Nicol: “We were in total control”

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Despite playing down a man for much of the game following the 40th-minute ejection of defender Cory Gibbs, the New England Revolution limited the Philadelphia Union to just one shot on target – a tame attempt from Sebastien Le Toux midway through the second half – through the first 80 minutes of Saturday night’s game at Gillette Stadium.

Unfortunately, it was the two shots Philadelphia put on frame in the final 10 minutes which decided the game as the Union claimed a 2-1 win.

Ilija Stolica had given the Revolution a halftime lead with his second goal of the season in the 31st minute and Sainey Nyassi threatened to extend the lead with a pair of efforts in the 36th minute, including a 25-yard rocket which struck the left post. The Revs outshot the Union by a 6-2 margin in the first half.

But Gibbs was shown a straight red card for a challenge on Eduardo Coudet, forcing the Revs into a defensive stance as they aimed to hold their lead. Jack McInerney eventually broke through to level the score in the 82nd minute before Justin Mapp claimed a dramatic victory for the visitors with an 18-yard strike in the second minute of stoppage time.

“We were in total control,” said head coach Steve Nicol. “It took them 70 minutes before Bobby (Shuttleworth) had a save. The first goal, the guy took it well. The second goal is just disappointing from a lot of points. But at the end of the day, the way we defended and kept our shape and kept them out and kept them quiet for 80 minutes, it was great.

“But then you run out of legs eventually,” he continued. “Playing a man down, eventually there are going to be holes.”

Both Mapp (65th minute) and McInerney (77th minute) were second-half substitutes, providing the Union with fresh legs to run against the Revolution’s tired defense. While the Revs held strong for 80 minutes – conceding possession to the Union but rarely looking troubled – two lapses in concentration resulted in a pair of goals.

“I think we stuck to the game plan,” said Chris Tierney, who started the match at left midfield but switched to right back at the start of the second half as the Revolution adjusted. “They had the majority of possession, but they weren’t really creating anything too dangerous. They were going side to side and we were happy to let them do that. It was comfortable, and then two mistakes and we lose the game.”

Pushing numbers forward would’ve made the shorthanded Revs susceptible with the Union boasting an extra man, so the Revolution seemed happy to defend its 1-0 lead through the first 82 minutes. But when McInerney leveled the score, the Revs responded by opening up and trying to grab a game-winner. A series of corner kicks and free kicks presented some danger, but it was Philadelphia which ultimately converted at the other end of the field.

“We had a couple of set pieces where I thought we were going to nick one,” said Tierney. “It’s always tough a man down, guys are out of position. We were throwing numbers forward, trying to get the win, but that’s what happens.”

The good news for the Revs is they’ll have a quick turnaround for their next match, the SuperLiga 2010 final against Mexico’s Monarcas Morelia on Wednesday, Sept. 1. The Revolution will host that game at Gillette Stadium looking to become the first club to lift the SuperLiga trophy twice, having claimed the crown in 2008.

“As frustrating as it is – and it’s disheartening – it’s behind us,” Pat Phelan said of Saturday night’s loss to the Union. “The MLS season for us has been a difficult one, and we’re in a difficult situation right now. We’ve got an opportunity to get some hardware and get something out of the season. Our focus is on that.”