Despite plenty of chances, neither the New England Revolution or the Chicago Fire can find a way to score the winning goal.
By Kevin Koczwara
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Neither the New England Revolution or the Chicago Fire could find the back of the net more than once despite both sides having numerous scoring chances and opportunities to get an important win and three points. Dominic Oduro opened the scoring the 32nd minute for the Fire (2-4-9, 15pts) and New England (3-7-6, 15 pts) responded in the 48th minute through Rajko Lekic.
Chicago and New England occupy spots in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference standings and they both proved why at Gillette Stadium last night. Neither team could secure a real hold on the game. Both sides enjoyed a plethora of chances that should have resulted in goals, but neither was able to convert.
In the 16th minute Chicago had a great chance as Cristian Nazarit made a clever move to fool Revolution defender Franco Coria and to get himself some space just inside the box. Nazarit had Revs goalkeeper Matt Reis fooled on his shot, but the spin on his out-swinger carried the ball into to the corner of the goal, banging off intersection of the post and crossbar.
New England responded quickly with its own chance, though. The Revolution had a proper build-up and showed a flash of what the team is capable of in the 21st minute when Sainey Nyassi hit a solid cross toward Lekic at the back post. The Revs striker did well to take the ball down and hit a solid effort on a half-volley, but Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson was well positioned and punched the ball clear. Both Pat Phelan and Nyassi followed up Lekic’s half-chance as Chicago struggled to clear the ball and gain possession.
Lekic would hit another half-volley attempt in the 28th minute, this time from a little deeper out and courtesy of a long ball from Darrius Barnes headed down by a streaking Kevin Alston. Lekic’s chance forced Johnson into a diving save and almost found the bottom corner of the Fire net. But it wasn’ meant to be.
Despite having the majority of the ball and the chances, the Revolution came away empty handed in the first half. Chicago, on the other hand, made the best of its chances in the first half. In the 32nd minute Oduro opened the scoring after the Fire cleared a Revolution corner to Patrick Nyako in the midfield. Nyarko sprung Oduro with a diagonal ball into his feet. Oduro had one man to beat, Revs defender Darrius Barnes. He took on the converted left back with his pace and turned him inside out and then slotted the shot home pass a charging Reis.
“I think it was a breakaway from Patrick’s (Nyarko) end. Again, we’ve been working on this transition,” said Oduro. “He saw me make a run, through ball, took the guy on the run, I saw an opening and I just put the ball right there.”
The Revolution would get one more shot at net before the half time whistle though. Nyassi flicked a cross with the outside of his right foot into the box and found the head of a streaking Kenny Mansally in the 38th minute. It looked like a clear goal opportunity with Mansally six-yards out from goal, but he was unable to convert to free header, missing high.
“To be honest, it feels like a loss. We come in at half time one down when we should be three up; we’ve been great defensively this year, tonight we defended terribly,” said Revolution manager Steve Nicol after the game. “But saying that, going forward we created chances. We could have had three in the first half.”
Creating chances has been difficult for the Revolution this year. Coming into last night’s game, New England had scored the fewest goals in in Major League Soccer. The Revs had found the back of the net a shocking 11 times in 15 games coming into the game with Chicago.
The Revolution would improve on that poor goalscoring record by getting on the board quickly in the second half.
In the 48th minute Barnes took a long throw, Chicago cleared the throw only as far as Phelan 20 yards out. The New England midfielder scuffed his shot ,but it ended up at the feet of Lekic all alone in the box. The Montenegrin forward finished the chance by firing his shot into the side netting, beating Johnson to far side. It was Lekic’s second goal of the season — his first since April 23 when he scored the game-winner against Sporting KC.
Chicago didn’t let up, though. In the 73rd minute Orr Barouch — a second half substitute — came on and got himself on the end of a corner. Reis was beaten on the play but the Revolution’s latest signing Ryan Guy — who also came on in the second half — was in the right place, sitting on the post, to clear the line with a perfect header out of the box, keeping Barouch off the score sheet
Both teams enjoyed chances as the game opened up in the final minutes.
The Chicago Fire got another clear chance at goal in the 80th minute as the Fire’s pace and short passing game had the Revolution back on its heals, wobbling. Oduro found space on the left side of the box Revs’ box when Barnes tuckd in to help stop Barouch, who then slipped a pass to Oduro in the vacated space. Oduro did everything right, but Matt Reis got a touch on the ball to put the shot over and keep the game level.
Lekic did his best to close out the game on a high note for the Revolution with a little piece of skill in stoppage time. The forward took a long throw from Barnes and tried to chest it down but had to juggle the ball around a defender. Lekic tried a volley after a few juggles on the turn with his left-foot, but missed just wide.
Lekic’s final chance wasn’t meant to be, which was the theme for the night. But, it ws a better performance than the drab, 0-0, draw the Revs played out to with Toronto FC on Wednesday, which is an improvement for a team still looking for a little scoring touch.
“A game like tonight you can score zero or you can score three. It’s a lot more difficult than it looks,” said Revolution defender A.J. Soares. “It’s not like you can say we should have had two or three. I’m happy we created the chances, that’s really all you can ask for.”
The Revolution will need to start asking for more soon as the team heads to Seattle and then to Real Salt Lake, two of the better teams in the MLS, who will make you pay by finishing their chances.
The Revolution head to Seattle next to take on the Sounders on June 26. The Fire will hos Real Salt Lake at home on June 22.
Kevin Koczwara can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org