FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – In the buildup to Saturday’s home opener against D.C. United, head coach Steve Nicol repeatedly highlighted the importance of a fast start for his New England Revolution side. An early goal from Shalrie Joseph proved vital for the Revolution in last weekend’s season opener against the LA Galaxy, and Nicol wanted his team to press the initiative once again.
The Revs heeded their coach’s advice, scoring twice in the opening 20 minutes – through Zack Schilawski in the eighth minute and Joseph in the 17th minute – en route to a 2-1 win over their Eastern Conference rivals.
“It was huge for us last week, and to get that second one was even more important,” said midfielder Pat Phelan, who was chopped down in the box to set up the penalty kick which Joseph converted. “Opening night, first home game and a good crowd – I think it was monumental for us.”
Schilawski’s opener arrived a bit fortuitously after the second-year forward appeared to handle the ball while settling Joseph’s long pass inside the box, but the whistle never came and the ball ended up in the back of the net. After seeing his initial left-footed effort blocked, Schilawski tried again with his right foot and buried his second attempt inside the post.
“On the first one, we probably got away with one there,” admitted Nicol. “I think most people in the ground saw what happened.”
If one early goal was important, the second was massive, as the Revs gave themselves a bit of breathing room before the first half reached its midway point.
Referee Baldomero Toledo pointed to the spot when Phelan was kicked in the midsection by Dax McCarty while charging into the box for a loose ball. Joseph stepped up and drilled his effort into the lower right corner to register his ninth career penalty kick.
“The second [goal], Pat’s being positive and attacks the ball,” Nicol said. “He gets a step ahead of [McCarty], who straightforward kicked him.”
A pair of halftime substitutions and a tactical switch to add an additional midfielder helped D.C. improve in the second half, but the Revs held firm and limited the visitors to a series of long-range shots while still providing the occasional threat at the attacking end.
Manchester, N.H., native Charlie Davies spoiled Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis’ shutout bid when he converted a penalty kick in stoppage time, but it didn’t damper the mood in Foxborough as the Revs now look ahead to next weekend’s visit from the expansion Portland Timbers with a bit of momentum.
“There were so many doubts coming into this season after our results from last year,” said Phelan. “Would we have enough quality to get the points?
“It’s still really early in the season and we shouldn’t be holding our heads too, too high, but we’re flying high and we’re excited now,” he added. “We’re looking forward to next week.”