FOXBOROUGH — Through 17 games, the New England Revolution have shaped an identity: Defensively sound but offensively strapped.
They have not established a rhythm.
They slogged through March and April, scorched through May, and plateaued since then — straddled in the mucky middle of the Eastern Conference standings.
On Saturday, New England reached the season’s midpoint, a home match against the weary San Jose Earthquakes.
“It was a very important game,” Revolution striker Saer Sene said. “Sometimes this is when we give points away. So this is a game we needed to win.”
They did, defeating San Jose, 2-0, at Gillette Stadium. It was characteristic because of offensive flashes without fruition and a shutout from goalie Bobby Shuttleworth — his eighth, tied for most in Major League Soccer.
But it also presented promise of a strong second half. The win kept the Revolution (6-5-6, 24 points) within two points of the Houston Dynamo for fifth place in the Eastern Conference — the final playoff spot.
Said coach Jay Heaps: “We needed to get home, get some points, and move on to the next game.”
San Jose (5-9-6, 21 points) was without reigning league MVP Chris Wondolowski (traveling with the US national team) and 2012 MLS Defender of the Year finalist Victor Bernardez (yellow card suspension).
The Earthquakes also have the league’s worst road record — now 1-8-2 — and were coming off a Wednesday night match in Chicago. They flew to Boston Thursday, practiced at about 1 p.m. Friday, and played Saturday night.
The Revolution, playing at home for the first time since June 8, exploited their weary opponent. They swarmed San Jose’s net with 11 attempts on goal in the first half. The Earthquakes mustered nine attempts the entire game.
Sene broke through in the 13th minute. Left unattended about 25 yards from the net, Sene controlled possession then shot a rocket past goaltender Jon Busch.
“I like to shoot from far away,” Sene said. “I don’t think too much. Just shoot.”
New England pressed after that but entered halftime leading just 1-0.
The Revolution sealed it in the 78th minute. Midfielder Lee Nguyen, who assisted on Sene’s goal, directed a pass across the box. Charging in was reserve midfielder Dimitry Imbongo, who slid past San Jose midfielder Brad Ring to deflect the ball into the net.
The Revolution played without recent acquisition Juan Agudelo (right knee sprain), a flashy forward and rising star on the US national team. He was added in May as the team felt it needed an offensive spark.
Still, the Revolution have scored only six goals in the last four games. Saturday’s dominance in the offensive zone was a good start, but Heaps remains cautious.
“It was one of those where we were defensively sound but we weren’t as good as we can be offensively,” Heaps said.
Such is the story of the 2013 Revolution — so far. Whether they figure out their offensive struggles could determine how this story ends.