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Post-Game Hangover ('Mulligan' Edition): Reflections on DCU @ Revs

The chips didn't fall the Revolution's way on Saturday against their bitter rivals D.C. United, but there's plenty of reason to stay positive. New England remains in the playoff race, and Heaps' squad has proven that they can learn from their mistakes. Onward and upward, I say. Here's some thoughts on the match.

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A 0-0 draw, of course, not what Revolution fans were hoping for on Saturday, especially considering the fact that Jay Heaps deployed the same starting XI that hung 5 goals on the LA Galaxy. But, alas, a point was all they could muster. Although disappointing, the result is not catastrophic nor is it reason to panic. After all, New England did not get outplayed by any means. Rather, D.C. United withstood the Revolution pressure--with significant help from keeper Bill Hamid--and benefited from their lack of a clinical finish in front of the net.

Since the beginning of the season, this Revolution squad has had two distinct personalities: the league-leading defense that won't break, and the inconsistent offense that is still finding a way. It seemed to all come together in the last three-games, particularly against the reigning MLS champs, but this D.C. United match just goes to show that a potent, clicking offense is truly easier said than done.

That said, there's reason to remain optimistic about this team. We all know what they are capable of, as does the rest of MLS. But They simply cannot afford to slip into a mid-season slump, especially considering the fact that they are a mere 2 points shy of catching up to the three teams (Houston, Philadelphia, and Kansas City) who currently occupy playoff spots.

I thought Jay Heaps did a very nice job of keeping a level head after the win against LA, and was hoping that that attitude would translate to his team. For the most part, I believe it did, but a 5-0 blowout doesn't mean that you no longer have to work for each and every goal. The Revs had their chances, but in the end, luck was not on their side. Still, I believe there is every reason to believe that Heaps will sit down with his team and identify where it went wrong. If the Revolution have proven one thing so far this season, it's that they now know how to learn from their own mistakes; a trait quite obviously missing from last season's team.

The more important takeaway is that the chances were indeed being created (plenty, in fact) and the New England offense was taking them as they came, something that couldn't really be said earlier in the season. For this re-vamped Revolution attack, distribution is pivotal--literally. The middle three of Scott Caldwell, Juan Toja, and Lee Nguyen are producing the necessary opportunities, primarily resulting from their passing accuracy in the build-up. Caldwell and Toja have particularly impressive numbers from Saturday (87% and 91%, respectively) and it's no secret why Jay Heaps has stuck with them for two weeks in a row instead of opting for players like Kalifa Cisse or Kelyn Rowe. The latter are no slouches either, but if it ain't broke... well, you know.

And, as I said, the chances are being taken. Sene's disallowed goal in the 20th minute or Toja's parried shot in the 31st could have made the difference. But Agudelo's foul and Bill Hamid's A-game prevented the Revs from finding a lead in the first half. Later on, shots from Nguyen, Rowe, and Chris Tierney (who apparently can fire off a decent shot with his right foot, something I thought I'd never see) were further thwarted by Hamid, who, to his credit, did not succumb to the Revolution onslaught for even a single moment all game.

But now New England is in a situation where some changes will likely need to be made, especially with Wednesday's US Open Cup game on the immediate horizon, and with the always dangerous Vancouver Whitecaps after that. Lucky for us, Heaps has formed a cohesive unit of 25 players this year that can step into their role on the pitch in this new system and execute just as well as their respective counterpart. More than that, Heaps will be hoping that those who haven't been getting much playing time have something to prove on Wednesday night against the New York Red Bulls and that the team as a whole will be hungry for goals after Saturday's stalemate.

This D.C. United match might be able to be chalked up as a mulligan. But New England now must prove that to be the case. The Revs' recent run of form is no lucky streak, it's a well-deserved unbeaten streak that is the direct result of chemistry and, more importantly, hard work. The fact of the matter is that the Revolution are a team that will constantly have to continue to prove themselves, so that's just what they must do.