FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – If there’s one thing that the New England Revolution has learned during the course of its past two games, it’s that playing with fewer players than the opposition can be a daunting task.
Just four days after Kheli Dube and Joseph Niouky were ejected from the Revolution’s 1-1 draw with FC Dallas, Marko Perovic was issued a straight red card in the 29th minute of New England’s 4-0 loss to Chivas USA on Wednesday night at Gillette Stadium. While the Revs valiantly battled to earn a draw after going down to nine men against Dallas last weekend, they weren’t able to conjure up a similar performance against Chivas USA.
The visitors had already jumped out to a 1-0 lead – courtesy of Jesus Padilla’s second goal of the season in the 26th minute – before going up a man, but the space really opened up following Perovic’s sending off. It took just four minutes for the Goats to take make the most of their numerical advantage, as Justin Braun extended their lead to 2-0 in the 33rd minute. Subsequent goals in the 48th (Padilla) and 81st (Blair Gavin) minutes rounded out the scoring.
“We can’t keep playing men down,” said head coach Steve Nicol matter-of-factly after the match. “Not only did we play for another hour a man down tonight, but having played two men down on Saturday (against FC Dallas) – 10 men for [40 minutes] and nine men for [20 minutes] – you just can’t do it. It’s impossible.”
With Dube and Niouky unavailable from the start on Wednesday night, Nicol was forced to alter his lineup even before the match kicked off. He opted for a 4-5-1 alignment to pack the midfield and match Chivas USA, which plays a similar formation. Chris Tierney – naturally a left-sided player – moved into the middle alongside Pat Phelan, with both tucked in behind Perovic. Khano Smith earned his first start of the season on the left wing, while Zack Schilawski played as a lone striker.
The decision seemed to be paying dividends early in the game, as Chivas USA maintained a good chunk of the possession but didn’t seriously threaten the Revolution’s goal in the opening 15 minutes.
“I think we had them where we wanted them there,” said defender Darrius Barnes. “[They didn’t] pose any threats. Everything that they were knocking around was in the middle of the park. They really weren’t a threat.”
Padilla gave Chivas USA the lead shortly before Perovic’s red card, but the goal was a result of a mishit clearance rather than the Goats really breaking the Revs down.
The game was turned on its head in the 29th minute, however, when Perovic was involved in a scuffle with Chivas USA rookie Ben Zemanksi. As Perovic was having his shirt tugged by Zemanski near midfield, the Serbian midfielder lashed out at his opponent, drawing the straight red card. Zemanksi was cautioned for his role in the altercation.
With the Revs forced to alter their formation in response to the ejection and space opening up with one fewer player on the field, Chivas USA began to put its stamp on the match.
“When you go down a man to a team like that that can pass the ball, they continue to pick you apart, especially when it’s like that the whole game” said Barnes. “You can’t really do much about it.”
The good news is that both Dube and Niouky will be available for selection when the Revs travel to Columbus to meet the Crew on Saturday night. The bad news is that they’ll again be forced to adjust to a suspension, as Perovic will have to remain in Foxborough.
Even so, the Revs know that there’s nothing left to do but move on and begin preparing for their next match.
“It’s hard to forget about these games, but you’ve got to have a short memory – especially with ones like this,” said Tierney. “It doesn’t matter whether we lose 2-0 or we lose 20-0 – if we put ourselves out there and have a little bit of pride, then you can look at yourself in the mirror at the end of the day and move on to the next one.”