SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Going into halftime locked in a scoreless draw, New England Revolution head coach Steve Nicol had to have liked his side’s chances on Saturday night against the San Jose Earthquakes.
After all, the Revs had established themselves as a second-half team in the early part of the 2010 campaign, outscoring opponents by a 6-0 margin after halftime in the first three games of the season.
On top of that, Nicol’s club had perhaps one of its better first-half performances against the Earthquakes. Goalkeeper Preston Burpo came up with the important saves when called upon, while Serbian midfielder Marko Perovic – making his first start with the Revs – was by far the most dynamic player in the attacking third of the field.
“We defended well,” Nicol said of the first-half performance. “I think Preston had one save to make – he had a good save off of a header. We were probably happier than (San Jose head coach) Frank (Yallop) was at halftime, that’s for sure.”
New England came inches from cementing its reputation as a second-half team in the 52nd minute, but central defender Darrius Barnes – a late addition to the starting lineup in place of the injured Emmanuel Osei – saw his diving header cleared off the line by Earthquakes midfielder Joey Gjertsen, who was guarding the post.
Just five minutes later, the Revs were undone by a quick counterattack, as Boston native Ryan Johnson linked up with forward Chris Wondolowski to give San Jose the decisive first goal. It was the first second-half goal conceded by the Revolution this season, snapping a streak of 147 consecutive shutout minutes after the halftime break.
Left midfielder Chris Tierney lamented the missed opportunity at the start of the second half, saying that Wondolowski’s goal knocked the wind out of the Revs so shortly after Barnes almost gave New England the lead.
“I think this game was one where the first goal was going to decide it,” he said. “We had a couple of good chances, but couldn’t put one away. I think if we had [converted] one, we would be sitting in a totally different position right now.”
The Revs were forced to press for the tying goal, but before they generated a serious threat at equalizing, rookie defender Ike Opara powered home a header from Bobby Convey’s corner kick to extend the Earthquakes lead to 2-0 and effectively kill off the game in the 72nd minute.
Although he was generally satisfied with the first-half performance, the same couldn’t be said of Nicol’s overall thoughts on the game after allowing a pair of goals in the second half.
“I didn’t think we were particularly good tonight,” he admitted. “I don’t think there is any denying that.”
Barnes agreed that the Revs will have to improve if they hope to take maximum points from their upcoming three-game home-stand, in which they’ll face the Colorado Rapids (April 24), FC Dallas (May 1) and Chivas USA (May 5) in consecutive games at Gillette Stadium.
“It was just one of those nights where we never found our game,” he said. “We didn’t get the ball moving, we didn’t find the chemistry tonight. We couldn’t link up passes; it was a frustrating night overall … we came out in the second half a little stronger, but it’s still nowhere close to what we need to be doing to be successful.”
“We have to man up and go to work this week and get ready for Colorado on Saturday,” he concluded.