FOXBORO, Mass- Toronto FC's defense did everything right on Sunday night as they secured a 1-0 victory over the Revolution at Gillette Stadium in front of 11,543.
Matias Laba gave the visitors a lead they would not relinquish in the second minute, while Toronto goalkeeper Joe Bendik and his back line combined to shutout the Revolution for the first time since a June 8 draw with DC United. It was the first time the Revolution were shutout and lost since a 1-0 decision against FC Dallas on March 30.
"It was just a disappointing night," said Head Coach Jay Heaps after the game. "The start that we had put us in a hole. Unfortunately, you canít give a goal away in the first two minutes of the game, but we should have been able to get back in it. We didnít. But Iím not going to sit here and not credit Toronto. They got the win, and we didnít."
Laba's goal marked the second straight game that the Revolution have fallen behind early. He dispossessed the usually solid Jose Goncalves at half field and then ran into the penalty area, fired a a whizzing shot past Bobby Shuttleworth that Scott Caldwell blocked from going in, ran onto the rebound and then pummeled home an easy finish into the open net.
Laba's goal, his second of the season, was the play in which Toronto's only two shots on target were registered,
"We gave them a gift in the first two minutes and itís always tough to climb back like that," explained Lee Nguyen. "We fought hard, tried to put ourselves in a position to tie in the first half and try to get a goal. It just wasnít our day today."
"The goal just killed us, giving away an early goal," added Chris Tierney. "Weíve been talking about starts and how we need to improve them. Same thing tonight, we just didnít start well. I donít know what the issue is but just such a poor goal for us to concede. Especially, when we knew that they were going to try to nip one in the counter and sit in which is exactly what they did, itís their game plan to a tee."
The Revolution had no difficulty taking control of the game from that point on as they immediately began their endless search for an equalizer. Diego Fagundez led the charge, heading the Revolution's first real scoring opportunity off a Tierney cross over the woodwork in the 10th minute.
But Fagundez had the Revolution's best chances all game. In the 13th minute, Dimitry Imbongo made a run down the left side of the penalty area and fired a shot that Bendik blocked. Fagundez hit the rebound first-time, but his goal-bound shot got cleared off the line at the last moment by Ashtone Morgan.
In the 34th minute, Andrew Farrell played a cross into the penalty area via bicycle kick and the ball fell for Fagundez, who poked the ball past Bendik but not Steven Caldwell, who made a second goal line clearance to prevent the Revolution from scoring.
"Looked like two or three goal line saves they had there," said Tierney. "We just didnít get that slice of luck to get us back in the game. I think if we score in the first half and it gets back to 1-1, then weíre in decent shape again, but chasing the game is not a position you want to be in.
"Especially against a team that you know is going to fight as hard as Toronto does. That first goal just killed us."
Bendik made an additional save on Lee Nguyen (17th), who fired a volley from outside the penalty area, while Dimitry Imbongo (24th) and Saer Sene (42nd) both had efforts from close range that hit the side netting.
The Revolution didn't dominate the second half the way they dominated the first, but they still controlled most of the possession. Heaps switched to a three-man back line, subbing out Stephen McCarthy for Chad Barrett to provide the Revolution with another forward option. Kelyn Rowe also replaced Juan Toja to provide fresher legs in midfield.
Despite the changes, it was Fagundez who was the Revolution's main offensive spearhead. He had another effort knocked away by Bendik in the 59th minute, though his best chance came deep in stoppage time. He received the ball in the penalty area and tried to redirect it on goal with a bicycle kick, but his shot kissed off the joint of the crossbar and the post before going out.
"We had plenty of chances to rally and fix the mistake," added Heaps. "Weíll go over [their scoring play]. Iíve got to see that again, because I have to still try to figure out where weíre going to go.
"Itís a tough one because we havenít given away a lot of goals this year and when you do, it hurts. It doesnít matter who it is. We gave them opportunities to make the play and they didnít. It hurts and so we have to rally and come back and move on. Thatís one thing I think we have is a short-term memory. We have to just get on to the next play."
Now one win out of the Eastern Conference's fifth and final playoff spot with just 12 games left, short-term memory is exactly what the Revolution will have to have. Their next game is Saturday at Sporting Kansas City. They then play two crucial games against Philadelphia and Chicago, both of whom have records comparable to the Revolution.
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