By Ryan Fleming
It happens now and again, not enough to really call it frequent – a team has a total 360 turnaround from a previous period, half or quarter. The New England Revolution seemed like a Jekyll and Hyde sort of experiment during their 4-1 win over Toronto FC.
In the first half, their poor, rather amiss play reared it’s head and saw them down 1-0 at the interval. In the latter half, they transformed with a certain quality and effort that would make their prior performance seem embarrassing and futile.
“The very first attack of the whole game we got it wide and caused them trouble. Unfortunately in the first half we lacked that quality in their half of the field in order to get the breakthrough,” said head coach Steve Nicol. “We were one-nil down at halftime to a sucker-punch, you know, just a ball banged into the box, it was a fantastic header, but we had all the game coming one-nil down. It was about getting better quality in their half of the field.
“And that’s exactly what we did. The quality was there on the cross, the quality was there on the finishes. The quality was better from the first to the second half,” Nicol said.
The quality and service was so good that Toronto had no answers, not one. The Revolution scored four goals in an 19-minute span – dissecting the defense with remarkable ease.
“That was our focus at half-time, get balls in the box,” rookie Zack Schilawski said. “As a striker I take that to heart and the second half that was on my mind.”
It was on Sainey Nyassi’s mind, too. Nyassi crossed a ball just past the middle of the box, connecting perfectly with the Wake Forest product’s leg and past TFC (0-0-2) keeper, Stefan Frei. An impeccable ball that gave Frei and the Toronto defense no chance.
Schilawski wasn’t done and neither was New England.
The Revs (2-1-0) battled more, they won the fifty-fifty balls – beating would-be TFC attackers to the ball, stealing it and matching their oppositions physical play for the latter 48 minutes (three minutes of stoppage time was added on).
“It was all about quality in their half of the field, and I think that’s what we did in the second half,” said Nicol.
Schilawski tallied the go-ahead goal after blocking a pass by Toronto defender, Nick Garcia, then with veteran-like calmness, slotted it near-post by Frei.
“I was just trying to make it difficult for their backs. Block any long service they had,” Schilawski said.
Even a legend like Nicol took note of the youngsters methodical play.
“He got through on the goalie. He’s calm. He’s cool. He rolls it in the side net. I mean, it’s just a fantastic finish,” Nicol said.
Two minutes later, Nyassi contributed once more offensively, scoring the Revs’ third goal, surely putting the game out of reach.
But the native of North Carolina wasn’t done just yet. Schilawski tallied his third goal, set up by a superb through ball by a healthy Sharlie Joseph (out the first two games with a hip flexor injury), which Kheli Dube crossed to the rookie. Schilawski did the rest – scoring his third goal – something that a rookie has only done three times in the MLS’s history.
“It’s all about patience. Rather than being frustrated I was trying to be optimistic, but that’s how it is,” Schilawski said. “A lot of it is mental. Just have to stay patient, be confident with yourself.”
Thanks to their first round draft pick and a sense of style, the Revolution are bursting with confidence; ready to replace their optimism with certain reality moving forward.
Ryan Fleming is a contributing writer and editor for The Soccer Guys. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Kevin Koczwara contributed to this article.