The Revolution are unaccustomed to being unbeaten and in first place in the Eastern Conference. But that is their status (2-0-1) going into Wednesday's visit to Chicago.
Though the Revolution were in command for most of their 4-3 win at D.C. United Saturday night, they did not manage the match well, surrendering penalty kicks during first-half injury time with a three-goal edge and in the late going after extending the lead to 4-2.
"The first half and second half were very different and we have to be more consistent than that," Revolution midfielder Jose Cancela said. "We pressured and had chances in the first half, but we could not get ahold of the ball in the second half. We scored three goals, and after that we should not have had to worry. But we didn't control the ball at all in the second half and they made it a close game."
But the Revolution have displayed significant improvement over their previous early season performances. The Revolution struggled against D.C. United last season, failing to win in five matches, including the Eastern Conference final, and United went on to win the MLS Cup.
United failed to replace defender Ryan Nelsen (Blackburn Rovers), though, and is struggling defensively this season, going winless in five games in all competitions since April 2. The Revolution's victory Saturday was their first at RFK Stadium since 2002 and United's first home loss since May 19.
Revolution pressure and United defensive miscommunication over a five-minute span led to three goals and injury to United defender David Stokes (concussion), who twice collided with goalkeeper Nick Rimando. Taylor Twellman slotted home the opening goal off a Clint Dempsey cross in the 26th minute, and a minute later he was pushed into Rimando, leading to a penalty kick that Shalrie Joseph converted for a 2-0 lead. In the 31st minute, Marshall Leonard scored for the first time in an MLS match for a three-goal edge.
United was fortunate to be awarded two penalty kicks, both converted by Jaime Moreno, but it also displayed a dynamic attack, at least before Steve Guppy (hamstring) departed midway through the second half. Guppy combined well with second-half substitute Freddie Adu on the left side and also provided a crossing threat, one of which resulted in a Santino Quaranta goal early in the second half.
Dempsey scored the Revolution's fourth goal in the 77th minute, his team's ninth goal in three games this season. The Revolution have a plus-four goal differential, only the second time in their history they have a positive differential after three matches. The fewest games the Revolution previously had required to score nine goals was six in the 1996 and '98 seasons.
It is too early to draw many definitive conclusions, but the Revolution's success is an indication they have broken their early season losing habits. No matter the outcome of the game in Chicago, the Revolution will remain with a winning record for the first time ever after four games; they never have had a winning mark after five matches. The Revolution have finished strong the last three years, but their combined record after the first three games was 2-5-2 for the 2002-04 seasons.
The Revolution were missing defender Joe Franchino (quadriceps strain) and midfielders Cassio (turf toe) and Steve Ralston (flu), but displayed depth and resourcefulness against United. Leonard and Avery John covered the left side and James Riley performed well on the right side of midfield, making direct contributions to two goals.
"Nobody knows better than us that it's a long season and a lot can happen," Twellman said. "We have started slow and finished strong the last three years but, with two new teams [Chivas USA and Real Salt Lake], that is going to be tougher to do. We wanted to start strong and keep an even keel, keep plugging away and stay compact, and not have to win the last 10 games like in the past."