SEATTLE, Wash. – One week after snapping a seven-game winless streak with an inspirational victory over the New York Red Bulls, the New England Revolution headed to the Pacific Northwest looking to build some momentum before the impending league-wide break for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Instead, the Revs will head back to the east coast licking their wounds following a 3-0 loss to Seattle Sounders FC on Saturday night at Qwest Field.
The Sounders – who had scored just two goals in their previous six league matches – were dominant from the opening whistle and looked eager to test young Revolution goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth, who was making his first MLS start withPreston Burpo on the season-ending injury list and Matt Reis not yet ready for first-team action after recovering from a pair of offseason surgeries. Seattle fired 19 shots in Shuttleworth’s direction – eight of which hit the target – and the home side found the back of the net with just its second effort in the fifth minute. Costa Rican defender Leo Gonzalez was the unlikely goal scorer, rifling a rocket into the upper right corner for his first goal of the season.
With more than 36,000 fans in attendance, the atmosphere at Qwest Field provided its own challenges for the Revs, but the early goal put the visitors in an even more precarious situation. As has been a recurring issue for the Revolution this season, an apparent lack of intensity in the opening stages contributed to Seattle’s fast start.
“We just didn’t come out the way we wanted to,” said defender Kevin Alston. “They clearly came out with more intensity and more pressure, and we didn’t match it, and that killed us in the beginning. Three easy, quick goals and we’re just chasing the whole game.”
The hosts doubled their advantage in the 24th minute when Steve Zakuani expertly volleyed home a clever Brad Evans pass from the top of the box, and Fredy Montero made it 3-0 before the halftime break with a low drive from 18 yards out.
While the first two goals were admittedly the results of stunning finishes, Revolution head coach Steve Nicol claimed that the chances could’ve been prevented with better defending. The gaffer was particularly displeased with his team’s focus on Zakuani’s goal, which was the result of a long throw-in from the left wing.
“It’s schoolboy stuff, isn’t it?” Nicol asked rhetorically after the game. “You don’t switch off just because it’s a throw-in. We get caught sleeping, the ball breaks to the edge of the box – again, it’s a wonder-finish, but we’re contributing to our own downfall.”
Trailing by three goals on the road after 45 minutes, the Revs found themselves in a virtually insurmountable hole even before the halftime whistle. Unhappy with his team’s first-half performance, Nicol had a stern message during his halftime team talk.
“I probably couldn’t repeat [what was said],” Nicol quipped. “We came out and we were better (in the second half), but obviously we were so bad in the first half that I thought we would’ve had to be better. There’s absolutely nothing we can take out of this game that’s positive.”
While the second-half performance still left something to be desired – the Revs registered just one shot on goal in the 90 minutes, that being Shalrie Joseph’s 74th-minute header – the defensive effort showed slight improvement and Shuttleworth steadied himself to make three key saves.
Although it’s likely Reis will be ready to step back into the fold in the Revolution’s next league match on June 27 against the Chicago Fire, Shuttleworth is in line to back Reis up for the remainder of the year with Burpo on the season-ending injury list. With that said, the experience gained this evening can only serve to help the 23-year-old goalkeeper going forward.
“It was my first MLS start, so it was good to get that out of the way,” said Shuttleworth. “Now we move forward from here and hopefully we can keep progressing and start picking up some points.”
Luckily for the Revs, they won’t have to wait until June 27 to prove themselves on the field, as they’ll have the chance to work out the kinks in a June 13 friendly against Brazilian power Cruzeiro at Gillette Stadium.
With no league games until late June, the Revolution can use the Cruzeiro friendly, a few weeks of training and some much-needed days of rest to regroup and move forward after the World Cup break.
“It’s obviously disappointing,” Nicol said about going into the break with such a tough loss. “But we need to just sit down, look at what we’re doing and figure out how we’re going to get results.”