FOXBORO -- A lot happened on Saturday at Gillette Stadium.
Goalkeeper Matt Reis made his 1,000th career save. Shalrie Joseph became the club's leader in all-time minutes played. And Jay Heaps picked up his first career win as a coach.
But through it all, there was one thing that made the biggest difference in the New England Revolution's first win of the 2012 season on Saturday.
These Revs played with a whole lot of fight.
"I think as the game went on, there were things against us, things that were hurting us, but we fought through it," said Heaps after New England's 1-0 win over the Portland Timbers. "And that's what the most special part of the night was. When it got tough, we got tougher."
That determination for 90-plus minutes was something the Revs lacked in 2011. But on Saturday night, after a Saer Sene goal on a header just 28 seconds in, these Revs kept battling, even with a depleted defense.
It was so depleted that midfielder and captain Shalrie Joseph had to play the entire game at central defense, after practicing all week at his normal position. It was a last-minute change, but Joseph stepped right in and led his team to a hard-fought defensive battle after an early goal in the opening minute.
"He's been fantastic," said Reis. "Anything that you ever ask him to do, he does it. Tonight, stepping in, and playing a great game in the back, it just shows the quality player he is."
Reis also had something to do with the team's defensive fight. he recorded three saves in the shutout, and became the sixth goalkeeper in MLS history to reach the 1,000-save mark.
"It's nice," said Reis. "It just means that I've been playing for a long time, and I've faced a lot of shots. But it's nice to have the longevity and to be able to play, and to keep making saves. The more I make saves, the more our team has a chance to win, much like we did tonight."
That defense would have never led to three points, had it not been of Sene's header in the first minute, which was set up perfectly on a cross from Chris Tierney at the left wing, and was the eighth-fastest goal in MLS history.
"Saer's great at getting in on the crosses, so I figured, why not whip one in, just try to put it in a good area, and Saer did great to get on the end of it," said Tierney.
Sene finished with a leaping header that banked off the cross-bar and in, marking New England's first goal of the season, and leading the Revs to their first win of the season, making them 1-2 on the year.
And the biggest difference in that win was the team's fight, which was maybe no more evident than Kevin Alston asking Heaps if he could stay in the game after taking a boot to the nose.
Alston's nose was too "crooked" for him to play on, according to Heaps, and he was taken out of the game in the 70th minute.
"And he wanted to play on," said Heaps. "That shows you the resolve the guys had tonight. A lot of fight, a lot of determination. I think that was the key tonight."
And according to the Revs players, that fight and determination was present because of Heaps.
"We wanted to get this first win for Jay, that's for sure," said Tierney after the game. "He's brought such a refreshing attitude into this locker room. This one's definitely for him. We're behind him as a team, and we really like the changes that he's made. So, it's great for him to get a first win, for sure."