Nicol hopes Crew loss serves as wakeup call

Comprehensive loss to Columbus shows there’s still work to be done with the season opener fast

KENNESAW, Ga. – The New England Revolution didn’t plan any victory parades after opening the 2011 preseason with four consecutive victories.

Similarly, the club isn’t overly concerned about finally dropping a result with a 3-1 loss to the Columbus Crew on Wednesday night in the opening game of the Atlanta Pro Soccer Challenge.

“[This] is what the preseason is for – we’re still getting the kinks out,” said Chris Tierney, who started at left midfield but finished the match at left back. “We’re not as concerned with the results as we are with making sure we get ourselves better and better as we get closer to [the season opener].

“The result’s not the big issue here,” he reiterated. “It’s just about us trying to improve and get better at passing and keeping the ball. We’ll get back at it and keep working on it.”

While the result is essentially meaningless, the Revolution’s sloppy performance in Wednesday night’s loss proves there is still work to be done before the club heads to Carson, Calif., for a meeting with the LA Galaxy on March 20.

New England’s night was summed up in one hectic first-half minute which saw the Crew jump out to a 2-0 lead while capitalizing on a pair of mistakes.

In the 16th minute, midfielder Bernardo Anor was left unmarked as he ghosted into the box to knock in Robbie Rogers’ free kick. Just seconds later, a misplayed back-pass from rookie center back A.J. Soares was pounced on by Crew forward Tommy Heinemann, who finished with an excellent chip over stranded goalkeeper Matt Reis.

“We’ve gradually gotten better as the preseason has gone along as far as taking care of the ball, but tonight the wheels came off,” said head coach Steve Nicol, who noted the steady play of Reis as the only positive he took from the match. “Hopefully it’s a wakeup call and everybody kind of realizes where they are and where they need to get to.”

The good news for the Revs is that this particular performance came in the Atlanta Pro Soccer Challenge and not in a regular-season match.

“What could go wrong went wrong tonight,” said Nicol. “If we’re going to do the things we did, [we’re] better off doing it now rather than waiting until we start the season.”

There was a bit of consolation for the Revs as an improved second-half performance yielded a deserved goal for Ilija Stolica in the 62nd minute. A string of passes through midfield opened up the Crew backline before Zack Schilawski slipped a clever pass to Stolica, who finished high into the roof of the net from 12 yards out.

The Revs will look to build upon that goal – and forget the rest – as they prepare for their final preseason test on Sunday afternoon against the Houston Dynamo.

“It’ll give everybody a chance to put [tonight] behind them and move on,” said Nicol.