|Revolution midfielder Benny Feilhaber said it’s critical to win games down the stretch. (Ed Zurga/Getty Images)|
Revolution in a tight spot
FOXBOROUGH - As the season creeps toward the midway point and the Revolution look at their 5-7-1 record, it’s easy to count the ones that got away.
San Jose. FC Dallas. New York. Colorado. Houston. Real Salt Lake. D.C. United twice.
“The games that really haunt us are the games we’re giving away,’’ said coach Jay Heaps. “You hate where you’re in games where you give away a lot of goals or you give away a game where you shouldn’t.’’
Almost every match has been a tightrope walk for the Revolution. Eight of their 13 games have been decided by a goal, and in those contests they’re 2-6.
“Twelve out of 13 games we’ve been in a position to either tie the game, win the game, and of those we’ve given away six of them,’’ Heaps said. “It’s good in that sense that we’re going in there and we’re showing that we can compete against anybody. That’s the positive. The negative is we were in that game and where did we lose that game?’’
The irksome part is looking back on the play or two in all of those games that could have meant the difference between a win and a loss, between 3 points and 1 or none.
“Was it a free kick? Was it a bad giveaway? Was it managing the clock at the end of the game?’’ Heaps said, listing some of the problems his team has had at crucial moments.
When Heaps pointed to the 1-0 loss to FC Dallas April 5, he said, “That was all of the above.’’
That game appeared destined for overtime when a breakdown led to Ugo Ihemelu scoring the lone goal nearly five minutes into stoppage time.
Three weeks later in New York, the Red Bulls got their only goal from Thierry Henry seven minutes in, and sat on the lead the rest of the way. Heaps said his team ran out of ideas on how to tie the game.
“It was important for us to try to break them down and we weren’t able to,’’ Heaps said. “We have to make sure that when we go into these games we are creative. If you run out of ideas, there’s always another one somewhere.’’
The Revolution host the Columbus Crew Saturday night, and the teams have a history of playing each other closely. Nine of their last 12 meetings have been decided by a goal or resulted in a draw. It’s the first of three meetings as the season becomes a survivor series between conference rivals (the Revolution have just two games left against Western Conference teams).
“I think you’re going to get into a playoff mode a lot sooner,’’ Heaps said. “That’s always good. It just shows you how much pressure each game is going to be when it’s a 6-point swing.’’
The Revolution are 2 points behind the Crew for fourth place in the East.
“Winning this game is huge,’’ said midfielder Benny Feilhaber. “Losing it is awful and tying keeps us looking over their shoulder. So it’s a huge game for us.
“We know that these next four or five games are huge for us because we’ve got a lot of home games, a lot of Eastern Conference games, and it’s going to be vital in the playoff standings when it comes time. So these games are going to be huge to get points in.’’
If there was a breakthrough for the Revolution it may have come June 2 against the Chicago Fire, when they took control after 69 scoreless minutes with two quick strikes by Feilhaber and Kelyn Rowe.
The Revolution are unbeaten in four straight home games, but beyond that they found a way to grind out a win against a conference rival, knowing what was at stake.
“It’s a lot about making runs,’’ Feilhaber said. “If you can get on a little momentum swing you can pick up some points even without playing so well. I don’t think we particularly played that well against Chicago, we just kind of grinded it out and finally the goals came in the second half. It was a huge win for us, especially with a conference rival that’s battling for the playoff spot. That’s another game that we’re going to have this weekend, so hopefully we can do the same.’’
The one riddle the Revolution haven’t solved concerns the road. Five of those one-goal games have come away from Gillette. They have the luxury of playing four of their next five games at home.
“Back in ’05, ’06, ’07, when we would win games on the road, we knew how to do that, and it’s not something you can really coach,’’ Heaps said. “In the second half of the season we can not allow 1 point, 3 points, any of those points to slip away. Especially when we’re in command.’’