FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Only time will tell if last weekend’s inspiring victory over the New York Red Bulls ignites a spark for the New England Revolution going forward with the rest of the 2010 season.
For now, all we know is that the Revs entered their showdown with the Red Bulls in serious need of a pick-me-up. Winless in seven games (0-5-2), the Revolution had only scored 10 goals in its first 10 matches and was in danger of digging itself into a hole even before the league-wide break for the group stage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Depleted by injuries, the club hadn’t even filled out a full 18-man game-day roster since the beginning of May.
There was hope even prior to kickoff against the Red Bulls, however, as captain Shalrie Joseph returned from his five-game absence the previous weekend in Toronto and provided a major boost both on the field and in the locker room. With Joseph leading the charge – he recorded his second and third assists of the season against the Red Bulls – the Revs battled to a 3-2 win in front of the appreciative home fans.
While the three points earned in the standings were critical for New England, at least one Revolution player believes the triumph will be even more beneficial in its long-term effects.
“This is huge for us,” said stand-in central defender Pat Phelan. “We’re going to look at this as a turning point in our season. We played much better than we have in the past few games. We gave [New York] some soft goals, but on the whole, I think it was a much better performance and it’s always nice to end a streak like that at home.”
Many factors contributed to the Revolution’s improved performance against the Red Bulls – not the least of which was Joseph’s return to action – but Phelan believes there was a little something extra pushing the Revs last Saturday night.
In the 34th minute, goalkeeper Preston Burpo charged off his line to cut out a through ball, but collided with Red Bulls midfielder Dane Richards in the process. The result of the impact sent a shockwave through Gillette Stadium, as Burpo suffered a broken right fibula and tibia, ending his season.
Burpo’s broken leg was merely the latest in a slew of unfortunate injuries in New England, and Phelan said it served to bring the team together in a surprising way.
“We’ve had so many injuries, so many setbacks – Preston’s obviously being the worst, by far – and we can’t worry about what’s happening around our team with guys getting injured,” he said. “We can’t make excuses for that. I think we pushed through it, and we put together a good performance.”
The performance certainly showed promise, as the Revs maintained possession more easily than in recent weeks, strung together some dangerous attacking moves and scored three goals, matching their total from their previous five league contests.
“(The win) was crucial,” said Chris Tierney, who played alongside Joseph in central midfield against New York. “We came into the game thinking it was a must-win for us. If we can get a result at Seattle, then we’ll feel like we have some momentum going into the World Cup break. Then we’ll have some time to get our fitness back a little bit, get some key players back and go forward from there.”
As valuable as last weekend’s win against New York was for the Revolution’s morale, the victory has made this Saturday night’s visit to Seattle to face Sounders FC even more important. The Sounders match is New England’s last regular-season game before going on break for the World Cup, so this weekend’s result – win, lose, or draw – will stick in the team’s memory until its next league game on June 27 against the Chicago Fire.
If the Revolution aims to use the New York match as a turning point, it must take at least one point home from Seattle – with three preferable – in order to build some momentum heading into the unofficial “second half” of the season.
Tierney went so far as to call the game “crucial,” hinting that this weekend’s result in the Pacific Northwest could provide a springboard into the rest of the schedule.
“Momentum going through (the World Cup break) when we have some time to get guys back (from injury) is important,” he said. “We got a result there last year, so I think we’re confident. It’s always fun to go and play in that atmosphere – it kind of drives us on, so I’m thinking that we’re going to get a good result this weekend.”
The Revs were one of only two visiting teams to taste victory at Qwest Field in 2009, when the Sounders went 7-2-6 at home in their inaugural season. Joseph scored the only goal in the Revolution’s visit to Seattle, bundling home a 21st-minute shot to hand New England a 1-0 win in the first-ever meeting between the two teams. When the clubs met one month later in Foxborough, Joseph was again the hero, scoring twice to earn the Revs a come-from-behind, 2-1 victory.
Seattle hasn’t quite had the same success at home in the early part of 2010, going 2-3-1 while scoring just four goals. Even so, the Revs are fully aware that the environment at Qwest Field will provide a unique test.
“You don’t want to go on a break with a loss,” said Phelan. “It’s a tough place to play, although I don’t think we’ve ever lost to Seattle – only two games, but still. They’re a team that’s struggling, too – a bit like New York was, a bit like we were. They’re a dangerous team, but I think it’s definitely possible for us to go out there and get a result.” By Jeff Lemieux, Staff Writer & Online Host