MONTREAL – New England Revolution assistant coach Richie Williams says he was proud of the players’ efforts despite Saturday night’s defeat to CF Montréal.
The Revs fell to a late George Campbell strike, as the defender broke the deadlock four minutes from normal time to separate the sides at Stade Saputo, inflicting the visitors’ first regulation loss in their last seven games, on their return to MLS action.
Though Williams admitted his side had not threatened enough offensively, carving just two shots and none on target, he noted the team’s valiant defensive display, as the hosts mounted a period of late pressure.
“We’re disappointed,” he conceded. “We could have walked away with a point. I thought the effort was great.
“I don't think anybody was poor on the day. I think collectively, we could have been a little bit sharper in different parts of the game. I thought we kind of set ourselves up as the game went on to walk away with a point, but unfortunately, that wasn't the case.
“Positives, I thought the team stuck together, they played as a group. They kept pushing for the whole game and trying to create opportunities to score goals. Even at the end, we were defending together, and we had a breakdown at the end, so that's unfortunate. I thought they all put a good effort in.
“In the first half, we did very well with the ball. We probably created a couple more chances than Montréal, but we just weren't great in the final third all night long. We had a handful of times where we tried to make passes in behind them with some good runs, but credit to Montréal, they cut them out and we couldn’t complete them.
“We couldn't get opportunities on goal when we got to the final third, but I thought defensively, for the most part, we did well. Obviously at the end, they're pushing for a goal at home.
“On the road, the momentum is starting to go with them and if you can hold onto it a little bit more at the end of the game and come away with the point, that would have been huge.
“Unfortunately, that's not the way it is, so we have to get our team ready. We have two home games this week – Wednesday and Saturday. We have to get our guys back to full fitness and get ready to get back home, and hopefully get the max points.”
The clash in Canada saw the Revs resume their MLS regular season campaign with a first competitive game for almost three weeks, since the Leagues Cup last 16 meeting with Querétaro FC.
However, Williams dismissed suggestions of rustiness and refused to use the excuse of missing players (with regular starters Gustavo Bou, Andrew Farrell, DeJuan Jones and Brandon Bye absent through injury), admitting he and the squad expected an improved level of performance.
“I'm not going to blame time off for the sharpness,” Williams stated. “For me, it was more in the final third.
“I guess if you want to say that, sure. We just didn't get it done, so the bottom line – whether you have a break or you don't have a break – at the end of the day, we didn't get it done and we didn't get a point or three points.
“Again, it’s disappointing, and we'll look forward to the next game.”
Midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye, who lined up for his first MLS appearance in New England colors, also reflected: “I don’t think that the three weeks is the reason we lacked that attacking prowess that the league is used to seeing.
“I just think that the new players in right now, we just maybe need to have a little more focus in training on exactly how we’re going to break down teams. I think there was a different kind of feel tonight, trying to attack Montréal.
“We didn’t take advantage of making enough runs in behind where we could really threaten their backline and get them turned. We made it difficult for ourselves when everyone is trying to come to the ball and play in front of them.
“That’s what they want when they have a back five – they have numbers back there. I think we weren’t sharp enough also in transition. When we did play forward, we either didn’t play to the right foot of our teammate or missed a pass and that allowed them to recover.
“Tonight, overall, it didn’t really matter who we were missing. I just don’t think we showed enough quality going forward.”
In brighter news, new signing Tomás Chancalay stepped out for his long-awaited Revs debut, introduced from the bench on 62 minutes in place of Noel Buck - and both Williams and Kaye were encouraged by the winger’s cameo.
“He’s shown that he's a talented player,” Williams added. “We haven't seen a ton of him, but we wanted to give him an opportunity. We needed to try to create some opportunities in the final third, be a little bit more dangerous.
“We were hoping that’s something he could bring to the table, and it’s not an easy game to come into – on the road against a good Montréal team.
“He looked fine. We expect him to get even more comfortable and a little bit better with us as time goes by.”
Kaye agreed: “I’m happy for him. Obviously, he’s a big player who came into the club. The club and us as his teammates expect big things of him.
“We’re glad that he got his debut in the league. He’s a player who doesn’t give up, works really hard; has that quality in and around the box, he has a good shot.
“It’s just about us doing our best to support him and help build him up, so that as he continues to get on the field, he gets better and better.”
There was also praise for goalkeeper Earl Edwards Jr. (who lined up in goal following the departure of Djordje Petrović to Chelsea FC) and center back Omar Gonzalez, as well as midfielder Matt Polster. With defenders Bye and Jones unavailable, Polster deputized at right back, having occupied the position previously with Rangers FC and the Chicago Fire.
“We're going to put the best team on the field. That’s what we always do,” Williams explained.
“Brandon's usually our starting right back and DeJuan is usually our cover, and with DeJuan going down with an injury, Matt has played right back before in his early days in MLS …
“I thought he did a solid job. He's obviously a different player than Brandon and DeJuan in that position, but he was solid and did a good job.
“I thought Omar came in and did a great job for us at center back. That was definitely great, good for the team.
“Earl has been playing the last games with us, I thought Earl had a good game today.
“We are always evaluating our players and putting the best team on the field to win games, so that's what we'll do.”
On Polster’s performance, Kaye echoed: “Matt’s a good guy, and I’m glad he stepped up there, but I think any player on our team would play in any position for this club – that’s the standard we’ve set here.
“We’re all professionals, so whenever you’re called to play in any position, that’s what you have to do.”
The Revolution have little time to dwell on Saturday’s setback with two quickfire home games this week – Wednesday’s visit of the New York Red Bulls and Saturday’s encounter with Austin FC.
With the chance to kickstart the campaign and build momentum for a strong end to the regular season, Williams and Kaye spoke of the importance of bouncing back – hopefully with the return of key players.
“We're hoping to get players back for the next couple games at home,” Williams continued.
“We just need to get better from this, and we need to now get home with our fans in our stadium, looking for two wins in our next two games.”
Kaye, who is set to make his full home MLS debut for the club, asserted: “We’ll go in tomorrow [Sunday], guys will get regen in, guys who need some more minutes under their legs will train, we’ll talk about the game and go over what need to focus on and improve on, and then get ready for Wednesday.
“We obviously know with two games at home back-to-back, it’s really important and you can see it’s tight for those top five spots in the league.
“It’s an important week for us and I think all the guys understand it, so now it’s rest, recovery, and get back to it.”