FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Jay Heaps and his New England Revolution spent much of the buildup to Saturday night’s meeting with the Chicago Fire harping on the importance of a strong start.
That’s why Quincy Amarikwa’s third-minute goal – which held up as the game winner in the Fire’s 1-0 win – was particularly difficult for the Revolution to stomach.
“Tonight I thought we were going to come out flying and we got punched right in the face in the first two-and-a-half minutes,” said Heaps. “We have to be better. It’s on us.”
It marked the fifth straight league game the Revs have fallen behind to a first-half goal – all losses – and on this occasion it was a turnover in midfield which helped spring Amarikwa behind New England’s backline.
From there it was an uphill battle for the Revs, who once again held significant edges in possession and shots without being able to break down a resolute Chicago rearguard, which had the luxury of being able to stay compact and only take chances on the occasional counter.
“I thought we had most of the chances in the second half, but once they got up early in the third minute, I think they kind of sat back a little bit more,” said Andrew Farrell. “They’re a good team that defends well when they have the lead, so it’s unfortunate.”
New England’s best chance arrived in the 86th minute when second-half substitute Jerry Bengtson was bundled over in the box and the Revs were awarded a penalty kick. With Lee Nguyen (a perfect 3-for-3 on penalties this season) suspended, Chris Tierney stepped to the spot but had a strong effort saved by Sean Johnson.
“It happens,” said Farrell. “If Lee Nguyen’s not in there, Chris is one of our great PK takers and Jay called his number. I thought he put a good shot on frame. It was a big-time save.”
The loss drops the Revs (7-8-2, 23 pts.) below the .500 mark and into fourth place in the East ahead of a critical two-game road swing through California and Texas. It begins Wednesday night when the Revolution visits StubHub Center for a meeting with the LA Galaxy.
“You’ve got to use the positives and just keep going,” said Heaps. “We’ve got to dig even deeper now.”