New England understood the task at hand once midfielder Joseph Niouky collected the second Revolution red card of the night in Saturday's 1-1 draw with FC Dallas.
For the remaining 18 minutes plus stoppage time, the Revolution needed to batten down the hatches as FC Dallas sent players forward in waves in search of the game-winning goal.
“It was frustrating,” New England midfielder Pat Phelan told MLSsoccer.com after the game. “Going down a man, you think, alright, let's keep our shape and maybe we can steal one. When you go down two men, it's frustrating because you know you're really not – unless something really goes your way – to be able to break through and win the game. It's a credit to our character to tough that out, but we shouldn't put ourselves in that situation under any circumstances.”
New England spent most of the night playing its way out of difficult situations after another poor start handed FCD the initiative from the opening whistle. The visitors dominated by using their numerical advantage in midfield to control possession and generated a series of chances that went begging during the first half.
Zack Schilawski tucked home a Kheli Dube cross in the 41st minute to give the Revs a scarcely deserved halftime lead, but Dube then saw red early in the second half for a tackle on FCD defender Ugo Ihemelu at midfield.
The 10-man Revs conceded the equalizer in the 67th minute after Atiba Harris headed home Dax McCarty's free kick. Five minutes later, Niouky joined Dube in the locker room after an ill-advised two-footed challenge on Heath Pearce at the edge of the Revolution penalty area.
Niouky's challenge placed the nine-man Revs in the unenviable spot of holding out against a FCD side that created plenty of chances when both teams boasted a full complement of players.
“That's exactly what we did,” Revolution midfielder Khano Smith said. “It's tough, but we came through it.”
Sealing a point required a resolute defensive effort from a back four – including Smith, a makeshift left back once Seth Sinovic left the match injured with eight minutes to play – and a couple of important interventions from Kevin Alston (a sliding challenge to deny Brek Shea a certain goal from inside of six yards) and Preston Burpo (10 saves, including a diving stop to deny FCD substitute Jason Yeisley) in the late stages.
“We were organized as we could be,” Revolution defender Cory Gibbs said. “You have to strategically leave men free. It almost got to a point where you feel like you're playing Real Madrid as it got to the end of the game. That's how it is. You're down two men, so you're just running left and right, left and right chasing the ball. Fortunately, I was very happy with the way our men stepped up. The back line stepped up and did well today, so I'm happy about that.”
New England coach Steve Nicol echoed Gibbs' sentiment about the effort put forth by the nine-man Revs and vowed to take stock of how to adjust to the ramifications of the two dismissals prior to Wednesday's visit by Chivas USA.
“Everybody played their part,” Nicol said. “Truth be told, we didn’t play well, even when it was 11-v-11, but we fought hard and we rode our luck [and] certainly the effort was phenomenal.”