By Ryan Fleming
It gleamed for just a little over a minute. An expression of hope shown on the New England Revolution players after they tied the score 1-1 in their second to last game at home for the season, a 2-1 defeat to Real Salt Lake on Saturday. But just like that, it was gone.
After working so hard for so long, going down by a goal, levelling the score in the 82nd minute, giving the game back to RSL, the match was truly a roller coaster. It was a ride that ended badly for the Revs.
“I think the game typifies the season. As far as the goals we lost, they’re terrible goals. Salt Lake’s a good team, but I thought we were better than them tonight,” coach Steve Nichol said after the game. “But we’re disappointed. There’s no way we should have lost that game tonight.”
The Revs (7-15-5, 26 pts.) outshot RSL 20-6 and manhandled Real Salt Lake in corners, 8-2. Concluding from the stats alone, the Revolution should not have lost the game. It doesn’t matter if they only scored one goal and got the three points. It is the points that count. And for the Revs, they didn’t come away with any.
Nichol is right; there should have been no way. But there was. In what can be a lax minute or so after a goal is scored, RSL (14-4-9 51 pts.) capitalized, proving to the entire league why they are near the zenith of the league and why the Revs are in a unfamiliar place – on the outskirts of the playoff picture, peering into the window of possibility of next year.
In their last three games the Revolution have done many things right. Their passing has been mostly accurate, their effort visible, but their finishing in the final third has been their kryptonite. Not just in the last few games, but throughout the entire season. Chances were wasted, balls rocketed into the seats behind the net shortly followed by jeers or sarcastic cheers.
“So the guys have been up for games,” Nichol said. “We’ve just lacked that quality in the attacking third, and we’ve made too many basic errors in the defensive third.”
Real Salt Lake’s go-ahead goal came on one of their few corner kicks. Alvaro Saborio managed to get away Pat Phelan’s near-perfect coverage and somehow managed to get a head on the ball, redirecting it past Revs keeper, Matt Reis.
“That’s stuff you don’t do if you want to be one of the better teams in the league. You don’t give away goals on set pieces like that,” Revs captain Shalrie Joseph said. “It comes down to just a difference. We weren’t good enough tonight, again.”
But the Revs were good enough, they just didn’t finish. It’s been an incomplete year. When possibility of success seemed to be lurking, a disaster game or a five-minute horrific frame ended chances yearlong. With two games remaining it’s time to continue to look forward. Forward is Houston on Saturday. A full 90 minutes and the Revs might finally have a reason to smile.
Ryan Fleming is an editor and writer for The Soccer Guys. He can be reached at Ryan.Fleming@thesoccerguysonline.com.