Draw yields positives, not desired results
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The general consensus in the New England Revolution locker room following last weekend’s 3-2 loss to the Columbus Crew was that the Revs’ improved performance was worthy of a draw. On Saturday night after the Revs and San Jose Earthquakes played to a scoreless draw at Gillette Stadium, the sentiment was the same, with the Revs feeling that their performance was deserving of the full three points rather than just one.
Perhaps most promising from New England’s perspective was the clean sheet, the club’s second of the season. Recent weeks have seen the Revs give away goals because of defensive miscues and individual mistakes, but they largely did away with those problems against the Earthquakes, a team which scored four goals against the New York Red Bulls just one week ago.
“First and foremost, we’ve been solid,” said head coach Steve Nicol. “We’re happy with a clean sheet … it probably took us about 10 minutes to get settled, but after that we ran the game. But just that little bit of quality in the final third let us down. Preston (Burpo) made a good save in the second half, but I think overall we deserved to win the game. We were disciplined and we defended pretty well, but just that quality was missing in the final third.”
New England was on top for much of the game and came closest to scoring the decisive goal in the 62nd minute, when Senegalese midfielder Joseph Niouky – not known for his scoring prowess – struck the left post with a blistering 35-yard shot.
It wasn’t surprising that the Revolution almost broke the deadlock considering the amount of chances created at both ends, but Niouky would’ve been an unlikely goal-scoring source, to say the least. Entering this match, he’d only attempted three shots all season, and none of them had hit the target.
“A couple inches one way and he’s a hero,” said Pat Phelan, who filled in as a makeshift central defender with both Darrius Barnes (R midfoot sprain) and Emmanuel Osei (R leg infection) sidelined.
Niouky’s missed attempt was one of several forays into the attacking third for the Revs, who fired 11 total shots but forced Earthquakes goalkeeper Joe Cannon into just four saves. New England made good use of its width and continuously poured crosses into the box, but on each occasion either the accuracy on the pass was missing or the finish simply wasn’t there.
The Revolution also worked hard to earn a season-high eight corner kicks, and although rookie defender Seth Sinovic came close to turning in Marko Perovic’s near-post service in the 53rd minute, nothing much came from the set pieces.
“The final connection – the finish (was missing),” said rookie Zak Boggs, who made his second consecutive start at left midfield. “We had a lot of crosses tonight – I don’t know if you have the stats, but there were a lot of crosses that went through the middle – so it’s just getting a [touch] on it.”
With the Revolution unable to find the back of the net, the club’s winless streak was extended to six games (0-4-2) in the league and seven games (0-5-2) in all competitions. Despite back-to-back quality performances against the Crew and Earthquakes, the Revs have taken just one point from a possible six, and it would be understandable for the frustration under those circumstances to take hold.
However, the Revs players have managed to keep the results in perspective and are doing what they can to focus on the positives.
“I think we did a lot of good things tonight,” said defender Kevin Alston, who returned to the starting lineup after recovering from a right hamstring strain. “We possessed a lot more, we were a lot more organized. We had plenty of chances, (we were) just unlucky not to put one away. But I think we can take a lot away from this game.”
Boggs agreed that had a bounce or two gone the Revs’ way, perhaps the result would’ve been different.
“It’s just the way soccer is,” he said. “Obviously, you need to be committed and you need to work hard – which I think we’ve been doing – but sometimes you need some luck, too.”