FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Just as his side had done in each of the last four games, Steve Nicol’s New England Revolution scored first and took a lead into halftime of Saturday night’s meeting with FC Dallas.
But unlike the past four matches – in which the Revs squandered a pair of one-goal leads, a two-goal lead and a three-goal lead – New England made its advantage stand up and even added an insurance tally in a slump-busting 2-0 win over the Hoops.
According to Nicol, he could sense this night was different even before Rajko Lekic salted the game away with his sixth goal of the season in the 84th minute.
“It’s hard to explain, but you get a feeling,” Nicol said when asked if the Revolution’s recent struggles crept into his mind as they entered the late stages with a slender lead. “You kind of know when it’s your night. To be honest, I sat there and felt as though we were going to get another goal. We certainly made enough chances to suggest that we’d make more chances.
“The key was obviously not giving one up,” he continued. “As I said, I just had that feeling we weren’t going to make any mistakes and let them in. And we didn’t.”
While it was a premonition which ultimately became reality, it took more than a feeling for the Revs to turn the lead into their first victory since July 20.
In previous weeks, the Revs employed a conservative approach while playing with the lead, opting to soak up pressure and invite the opponent to attack while staying compact defensively. But after Shalrie Joseph put the Revolution ahead with his team-leading eighth goal of the season in the 14th minute against FCD, New England instead continued to attack in search of more goals, even as the game entered the closing stages.
“Tactically, we didn’t drop into a shell like we have been,” said Benny Feilhaber, who assisted on Lekic’s insurance strike. “It doesn’t work. Unless you’re an amazing team at defending with 10 guys behind the ball and you have no brain lapses whatsoever and lack of concentration, it’s going to be real tough playing 45 minutes sitting back and not giving up goals. We didn’t do that today.
“We definitely didn’t drop in 11 guys behind the ball,” he added. “We kept two forwards up there pressing their defense and didn’t make it easy for them to build out of the back. All those things play a huge factor.”
With their seven-game winless run in the rearview mirror, the Revs can finally take pleasure in the three points they’ve been unable to secure despite improved performances in recent weeks.
“The one thing about this team is that even though things haven’t gone our way, we’ve kept our chins up,” said goalkeeper Matt Reis, who made eight saves to record his fifth shutout of the season. “We’ve really tried to improve and we finally put it together tonight. We held off. We got a late goal, too, to put it away. We probably played our best game of the year tonight.”