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Revolution 1, Galaxy 1

Victory was not in the stars

Revolution’s upset bid foiled by Galaxy

By Frank Dell’Apa
Globe Staff / March 21, 2011

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CARSON, Calif. — You can call the Revolution spoilers. Or pragmatists. In any case, they employed the tactics of an underdog team playing on the road last night.

And they surprised the Los Angeles Galaxy, taking the initiative on a third-minute Shalrie Joseph goal, and holding on for a 1-1 tie in their season opener.

But the Revolution did not surprise Galaxy star Landon Donovan.

“I think their objective was pretty clear from the beginning,’’ Donovan said. “We let ourselves down by giving up the early goal, we were climbing uphill from then. They had no intention of winning the game. That’s how we knew they were going to play, that’s how Steve Nicol-coached teams play, and give them credit, they did what they set out to do.’’

The Revolution, starting three players making their MLS debuts, went with a defense-first 4-5-1 alignment in wet, windy conditions. And though the Revolution struggled to hold off the Galaxy in the opening half, they gained composure as the game went on and had a chance to take the lead as Joseph hit the post in the second half.

The Revolution, who meet D.C. United in their home opener Saturday, also had to overcome an early injury to Marko Perovic (left hamstring), who had provided the cross for Joseph’s goal.

But the Galaxy (1-0-1, 4 points) could have taken command as it had two goals disallowed in the opening half before Juninho capitalized on a poor clearance to tie the score in the 39th minute.

The Revolution shocked the announced sellout crowd by going ahead early. Zack Schilawski outmaneuvered two defenders to win a corner kick. Then, the Galaxy cleared Perovic’s corner directly to him, and this time Perovic curled the ball for Joseph to head in at the back post. It was the earliest score by the Revolution in a season opener since Giovanni Savarese’s first-minute goal at Miami in 1999.

But the Revolution’s strategy seemed suspect as the Galaxy went on the attack. In the first half, the Galaxy sent all 10 field players over the halfway line and there were often eight Galaxy players in the final third of the field.

The weather conditions made things difficult for the retreating Revolution. Goalkeeper Matt Reis mishandled a cross in the 16th minute, but referee Hilario Grajeda whistled for a foul, negating Juninho’s finish.

A.J. Soares and Franco Coria, the Revolution’s starting central defenders, displayed excellent anticipation in their league debuts, dealing with David Beckham’s crosses and Donovan’s penetrations into the penalty area. But Soares’s error led to the tying score, as he attempted a left-footed clearance into the wind, the ball going directly to Juninho, who sent a dipping shot past Reis.

“The one that Reis dropped, that’s not a foul,’’ Donovan said. “I don’t think anybody in here could claim that that’s a foul, including Reis — and you see his reaction, it’s pretty obvious.

“We certainly scored enough goals to win the game. In all sports, it’s not just the other team you’re always playing against, so it makes it difficult sometimes. We also could have done better with our chances.’’

Then, there was Mike Magee’s finish from an offside position in the 23d minute and Juan Pablo Angel’s header, also offside, in the 90th minute.

“Mike’s was offside, Juan’s was close but probably offside,’’ Donovan said. “We still feel we did enough to win the game, so it’s a little disappointing.’’

But the Revolution regained their composure and even had short spells of possession in the second half. Stephen McCarthy, making his professional debut, joined Pat Phelan and Joseph in limiting the Galaxy’s ability to run through the midfield. And, after a Schilawski shot was deflected, Joseph went in alone on Josh Saunders, but shot off the right post in the 65th minute.

“I think the manner in which we did it was a team effort,’’ Nicol said. “We were in good shape, we defended well, we picked good spots. We are unlucky not to score more than one goal.’’

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