FOXBOROUGH — After watching his team fail to register a shot on goal in last Saturday’s home-opening scoreless draw with Sporting Kansas City, Revolution coach Jay Heaps took a more offensive-minded approach to practice this week.
“Our focus has been to make sure that we come out and attack when we can attack,” said Heaps, whose squad hosts FC Dallas (3-1-0, 9 points) at Gillette Stadium on Saturday.
“We’re trying to get numbers in the right area to put pressure on [FC Dallas’s] back four,” Heaps continued. “That will allow us to attack whether we win the ball, or possess it through [because we’ll be] in a more advanced position to then strike.”
Through three games, the Revolution (1-1-1, 4 points) have managed just one goal, but given the windy conditions in last Saturday’s game (and absence of starting striker Jerry Bengtson), the New England offense could well have more to offer than its shown.
Bengtson, who has the Revolution’s lone goal, returned to practice Thursday after national team duty for Honduras.
Heaps said having Bengtson makes the offense more dangerous, but maintained that the team has plenty of scoring depth.
“I think it helps,” Heaps said of having Bengtson back. “Obviously, Jerry’s a proven goal scorer. He scored a goal against Mexico [last Saturday]. He’s showing that he’s someone, who if he gets a chance, he’s going to score, so we want to keep our guys confident in him, but there are a lot of guys that can [also] step up and score.
“I think we want to be a balanced attack and I think Jerry’s a big part of that, but also with other guys stepping up to score some goals.”
Look for midfielder Juan Toja, who played for FC Dallas in 2007-08, to be on his game Saturday.
“I think it’s great motivation for me,” said Toja, who has been battling a sore knee. “First, because I’m on a new team with new expectations, and second, because [six] years ago [FC Dallas] gave me a great opportunity to show the MLS the kind of player that I am.”
After finishing 9-13-12 last season and failing to make the playoffs for the first time since 2009, FC Dallas is riding back-to-back home wins over Houston and Real Salt Lake. FC Dallas’s 27 shots on goal lead Major League Soccer.
FC Dallas is set to get back striker Blas Perez from national team duty with Panama. Perez had nine goals and four assists last season to lead the team.
Further bolstering FC Dallas’s attack are 2010 MLS MVP David Ferreira (one goal, two assists) and 6-foot-3-inch forward Kenny Cooper (one goal).
“They’re a great counterattack team,” said Heaps. “They have some speed in a lot of ways and they know how to attack with numbers. They’ve got some excellent players in Kenny Cooper, David Ferreira, Fabian Castillo, and Jackson [two goals, one assist], who’s really played well and is one of the hottest players in MLS right now.“
That said, there’s been no better defensive team this season than the Revolution, who have started the same back line of Kevin Alston (left back), Jose Goncalves (center back), A.J. Soares (center back), and Andrew Farrell (right back) in all three games.
“I think for a new team getting together, it’s a lot easier for the defense to adjust,” said Farrell, who has settled in nicely after being the first overall pick in the 2013 draft. “You’ve just got to work hard and figure things out position-wise. I think we’re doing well as a team defensively.”
With two straight road games on deck after Saturday’s matchup, 3 points would go a long way for a Revolution squad trying to make the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
“It’s huge. It’s vital,” said Heaps. “We want to pick up maximum points at home. It’ll be a good challenge and opportunity for us.
“I think we’re confident right now. I think we’re still starting to understand ourselves and the personalities that are on the field and we’re getting tighter as a group. For me, this is as much about confidence as it is about having your home field to protect. You want your home field to be a dangerous place for teams to come in and try to play you.”