Revolution coach Jay Heaps must be ecstatic to know that he will get the most out of his defenders, no matter which ones he selects to start or how he aligns them on the field. That was made clear Thursday night as a hybrid New England back line preserved a 0-0 result at Portland for the Revolution's fifth shutout of the season.
Against one of the league's best attacking teams, the shorthanded Revolution pulled off the tricky task of exiting the Pacific Northwest with a positive result.
Without defenders Chris Tierney (suspension), A.J. Soares (hamstring), Andrew Farrell (knee), and Kevin Alston (disabled list), Heaps's remaining pieces turned in another solid result. Jose Goncalves and Stephen McCarthy played together in central defense for the third straight time, while Darrius Barnes made his first start at left back.
The Revolution also slotted Bilal Duckett -- who was recalled from the Rochester Rhinos of the USL-Pro -- at right back.
Everyone did their part, but Duckett was most impressive, helping shut down Portland's attack despite having not trained with the Revolution since early preseason. Duckett traveled 2,705 miles to Portland to meet up with the team.
“It’s been a crazy week,” said Duckett, who now will return to Rochester. “I couldn’t be happier to be up here and fight and get this point with these guys.”
“I think people probably wondered early on this year how [the Rochester affiliation] was going to work,” said Heaps. “Bilal came from Rochester, we got him here, sat down with him, got him up to speed.
"That’s the good thing about having a player playing four or five games when we don’t have as many reserves. He stepped in, went 90 minutes, and did a pretty good job.”
Bobby Shuttleworth did his part in goal as well, making nine saves for his third clean sheet of the season. The fifth-year professional is asserting himself as the Revolution's first-choice goalkeeper.
“Bobby did a nice job," said Heaps. "It’s the second game in a row he’s played really well. It’s not an easy environment.
"I think he’s reading the game well. It wasn’t like he was making spectacular saves, but he was making saves because of being in the right position, which is better than a spectacular save for me.”
Shuttleworth's best saves came in the second half when Portland stepped up the pressure. In the 54th minute, he saved a point-blank volley from Ryan Johnson. He came up with a more impressive stop in the 84th minute when he fully extended to his right to stop Diego Chara's curling effort for the upper left corner of the net.
“I think we were super-organized in the back," said Shuttleworth. "We all kept our lines, kept our shape, and were able to keep a clean sheet.
"I think it shows the depth we have on this team. Jay has done a great job of creating the competition and creating depth. You can see guys are coming in and doing really well. We aren’t missing a beat.”
Though the Revolution had to rely on defense and had less possession, they looked dangerous at times. They have some momentum going into their next game, which is Wednesday at home against Real Salt Lake.
A victory in that game would put the Revolution back into playoff contention in the Eastern Conference, and they are in position to build on that momentum since five of their next six games are at home.
“I think this is a big stretch for us," said Shuttleworth. "I think we need to go home and take care of business and make it difficult for teams to play us at Gillette.”
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