Defense helps carry Revs in opener

Jerry Bengtson and Matt Reis may get the lion’s share of the credit for Saturday’s 1-0 win in Chicago, but the Revolution’s first victory at Toyota Park in nearly seven years wouldn’t have been possible without the efforts of the new and improved defensive unit.

First pick Andrew Farrell and offseason addition Jose Goncalves fit right in with returning defenders A.J. Soares and Kevin Alston, and helped keep Fire forwards Sherjill MacDonald, Maicon Santos and Chris Rolfe from finding the scoresheet.

“It was a hard fought battle,” Revolution head coach Jay Heaps told the media after the game. “I thought we did a lot of good things, with a couple of mistakes here and there that led to a lot of their chances. Overall it was pretty solid.”

Farrell wasted no time exhibiting the speed and savvy that convinced the club to trade up to select him first overall in January. In the early moments, he outpaced Dilly Duka, and even chased down a long wayward pass from Soares before it crossed the touchline.

Goncalves, an imposing and experienced center back from the Swiss League, lived up to his billing inside the back four. He made a number of quick recoveries and displayed his strength on key challenges inside the defending third.

“They were coming at us and we did a good job of keeping them at zero until halftime when we got the wind (at our backs) a little bit,” Revolution captain Clyde Simms told the media following the game. “Then we started to play in the second half and then we got the goal and towards the end they started pushing a lot of numbers. I’m really happy we kept them out of our goal.”

While the defense held up its end of the bargain, the central midfield pairing of Simms and Kalifa Cisse also stepped up to give the Revs their first win in the Windy City since a 2-1 victory July 8, 2006.

In fact, the use of two defensive midfielders served the Revs well in the middle of the park on Saturday. Cisse fortified the rear by outmuscling the Fire midfielders, and in the instances where they advanced into the area, Simms provided cover and plugged the passing lanes.

“It was something we sort of set up to do this game with our formation,” Simms said. “(Chicago) is very strong in midfield and we wanted to neutralize that and take advantage of that. I think we did a good job of that, especially in the second half.”

For Heaps, the waning moments of the match was when his club truly showed its mettle. With the Fire regularly crashing into the New England end, the Revs withstood the pressure thanks to tight marking and timely tackles.

“We were sharp defensively and thought we had a couple more chances, maybe after we scored the first one -- I thought we could have had another one,” Heaps said. “I liked the way we finished the game. The guys were fighting for every inch.”