SANDY, Utah – The New England Revolution entered Rio Tinto Stadium on Friday night in search of redemption after suffering a crushing 6-0 loss at the hands of Real Salt Lake last season. What the Revs got instead was a hefty dose of déjà vu, as RSL once again ran riot en route to a 5-0 victory to extend its club-record unbeaten streak to nine games.
Just as they did last year – when they went into halftime scoreless before surrendering six second-half goals – the Revs began the game well enough and could even have been considered to be on the front foot in the opening stages.
The sides played relatively even through the first 25 minutes, with RSL holding a slight advantage in possession and a slender 4-3 lead in shots. But when Fabian Espindola ran onto Robbie Russell’s long pass and gave the hosts a 1-0 lead in the 27th minute, it was all downhill from there.
Jamison Olave scored on the stroke of halftime to give RSL a 2-0 lead going into the break, before Alvaro Saborio scored his team-leading sixth and seventh goals of the season just five minutes apart early in the second half to put the game out of reach.
“The biggest thing is a lack of professionalism,” said a clearly aggravated Steve Nicol after the match. “We had a set way that we were going to do things and it worked for about 25 minutes, and then we just gave them three goals. The first goal starts it off, the second goal was terrible, the third goal was terrible. When you’re giving teams three goals, it’s unprofessional. That’s really what it is.”
Returning U.S. National Team forward Robbie Findley compounded the Revolution’s misery with the fifth goal in the 85th minute, scoring in his first appearance for Salt Lake since returning from duty at the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Findley started the match on the bench, but he entered at halftime and received a raucous ovation from the 19,101 fans in attendance.
Findley’s goal brought the final tally ever-so-close to the 6-0 defeat the Revs suffered at Rio Tinto Stadium last season. After focusing on redemption throughout the week, another devastating loss was not exactly what the Revolution had expected.
“It’s just bad,” said midfielder Sainey Nyassi, who played the full 90 minutes in the six-goal loss in 2009 and 61 minutes in the 5-0 defeat on Friday night. “Last year we came out here and lost 6-0, and this year we come here and we lose 5-0. It’s just disheartening. We just have to forget about this one and move on to the next one.”
The Revs are perhaps best advised to take Nyassi’s advice and forget about what happened in Salt Lake City, but one player who is likely to remember for a long time is rookie midfielder Jason Griffiths. After signing with the Revs last week and making his MLS debut with a substitute appearance against the Fire, Griffiths was handed his first career start on Friday night.
Playing alongside Shalrie Joseph at the start of the match, Griffiths settled in nicely and looked composed in the opening stages. But soon the floodgates opened and the 23-year-old’s starting debut took a turn he couldn’t have seen coming.
“It was tough,” Griffiths admitted. “The conditions are hard. [Real Salt Lake] got off to a good start with an early goal and then they ran all over us to be honest. It was tough out there.”
It would be easy for the Revs to blame their difficulties in Salt Lake City on the altitude, a factor which has clearly played a part in RSL’s dominant home form. But the thin air can’t explain the Revs being shut out in five of their last six regular-season games and winning just once in their last 11 league contests.
That, according to Nicol, has a much more simple explanation.
“We didn’t lose tonight because of altitude,” he said. “We lost tonight because we didn’t do basic stuff properly. The fundamentals and basics of the game are things we didn’t do, and that’s why we lost.”