FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – In recent weeks, the New England Revolution has made an unfortunate habit of seeing quality performances go unrewarded in the standings.
Last week, the Revs squandered back-to-back two-goal leads in a pair of maddening 2-2 draws with FC Dallas and the Columbus Crew. On Saturday night at Gillette Stadium, the Revs were strong in possession and outshot Real Salt Lake by a margin of 20-6, only for loose marking on a pair of set pieces to result in an exasperating 2-1 loss.
For the third straight game, the Revs walked off the field feeling they deserved more for their efforts.
“I think [this] game typifies the season,” said head coach Steve Nicol. “As far as the goals we lost, they’re terrible goals. Salt Lake’s a good team, but I thought we were better than them tonight. Just in that final third, we didn’t quite produce that extra bit of whatever to take advantage of the chances we had.
“We’re just shooting ourselves in the foot,” he continued. “But I guess the positive side is that we passed the ball really well at times tonight. But we’re disappointed. There’s no way we should’ve lost that game tonight.”
On the balance of play, the Revs were well on top for most of the night and were rewarded for their efforts when Sainey Nyassi scored his third goal of the season in the 82nd minute. Nyassi had earlier clipped the crossbar with a long-range drive in the first half, and the speedy Gambian was a threat down the right side all night.
But Nyassi’s goal only managed to pull the Revs level after they’d conceded the opener from a Javier Morales free kick in the 68th minute, when Nat Borchers worked free of Emmanuel Osei at the back post and flicked a header into the roof of the net. Then another lapse in the 84th minute allowed RSL to restore its lead almost immediately after Nyassi’s equalizer, as Saborio fought through Pat Phelan and powered home a header from close range.
“They’re both basic error goals,” said Nicol. “You go down to the park on a Sunday morning and you shouldn’t see two goals like that on a professional football field. That’s where we let ourselves down.
“The rest of the game – no complaints from me at all,” Nicol continued. “I thought we were committed, I thought we passed the ball well at times. We didn’t have that final pass to take advantage of all that good play. But the goals are basic errors that kind of stung us most of the season.”
Borchers’ goal was the fourth the Revolution has conceded from an indirect free kick this season, while Saborio’s goal was the third allowed directly from a corner kick. While the Revs have been strong on set pieces in the attacking third of the field – scoring five times on free kicks and once from a corner kick – they’ve also seen their defense on dead-ball situations cost them points.
“We gave away two set piece goals (tonight),” said captain Shalrie Joseph. “That’s stuff you don’t do if you want to be one of the better teams in the league. You don’t give away goals on set pieces like that.”
In the postgame aftermath, the Revolution grasped for positives from yet another improved performance which didn’t yield the desired result. But while the Revs can use those improvements as building blocks heading into next season, the fact that points have eluded them on these occasions throughout the year is part of the reason they find themselves out of playoff contention.
“In the end, if you look at the last three games, we’ve got two points out of them,” said goalkeeper Matt Reis. “We are playing a bit better, but at the end of the season, they have no bearing on the postseason.
“It’s great we’re finally playing – we’re not just kicking the ball,” he continued. “We’re trying to pass and we’ve done a pretty good job the past couple of games. But we need results.”