As the 75th minute neared in Friday’s 2-2 draw with Orlando City SC, it appeared as though three points were in the bag for the New England Revolution.
Charlie Davies had sliced his way through the heart of Orlando’s defense in the 19th minute and confidently fired home his fourth goal in as many games. On the opposite side of halftime, Kelyn Rowe opportunistically capitalized on a misplaced back pass to push the lead to two.
But then, as the cliche of a 2-0 lead tends to ring true, the tide turned drastically for the Revs. Cyle Larin directed a strong header past Bobby Shuttleworth in the 75th minute and Aurelien Collin rose high to head home the equalizer in the 90th minute.
What once seemed like another astute and effective away performance quickly transformed itself into a solitary point and a lingering sense that the job wasn’t finished.
"I mentioned it at the end of the game and I still feel this way, it was some of our best stuff and some of our worst stuff all in one," head coach Jay Heaps said to the media on Tuesday morning. "I like the way we started the game and we were proactive in the game to go up 2-0, but unfortunately we did not finish those last 30 minutes very well.
With that in mind, the Revs now have their sights set on correcting their defensive errors, specifically in light of one area: defending crosses.
As much of a threat as Kaka posed centrally to New England in Friday’s draw, it was in the wide areas that Orlando found success. Rafael Ramos and Luke Boden, who respectively play right-back and left-back, offered up tantalizing service that punished the Revs mix of experience and youth on the back-line.
"It’s not so much a back-and-forth thing as it is team defending," said left-back Chris Tierney. "I think we were a little exposed to balls in the box and set pieces, so I’m sure that is something we will address this week in training. But, I thought we controlled the game pretty well, especially in the first half, and it just was unfortunate the way we conceded those two goals."
In an attempt to address those concessions, the Revs will be focused this week on applying pressure to the person with the ball before an aerial or driven chance can be carved out.
Toronto FC, who the Revs will welcome to Gillette Stadium on Saturday night, has several players who can provide just that type of service, though. Outside backs Ashtone Morgan and Justin Morrow possess enough pace and wherewithal to advance into attacking positions, but also the skill to pick out runners.
Similarly, Italian international Giovinco has the ability to deliver delectable service, and Jozy Altidore is a ever-dangerous target when the ball is sent in.
Keenly aware of what plagued them during Friday’s encounter and the possibility for Toronto to induce similar errors, the Revs are not honing in on one position or player. Rather, the attention is on how to handle crosses as a team and manage damages collectively.
"There are situations where the other team is going to be able to play balls into the box, especially when they’re pushing numbers forward," Tierney said. "There are a lot of components that go into defending crosses - it’s not just fullbacks or the wingers. It’s center-backs, it’s midfielders, it’s spacing and all things I’m sure we’ll address in training."
While the events of Saturday’s game will determine whether or not the Revs were successful in handling crosses, they are confident in their ability to grow as a unit.
With a week to work out kinks along the back-line and a return to friendly confines looming, the result has every chance to take care of itself.
"I think we just have to go out and focus on ourselves," Teal Bunbury said. "If we do that we should be able to win [the Toronto] game."