New England coach Steve Nicol entered halftime of Saturday night's 4-1 win over Toronto FC wondering how his side entered the break down a goal.
Nicol felt his side had played well enough in the first half, but watched as TFC frustrated the Revolution by packing the midfield and grabbed the opener through a Dwayne De Rosario header after 28 minutes.
<p>Watch: <a style="color: rgb(51, 102, 153); font-weight: bold; text-decoration: none;" href="http://www.mlssoccer.com/content/highlights-ne-vs-tor">Full match highlights</a></p>
As he chatted with his team at halftime, Nicol told his charges that he wanted more quality out of them in the attacking third as their second-half response.
The plea worked.
“It was just about trying to get better quality in their half of the field,” Nicol said after the Revs’ 4-1 victory gave him his 100th MLS win as Revs coach. “That's exactly what we did. The quality was there on the crosses, the quality was there on the finishes. Just all around, the quality rose from the first to the second half.”
Revolution rookie forward Zack Schilawski ensured the considerable second-half improvement resulted in a victory by joining Brian Maisonneuve and Pat Noonan as the only MLS rookies to score a hat trick.
Schilawski drew the Revolution level two minutes after the break by tucking Sainey Nyassi's cross in from close range. After preying on TFC defender Nick Garcia's casual play at the back to set up his second four minutes later, Schilawski slotted home Kheli Dube's pinpoint cross in the 58th minute to become the first MLS rookie to score a hat trick in his home debut.
The Wake Forest product reflected on his hat trick by crediting his teammates for their work to provide him with gilt-edged chances to convert.
“I hadn't really gotten the ball in the attacking third too much in the past couple of games, so my thinking coming into the game was to get a couple of chances and take a couple of shots,” Schilawski said. “Luckily, I found the ball in some good spots, so it was easy for me.”
Finding the ball in good spots resulted from improved work on the ball in the second stanza. During its first two matches and during the first half against TFC, New England struggled to find its rhythm in possession. After overcoming a first half in which the Reds did well to clog up proceedings the center of the park, New England managed to find more time and space on the ball during the second stanza by making better use of its wide players.
The resulting freedom allowed Shalrie Joseph – back in the lineup after missing the first two matches with a right hip flexor strain – to influence the match and encouraged the Revolution to combine in its attacking movements more consistently.
After snaring the first three goals of his MLS career and watching his teammates create dangerous chances time and again during the second half, Schilawski said he felt a surge of confidence on all fronts in the aftermath of the Revolution's second consecutive victory.
“Confidence is huge for a soccer player,” Schilawski said. “I have a lot of confidence right now, not just for me, but for the team. To come out here and put up four goals in one game, it shows that we have confidence in the attacking half and that things are looking good.”