FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – When FC Dallas fired seven shots on target and firmly carried the run of play in the first half, the New England Revolution was delighted to enter the halftime break with a 1-0 lead. When Kheli Dube was ejected in the 56th minute to reduce the Revs to 10 men, they might’ve been happy to simply hold on for a draw. When Joseph Niouky saw red in the 72nd minute, the nine players left on the field could’ve been forgiven if they simply hoped to keep the final score respectable.
But a herculean effort from goalkeeper Preston Burpo – who made a career-high 10 saves, many of the spectacular variety – kept the Hoops at bay and helped the Revolution hang on to a 1-1 draw on Saturday night at Gillette Stadium, keeping Dallas winless in the process.
“It was amazing,” said Burpo, who characteristically deferred much of the credit for the result to his teammates. “We were what? Nine guys with 20 minutes to go? You had (Pat) Phelan in the center. You had Khano (Smith) come in and step up. Cory Gibbs and Darrius (Barnes) in the middle were amazing.
“Everyone put in a lot in the last 20 minutes, which is what we needed to preserve a tie,” Burpo continued. “All things considered, to walk out with a point, I think everyone is content. We’re sure as [anything] not happy, but content would be the best way to say it.”
Head coach Steve Nicol echoed Burpo’s praise of the effort on the night, particularly after the Revs went down to nine men.
“Effort-wise tonight – absolutely fantastic,” he said. “What more can you say? Nine men? They had a couple of chances, but you should when you have a two-man advantage. Preston made some good saves. The back four were solid and did a decent job, threw themselves in front of shots – you name it. Everybody played their part.
“Truth be told, we didn’t play well, even when it was 11 v 11,” Nicol continued. “But we fought hard and we rode our luck. But certainly the effort was phenomenal.”
The Revs were forced to ride their luck because of a pair of second-half red cards, sandwiched around the game’s goals. Zack Schilawski gave New England the lead before halftime, but Dube was issued a straight red 11 minutes after the break. Atiba Harris made the most of the man-advantage with the equalizer in the 67th minute, and then Niouky was ejected in the 72nd minute.
Schilawski’s goal – his team-leading fourth of the season – was set up by the hard work of Dube. When Dallas goalkeeper Dario Sala attempted to shepherd a long pass over the end line, Dube pounced by rounding the Argentine and only just managed to keep the ball in play. With the net empty, Dube slid a pass into the middle of the field for Schilawski to finish.
“Our team works hard every day,” said Dube. “Everybody works hard for everybody, and that’s what I did today. I got a chance to work hard and make a play, and it happened to be a goal.”
Although the Revs can consider themselves fortunate to have earned a draw – which snapped a brief two-game losing streak – there was disappointment in the way the club performed in the early stages. With midfield leader Shalrie Joseph on a leave of absence from the club, the Revolution once again got off to a slow start and struggled to maintain possession for lengthy periods.
“It’s pretty clear they had the run of play for most of the game,” said Phelan. “I’m a little disappointed that we didn’t work on keeping the ball more than the last couple of games, because we put ourselves in that predicament going two men down.”
Even before Dallas was presented with a numerical advantage, the visitors were in control for much of the match. The Hoops hit the post in just the fifth minute and had a series of chances to open the scoring in the first 30 minutes, with only some crucial clearances and missed opportunities keeping them off the board.
Many of those issues stemmed directly from the lack of possession.
“A big problem for us since the beginning of the year is keeping the ball,” said Burpo. “Even before the red-card situation, we’re under pressure way too much.”
“It’s a long season,” Burpo concluded. “It’s a work in progress.”
The Revolution will hope to make progress quickly, as Chivas USA visits Gillette Stadium on Wednesday night.