SANDY, Utah – Leading by two goals and holding a man advantage just 20 minutes into Monday night’s Independence Day meeting with Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium, the New England Revolution appeared primed to snap its seven-game winless run and claim three points on the road for the first time in 2011.
But many of the same problems which plagued the Revs throughout the first half of the season emerged once again as RSL clawed its way back for a 3-3 draw.
“It’s always the same thing,” head coach Steve Nicol said after the match. “Better decisions and better passes. If you do both those things well, you give yourself a chance to get three points. We didn’t do that. We made bad decisions and we made bad passes and it cost us two points today.”
The Revolution’s previous two visits to Rio Tinto Stadium were nightmares as the club suffered a pair of comprehensive defeats, but the visitors got off to a dream start the third time around. RSL captain Nat Borchers was issued a straight red card after fouling Benny Feilhaber in the box in the third minute, while Rajko Lekic buried the spot-kick to hand New England a 1-0 lead in addition to its man advantage.
Back in the starting lineup after recovering from a left foot contusion, Chris Tierney doubled the Revolution’s haul with a long-range free kick in the 16th minute and there was a sense New England could run away with the match.
But the Revs struggled to employ the necessary tactical adjustments with the man advantage and ultimately provided RSL a route back into the game.
“You really have to hop on teams when you’re up 2-0 in this league and unfortunately we weren’t able to do that,” said Tierney. “We tried to spread them out and pass it a little bit, and it just wasn’t really happening for us. We had spells where we kept it and created a few chances, but the second half was rough.”
“We should’ve relaxed and started playing a little bit more aggressive,” captain Shalrie Joseph said of having the two-goal lead. “Instead we were a little too tentative and we didn’t move the ball well.”
RSL pulled one back in the 24th minute when Will Johnson drilled home the rebound after Andy Williams’ free kick kicked off the right post, while Alvaro Saborio equalized from the penalty spot in the 56th minute after Kevin Alston was whistled for a handball.
Joseph – who became the second player in Revolution history to play 20,000 minutes for the club on Monday night – restored New England’s lead in the 63rd minute with his team-leading fifth goal of the season, but Ryan Cochrane was issued a second yellow card four minutes later as the sides were leveled at 10 players apiece.
Second-half substitute Fabian Espindola eventually made the Revs pay for their inability to put the game away, scoring the game-tying goal in the 83rd minute.
“The bottom line is that we handed them (a way) back into the game,” said Nicol. “That’s the bottom line. We gave them a way back into the game, which we shouldn’t have done.”
“Being up 2-0 and then being up 3-2 with 10 minutes to go, it’s kind of frustrating that we weren’t able to hang onto the lead,” said Joseph. “That’s our season so far. It just hasn’t been good enough when it counts.”