FOXBOROUGH — It’s not as if they underwent an extreme makeover on the trip back from Washington seven weeks ago or recruited a bunch of Brazilian body doubles. The Revolution have the same players, same coach, and same philosophy as the club that began the season with 304 scoreless minutes across two losses and a draw.
So how did they become a goal gusher, putting up consecutive 5-spots the last two weekends?
“Sometimes it just takes time,” said rookie forward Patrick Mullins, whose star-spangled teammates (6-3-2), unbeaten in their last six outings and undefeated at home, take on D.C. United (5-3-3) Saturday night at Gillette Stadium.
“We had some new players in some key role positions and it started clicking for us in the last couple of games.”
“Clicking” may be an understatement. The Revolution, who once seemed on the verge of having to purchase goals on eBay, hung up a quintet on both Seattle and Philadelphia, the first time they’ve ever managed that in consecutive games and the first time an MLS club has done it since 2001.
More significantly, the goals against the Union, whom New England never had beaten on the road, came from five players.
“It’s how we’re designed,” said coach Jay Heaps, whose Eastern Conference leaders have won four straight games for the first time since 2005. “Sometimes a team will have a 20-goal scorer. We need to attack with balance across our attacking five to be able to score goals.
“When they do, it puts teams on their heels a little bit because not one guy can beat you. You’ve got three or four guys who can score.”
Last weekend it was Mullins (for the third match in a row), Diego Fagundez, Lee Nguyen, Chris Tierney, and A.J. Soares.
“When you draw it up, you want it, but you don’t expect it every game,” said Heaps, whose club scored five goals total in its first seven matches. “But at the same time, the way we play, we have to have a fluid offense, and in order to do that, we have to have guys on the field who can score from all those positions.”
One position switch — moving Mullins from the bench to starting forward and shifting Teal Bunbury to right midfield — has had a huge impact.
“That was a key for us,” said Heaps. “We’re built to have a forward hold the ball well. Teal on the right and Diego on the left have really come into their own with a center forward that holds it for them.”
The way the Revolution draw it up, their offense comes from the defense, which has yet to allow a goal in four home matches.
“First things first,” said Tierney, who has been a stalwart on a back line that has hung together without injured captain Jose Goncalves, last year’s MLS Defender of the Year. “We’re going to try not to concede goals. That’s our philosophy going into every game — making sure we don’t give anything up.”
Except for conceding a couple of late goals in the blowout at Philly, the Revolution have been suitably stingy since their 4-0 collapse in the season opener at Houston.
“Our defense starts with our center forward and goes all the way back to our goalie,” said Heaps. “So all 11 guys have to be in synch and in unison as we defend.”
Getting production out of the attack took weeks; New England’s first score was an own goal by San Jose. It was imperative that the Revolution stick with what Heaps calls “the process.”
“You stay the course,” said Tierney, whose colleagues played four of their first five matches on the road. “We have a team of veteran guys who have played in this league.
“We know that there’s ups and downs that come over the course of the season. We know that’s probably not going to be the last little stretch where we find it hard to score goals. Form comes and goes.”
Last year, when New England started 2-4-4, its sixth victory didn’t come until July 6. But the club still made the playoffs and took a game from eventual champion Sporting Kansas City.
“We’re just looking to ride this momentum that we have now,” said Tierney, “and hopefully pick up as many points as we can before the World Cup break.”
There’s no telling how the Revolution will come out of the three-week hiatus, which comes after the June 8 home date with New York. All they can do this week and next is put themselves into the best position possible going into the summer.
“What happened last week is over, what happened the week before is over,” said Heaps. “We’re already on to the next game.”
This one comes against the last club to beat New England (2-0 on April 5), a D.C. United bunch that already has won two more matches than it did during last year’s worst-ever campaign and that is fresh off Wednesday’s 2-0 triumph over Houston.
For a home side that so far has a clean sheet on Route 1, five goals may not be necessary but 3 points are.
“We want to make it that no one comes here and thinks that they can win,” said Fagundez.