By Kevin Koczwara
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — New England Revolution defender Kevin Alston scored his first professional goal against Mexican team Monarcas Morelia in the SuperLiga final, but his goal wasn’t enough to help the Revolution win the tournament for the second time in three years. Morelia won, 2-1, its first SuprLiga title with two goals from striker Miguel Sabah in the second half.
The Revolution’s loss to Monarcas is the first time the Revs have lost a game to a Mexican team in SuperLiga play (7-1-1). Monarcas’ win makes them the third Mexican team to win the SuperLiga championship in its four years of existence — the Revolution are the only MLS team to be crowned champions of the tournament, 2008.
Neither New England or Monarcas were able to break the deadlock and find the back of their opponents net in the first half. The Mexican side enjoyed much of the possession on the first half as the Revolution came out of the gates slow and Monarcas came close to capitalizing, twice.
In the 25th minute, Ismael Pineda took a blistering shot from about 25-yards out that had Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis beat, but the shot rattled the crossbar and went over the net. Seven minutes later in the 32nd minute La Monarquia would find the woodwork of Reis’s net again when Mauricio Romero hit a strong header off the bar from a corner kick.
“I think we started really slow when we came out and we didn’t put enough pressure on the ball and they move really well. We were giving them way too much space at times,” said Revolution midfielder and captain Shalrie Joseph. “They were cutting us off and in the second half, we tried to limit their space, limit their chances. And that would help us if we do that a little bit more in the first half.”
Second half play opened up as both teams looked to score the opening goal and take advantage of any mistakes by their opponent.
The Revolution took the first chance of the second half as Kheli Dube slid in behind the defense after Chirs Tierney headed a pass through the Monarcas defense. Dube was in on goal alone with only Monarcas’ goalkeeper Federico Vilar to beat. Vilar came off his line and made a sliding save on the Zimbabwean forward.
Monarcas would respond to New England’s pressure eight minutes later when Luis Gabriel Rey won a penalty for the Mexican side when he went to ground after tussling with Revolution defender Darrius Barnes inside the Revs penalty area. Sabah stepped to the spot and buried his kick into the back of the net, giving Monarcas a 1-0 lead and all the momentum.
“The game hinges on two things,” said Revolution manager Steve Nicol. “Kheli Dube has a great chance that could put us ahead, then obviously the mistake for the penalty and the goal. That’s the difference.
“They were better on the ball than we were, but saying that, the only thing that caused us problems were our errors from bad play, which there were too many. We kept at it. But those two things are huge in the outcome of the game. If we can get a nose ahead, it’s a different ballgame. Instead we make a mistake and get a penalty and it changes the whole game.”
Nicol responded to the goal by bringing on three attack minded substitutes — Khano Smith, Zack Schilawski, and Roberto Linck for Dube, Tierney and defender Emmanuel Osei — and changed the Revolution line-up from a 4-4-2 to a 3-5-2.
With a more attack minded line-up New England pushed forward looking for the equalizing goal and as a result the defense was left susceptible to Monarcas’ attack and the Mexicans doubled their lead with a second goal from Sabah in the 79th minute. Barnes headed the ball clear and it fell to Sabah 30-yards from the goal and he struck a perfect volley into the back of the Revolution net.
“You start measuring the play. The ball presents itself in the air, and without thinking about it, you try for it,” said Sabah about the goal. “You don’t know where the ball can go. You shoot on goal and strike [the ball] wanting it to go in anywhere [in the net]. That’s what happened.”
New England would get a goal back four minutes later when Alston scored his first professional goal in the 83rd minute. Alston and Schilawski worked a perfect 1-2 passing game outside the Monarcas penalty area and Alston found space in behind the defense and he was able to beat Vilar and pull the Revolution within one goal with seven minutes to play.
“It was one of those things where the ball’s coming to me and the first person I see is Zack (Schilawski) so I figure I’d lay it off and try to open up. They teach you that – to lay it off and try to find the space, so that was my first instinct and it worked out,” said Alston.
Monarcas forward and goalscorer, Sabah, would be ejected in the extra time after receiving a yellow card for diving — his second yellow of the game — and were forced to sustain the Revolution’s pressure as they looked to equalize and send the game into extra time with 10 men. The Mexicans were able to hold onto their 1-goal lead and win the club’s first international championship.
The Revolution return to action on Saturday as they take on the Seattle Sounders at 4 p.m. in Foxborough as the club looks to push for a play-off spot.
Kevin Koczwara is a contributing writer and editor for The Soccer Guys. He can be reached at email@example.com.