By Kevin Koczwara
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — For the second game in a row, the New England Revolution held its opponent scoreless, a feat the team had been unable to do once in the team’s previous eight games. The difference between last week’s game with Real Salt Lake and Saturday night’s against the Vancouver Whitecaps (1-5-5, 8 pts.) was that the Revolution (3-3-4, 13 pts.) was able to score and secure a win and three points.
Shalrie Joseph scored his team leading fourth goal of the season for the New England Revolution in the 49th minute from the penalty spot to get the Revs the goal they needed. Revolution midfilder Benny Feilhaber drew the penalty at the edge of the Whitecaps’ box after faking a shot and getting the Whitecaps’s defender to foul him in the area.
“The ball kind of didn’t really sit up for me to shoot it that well. I don’t think I could’ve shot it, so I faked the shot and the guy bit on it and I took a touch and he stepped right on my ankle,” said Feilhaber. “Iif he doesn’t touch me, then I get a touch to the right side and probably shoot the ball then. Once he stepped on my foot I had nowhere to go but down.”
Joseph stepped up to the penalty spot and put the ball in the back of the net. Whitecaps goalkeeper Jay Nolly had no chance to stop the shot as it was hard, low and perfectly placed out of his reach, something Joseph had been practicing earlier in the week.
“Me and Kevin [Alston] and Matt [Reis] yesterday and Thursday were messing around and trying to put it on the side netting. Me and Matt talked yesterday and Kevin was telling me I couldn’t put it in the side netting,” said Joseph. “I took a couple, so tonight when I went up, I knew what corner I was going – I had it picked out already in my mind – and I just wanted to put it there low and hard.”
The goal came at a pivotal time for the Revolution. New England hadn’t scored in its previous two games and after a poor first half, it didn’t look promising for the Revs going into the second half. Vancouver controlled much of the play in the first 45 minutes. New England couldn’t string together any passes or find a rhythm and there was little to no supply line to Rajko Lekic in the attacking third of the field.
“The first half, particularly, was certainly not our best as far as that was concerned,” said Revolution manager Steve Nicol. “When you give the ball away, then you put yourself under pressure and we just encourage them. In the first half, without a shadow of a doubt, we just encouraged them by giving the ball away.”
The game could have gone a different way if Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis wasn’t on his toes at the end of the first half. Vancouver forward Omar Salgado took a received the ball at the edge of the Revolution box and rifled shot low towards the corner of the Revolution net. The 17-year-old forward thought he had a goal, but he was disappointed to find that Matt Reis making a diving stop. The attempt on goal was the first real chance for either side.
There was a lift from the start of the second half for the Revolution. Things started to click more and the three man midfield of Stephen McCarthy, Feilhaber and Joseph started to win the ball back and play like a unit, something the three struggled to do in the first half. It took a little bit of pressure from each other for the team to step its game up and come out in a positive way to start the second half.
“Looking in the mirror in the second half, everybody started getting on each other – even the coaches a little bit – trying to tell us to pick the tempo up a little bit and to start pushing them [Vancouver] back on their heels,” said Joseph.
The Revolution nearly had a second goal in the 55th minute. Feilhaber and Rajko Lekic played a nice one-two through the midfield. The duo split the Vancouver defense and Feilhaber was away with just the goalkeeper to beat, but the linesman’s flag was up for offside. Replays showed the midfielder was onside and that his chip over Nolly should have counted.
Vancouver had another chance to bring the game level in the 89th minute when Long Tan found himself alone at the back-post and on the end of a Shea Salinas cross. The forward volleyed the cross one time on target, but Reis had followed the ball across the box and got into position to make the save.
- The win for the Revolution marked the second time in the season when it held an opponent scoreless — the shutouts have occurred back-to-back and at home. In fact, the Revs’ defense has a 222-minute shutout streak headed to the next game against the San Jose Earthquakes next Saturday, May 21, at Buck Shaw Stadium in San Jose.
- The goal from Joseph ended a scoreless drought of 236 minutes and included parts of four games and brought the team back up to fourth in Eastern Conference standings. The goal was Joseph’s fourth of the season, and his second from the spot.
- The Revs head to Buck Shaw stadium in San Jose, Calif. to take on the Earthquakes on May 21.
- The Whitecaps get a week off before retuning to action against the New York Red Bulls on May 28 at home.
Kevin Koczwara can be reached at email@example.com.