COLUMBUS, Ohio – Having limited the Columbus Crew to two shots on target and having stolen a halftime lead through Benny Feilhaber’s blistering 45th-minute strike, the New England Revolution was reasonably pleased with the way Saturday night’s match at Crew Stadium was playing out at the conclusion of the first half.
The Revs weren’t quite so pleased by the final whistle, however, as a trio of second-half goals lifted the Crew to a 3-1 victory and sank New England to eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings.
“If soccer games were 45 minutes, we’d be in first place right now,” said midfielder Pat Phelan, who recorded his team-leading third assist of the season on Feilhaber’s goal. “We said it in the locker room at halftime. ‘We can’t fall into a shell, we have to keep attacking.’ I thought up until their first goal we were kind of getting at them.”
“The game’s dead. The game’s perfect for us,” said head coach Steve Nicol of his halftime thoughts. “We get ourselves ahead and they never really gave us any problems, particularly in the first half. I was disappointed that we weren’t more positive when we had the chance in the first half, but we’re 1-0 up and everything’s fine.”
From the Revolution’s perspective, everything was fine until Kevin Alston scored an unfortunate own goal in the 54th minute to pull the Crew level shortly after the halftime break. Although A.J. Soares crashed a close-range effort off the crossbar in the 62nd minute as the Revs made a bid to regain the lead, Columbus ultimately made the most of its superiority in possession as Julius James (75th minute) and Emilio Renteria (81st minute) scored late goals to send New England to its 11th loss of the season.
According to captain Shalrie Joseph, it was a combination of loose passing and defensive lapses which proved to be the Revolution’s downfall against the Crew.
“At the end of the day, we can’t keep possession and we can’t keep the ball when we need to and it came back to cost us,” said Joseph. “The goals come from us giving up possession and us not being solid enough defensively. We knew they were going to send numbers forward, but that’s what happens when you’re not solid defensively and mentally, and it’s costing us points.”
“It’s down to making decisions,” said Nicol. “When you’re defending, if you make good decisions and get in good positions, it makes it straightforward. When you don’t get yourself in a good position defensively, there’s going to be holes and that just encourages the other team to go into them. That’s pretty much what we did.”
The Revs will need to regroup quickly upon their return to Foxborough, where they’ll host a pair of important games this week against Eastern Conference opponents in the Houston Dynamo and New York Red Bulls.
“They better not be feeling sorry for themselves, because we’ve got a game on Wednesday,” said Nicol. “So we better get after it.”