Throughout the world of sports, we talk about resiliency of a team, seeing how they respond when the chips are down. When talking about a young team, we talk about their maturity in certain situations.
Saturday’s brunch time matinee between Revolution II and host Orlando City B had both of those things go the way of the visitors in New England’s 1-0 win, which moved it up to ninth place in the League One table. It’s been a long slog, but this is the highest New England has been in the standings since the scoreless draw that opened the season two months ago.
And as usual, we won’t mince words: while Los Revitos started the first half strong and on the front foot to build on last weekend’s 2-0 win over Union Omaha, there were periods nearing the half hour mark and toward the end of the first 45 minutes where the Little Lions carved New England up in the back in an effort to put pressure on goalkeeper Joe Rice. But the tourists were resilient in regrouping to head off the danger.
At halftime, it was up to head coach Clint Peay to settle things down and to address a few things.
“(The halftime talk) was about being more aggressive on both sides of the ball and we thought that we gave them a little bit too much respect,” Peay said to answer a BayStateSoccerSentinel.com question put forth by RevComm Saturday afternoon. “We weren’t as in-sync as group defensively as we wanted to be. That was the conversation — how can we be more collective and how can we be more of the aggressor on both sides of the ball.
“I think the biggest adjustment was our mentality. We had a lot of the ball but we were very passive and I wanted our guys to be more aggressive and pick the tempo of the game up to take the game to them more. And I think we started the second half well in that regard.”
Be the aggressor, they did, and that showed in the opening minute of the second half. Working from right to left, Colby Quinones found an overlapping Tiago Mendonça, who sent a cross to Orlando Sinclair.
The Costa Rican loanee, whose play has really gone up a notch in recent weeks, found Justin Rennicks low and in front of Medway native Austin Aviza. He popped the ball up and, with his head, found the back of the net for his second goal in League One.
And while a second goal for the game never came thanks to Aviza and his seven saves, Revs II were determined to see out the result. The midfield and the defensive units came together and thwarted the Lions, frustrating them. Orlando City tried to go down the wings. In steps Ryan Spaulding and Quinones, and the Lions just had no luck.
“They had some young, talented guys up top,” Spaulding said. “The main message from Clint was to get pressure on them, other guys around them support and then just try to get a body on them, get a tackle in, block crosses, and be smart.”
Yet things were nervy once goalkeeper Joe Rice went down with what appears to be an ankle injury just after the hour mark — and this is where maturity comes into play. Keegan Meyer came in for the final half an hour or so, and he had nothing to do — thanks to the Revolution II defensive corps rising to the occasion.
“It’s never easy for a goalkeeper, it’s never something you expect but you have to be ready for it mentally” Peay said. “I thought Keegan did a good job coming in and settling into the game nicely. And I think our backs did a tremendous job overall today limiting the opportunities that Orlando created.”
That they did, and now New England has a 262-minute scoreless streak it’ll take into the Commonwealth of Virginia when it finishes this four-game road trip against Richmond next weekend. Opponents have not scored on Revs II since Elivelton scored for FC Tucson almost two weeks ago, and now New England is experiencing what its opponents had against it not even a month ago.
“(The consecutive clean sheets are) a good feeling. The players want to know that they can go out and do this and we’re showing that we can so it brings confidence to the group. I think the ability to now score and keep a clean sheet also shows the guys that we can take the game to an opponent and be confident in doing so,” Peay said.
It’s so true. Revs II are playing with confidence now: two straight clean sheets will do that. Their heads aren’t down; they are looking up. They are showing how to be resilient, and how to be mature when they need to be.
There are five matches remaining in this abbreviated 2020 League One season. While the championship may be out of reach for New England’s second team as it stands, there’s plenty to build off of in regards to recent performances.
And while it didn’t look so great a month ago, this unit is certainly looking loads better.