CARSON, Calif. – Last year it took the New England Revolution 170 minutes to score its first goal of the season.
It didn’t take quite as long in 2011.
Shalrie Joseph scored the second-fastest goal to open a season in Revolution history – a third-minute strike bested only by Giovanni Savarese’s goal in the first minute of the 1999 season opener – and the Revs held on for a 1-1 draw with the LA Galaxy on Sunday night at The Home Depot Center.
Marko Perovic limped off with a left hamstring strain in the 22nd minute, but not before supplying the service for Joseph’s goal. Perovic’s initial corner kick was cleared at the near post, but the Serb corralled the loose ball and delivered a measured cross to the back post for Joseph to finish with a close-range header.
“Marko just played a brilliant ball,” said Joseph. “Once he puts it in the air I can go get it. He put it in the perfect area and all I had to do was steer it in.
“It definitely settled us down a little bit having the early goal,” he continued. “It helped our confidence and it helped us relax a little bit.”
Second-year forward Zack Schilawski was one of only three Revolution players to start both the 2010 season opener and Sunday’s 2011 opener against the Galaxy. The former Wake Forest standout noted the importance of Joseph’s early goal in setting the tone for the match.
“It was big time,” said Schilawski. “Obviously (being) away, getting an early goal is huge. I think it kind of told us that we could pull something off here.”
While Schilawski’s name won’t show up in the box score, he played a critical part in orchestrating the goal-scoring opportunity.
Playing as the lone forward in a 4-5-1 formation, Schilawski battled his way through a pair of defenders at the top of the box and managed to fire a shot while under pressure. His effort was blocked by a converging Galaxy defender, but the ball squirted across the end line for a corner kick, setting the stage for Perovic to find Joseph.
“Just a little bit of persistence trying to weave my way through,” Schilawski said of the unsung play. “I got a couple bounces and was able to get a shot off – kind of a toe poke that deflected wide. We made the most of it.”
Both sides dealt with adverse weather conditions throughout the match, with pouring rain and gusting winds ever-present from start to finish. Lofted crosses proved adventurous for the goalkeepers as the wind wreaked havoc for 90 minutes, while standing water began to form in Revolution netminder Matt Reis’ penalty box in the closing stages.
“Tonight wasn’t really about beautiful soccer,” said Reis. “It was about a battle. The conditions were really tough and it’s good to get a point.
“[The weather] was just a mess,” he continued. “It’s been pouring all day. We just had to battle and we did a great job covering each other and we did a good job of limiting their chances.”
Head coach Steve Nicol was more than pleased with the effort his side put forth and believed the final result was a fair one.
“They all did a great job and it was a great point,” he said. “Half the time you don’t get it, but today I think we got what we deserved.”