quite some time, and I wonder how this team could bounce back when they have to chase the game. To me, that's the next test to see where this team is at currently. If they can tighten up defensively after conceding and fight back to equalize, we'll truly know this team is in it for the long haul.

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