The Revolution have some serious soul-searching to do. On Saturday evening, they extended their winless streak to five games, falling to the New York Red Bulls 4-1 at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ.
No one – especially the Revolution (1-3-2, 5 points) – expected the game to be easy. The Red Bulls (3-4-2, 11 points) are always a difficult challenge away from home, particularly in the attacking third through Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill. But on top of that, the Revolution are dealing with the temporary loss of their teammate Kevin Alston, who is taking a leave of absence to treat leukemia, plus the psychological and emotional remnants of the Boston Marathon attacks.
"It meant a lot," said defender Chris Tierney, whose girlfriend was injured as a result of the bombings. "It’s been such a tough week for us. Obviously, the result didn’t go the way we wanted it to but it was a good distraction for us."
The defense, which entered the game with the league's best record, crumbled early, allowing goals from Dax McCarty and Fabian Espindola in just the first eight minutes. The defense would have to further adapt in the 18th minute when Stephen McCarthy entered the game for AJ Soares, who hurt his right hamstring while stealing the ball from Cahill.
Henry and Cahill both seemed to take their foot off the gas after Espindola scored the second goal, allowing the Revolution to take over on attack and take pressure off their defense. In flashes, the Revolution attack showed promise.
But for the most part, the Red Bulls seemed content with letting the Revolution keep the ball, as their passing sequences mostly led to nothing. It became very obvious that the Revolution players were expending a lot of energy in maintaining possession while the Red Bulls sat back, caught their breath, and absorbed the pressure.
Late in the game, the Red Bulls decided to break free as Henry and Jonny Steele scored in the 82nd and 89th minutes, respectively. Both goals were off of a counter-attack and were caused by a failed Revolution attack followed by the Red Bulls stampeding downfield in great haste, cutting past a stretched and tired backline, and pummeling the ball into the back of the net.
Shuttleworth, who started instead of Matt Reis (in Boston with his father-in-law, who was hospitalized as a result of the Marathon attacks), was not to blame for the goals. He did his part by making three saves, but was hung out to dry by his defense.
In turn, both he and the defense didn't have the support of the offense, as has been the case all season.
The Revolution's goal, sandwiched in between McCarty and Espindola strikes in the opening eight minutes, wasn't even scored by a New England player. Brandon Barklage deflected a Chris Tierney free kick into the back of the net for an own goal, snapping a 394-minute scoreless streak.
While Tierney's cross caused the goal to occur, a Revolution player has not scored in 478 minutes, the longest scoreless streak in team history.
"It was a wild start," added Tierney. "Not what we had planned on. We knew they were going to come out strong as they usually do at home. Unfortunately, they caught us with that early goal and that really hurt us. We did well to get back to 1-1 and had some chances at 2-1 but it just didn’t go our way."
"Unfortunately, the first couple minutes were when this game was decided," coach Jay Heaps told The Globe. "Our focus was not good. We made a game of it, but it still wasn’t there."
The first couple of minutes did not necessarily decide the game, as Heaps said. The Revolution finished with seven shots, four of which were on target. But given the amount of possession they had and the amount of energy they used trying to create chances, they had almost nothing to show for their efforts.
When it came time to shoot, the Revolution often hesitated. When the situation required maintaining possession, a pass was made to a player with little space. And when a play required patience, the Revolution rushed. Making quicker, more decisive plays could have led the game to finish 2-2 instead of 4-1. The Revolution had 82 minutes to turn the tables but didn't do it.
In a great spirit of compassion and sportsmanship, Red Bulls and the four bus loads of Revolution supporters entered Red Bull Arena to the song "Dirty Water" by The Standells. Players on both teams wore black arm bands that read "Boston" as a sign of support. The Revolution fell short, but they have no choice but to go back to the drawing board in hopes of getting those goals and those wins for the city and region they represent.
"We fought and we clawed back, but we could never get there,” Heaps finished. “Obviously, this has been a tough week for all of us. Six or seven of us were within a half-mile of the [marathon] tragedy.
“But this team is like Boston. We’re a tough team and Boston’s a tough city. We’ll be back and Boston will be back.”
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