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Good signs for Revolution

Nicol is impressed by team’s attitude

Shalrie Joseph (No. 21, being hugged by Benny Feilhaber) got the Revolution off to a fast start with a 14th-minute goal against Dallas Saturday. Shalrie Joseph (No. 21, being hugged by Benny Feilhaber) got the Revolution off to a fast start with a 14th-minute goal against Dallas Saturday. (Michael Dwyer/Associated Press)
By Frank Dell’Apa
Globe Staff / September 16, 2011

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This has not been the best of Revolution seasons.

The team has endured extended winless streaks that could have shattered camaraderie and confidence. And their inability to maintain possession and avoid late defensive collapses have indicated problems with composure and concentration.

Yet the Revolution have kept the faith and remained motivated. The team’s aggressive starts have produced leads in five successive matches. And the Revolution were able to protect their advantage in a 2-0 victory over FC Dallas last Saturday, their first victory following two defeats and five ties since July 20.

“I don’t think the attitude of the team’s changed any,’’ said coach Steve Nicol. “Obviously, everybody’s happy because we’ve got a win, but it hasn’t changed a great deal.

“We’ve always tried to concentrate on the next game, so . . . I think I’ve said all season, we’ve never had a problem with commitment or attitude or anything like that.’’

The win over Dallas, he added, “shows we’re going to keep going and keep fighting hard, and try to minimize the mistakes or bad decisions we make during the game.’’

The Revolution (5-11-12, 27 points) will be facing a difficult test as they visit Portland tonight. The home-field advantage has paid off in the team’s first season in MLS, the Timbers going 8-4-2 at Jeld-Wen Field, unbeaten in four games (3-0-1) since July 10.

The Revolution’s combination of Benny Feilhaber and Shalrie Joseph has provided a ball-possession dimension. But the team’s tactical limitations have often left it on the defensive, unable to capitalize on the offensive potential of its central midfielders.

That appears to be changing as newcomer Monsef Zerka has provided attacking instincts and skill on the right wing, and Nicol has gone with a two-striker setup.

“It’s going to be hard, because they have a team that’s fast and good on the ball,’’ Joseph said of Portland. “We need to be better on the ball. It’s all about what we do on the road right now, and we need to be better on the ball.’’

The Revolution were on the verge of losing two defensive midfielders as Stephen McCarthy underwent shoulder surgery and Pat Phelan was injured late in the game after appearing to be kicked in the head during a 4-4 tie at Philadelphia last week. But Phelan, who sustained a concussion in a SuperLiga game last year and has been wearing headgear protection since, recovered and will be on the bench.

“Obviously, we’re really surprised Pat’s recovered so quickly, but it’s just one of those things,’’ Nicol said. “The tests they have in place to determine whether you have symptoms or not, he passed.

“He feels great and he’s good to go. It’s the same with most injuries, different players take different amounts of time.

“When he did it, he wanted back in the game, but we weren’t going to risk him, and it’s the same thing now.’’

The Revolution tied a team record with a nine-game winless streak (0-6-3) from May 14 through July 20 . . . Since a 1-1 tie with Portland April 2, the team has six starting lineup changes: left back Darrius Barnes, midfielders Feilhaber, Zerka, and Chris Tierney, and forwards Milton Caraglio and Rajko Lekic.

Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at

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