FOXBOROUGH, MA - It was a tale of two halves for the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium this evening as they picked up three valuable points with a victory over the expansion Vancouver Whitecaps. A lackluster first half was followed by a dominant performance in the second that could have seen them possbily win by two or three.
Shalrie Joseph grabbed the only goal of the game, his team-leading fourth of the season, by converting a penalty in he 48th minute. Benny Feilhaber created the chance after he was hacked down in the box. It wasn't all rosy for the Revolution, though, as they may have lost star striker Rajko Lekic for a few weeks due to a knee contusion suffered in a collision late in the second half.
Matt Reis was the first goalkeeper to find himself busy in this match. He had to be quick to deal with a dangerously driven Shea Salinas cross, but was quick to get down to his right and parry it away before it reached the far post. Salinas was sprung by a long free kick from deep in the Vancouver area that appeared to have the defense a little bit caught out.
The Revolution had the next chance and it was a good one. Chris Tierney made an excellent run down the left flank and delivered a low cross. It deflected out about 15 yards to Stephen McCarthy, who attempted a left-footed half-volley that ballooned over the bar. Four minutes later, Tierney again played in a good ball that Jay DeMerit failed to deal with, but when it leaked to Benny Feilhaber he was unable to put a clean header on it and instead it flashed wide of the far post.
Vancouver threatened in the 26th minute in a crazy sequence in the Revolution box. Wes Knight was sprung on the right side by Shea Salinas, who had a field day on the Revs' flank in the first half. Knight's cross eluded Long Tan before being collected on the other side by Russell Teibert. The Canadian youth had a cross deflected out to Gershon Koffie at the top of the D, whose first shot was deflected back to him, and he was unable to do anything with the rebound as it went wide of the post.
Just two minutes later, Tierney dispatched a free-kick toward goal from about 25-30 yards that just flashed over the bar. Omar Salgado rounded up the first-half scoring chances in the 45th when he received the ball outside the top of the D. To everyone's surprise, he turned quickly and ripped a low shot on frame that Reis was just able to get down and stop.
The complexion of the whole match changed just moments into the second half when Benny Feilhaber won a penalty. In the 48th minute, he brought down the ball in the box only to be dropped by Wes Knight, summarily forcing referee Chris Penso to point to the spot. Shalrie Joseph made no mistake from the spot, burying it in the side-netting and putting the Revolution up a goal to the good.
The goal opened the match up a bit, but it seemed to be all New England despite the Whitecaps' need to score. Feilhaber arguably had the Revs up 2-0 in the 55th minute when Rajko Lekic deftly played him in for a one-on-one with the keeper. He chipped Nolly expertly, but the linesman flagged for offside, despite replays clearly showing him to have been behind the last defender when Lekic played the pass.
Play began to degenerate as the Revolution started committing some physical fouls to slow things down, but Vancouver managed a decent chance in the 70th minute. Blake Wagner sent in an excellent cross from the left that found the head Omar Salgado, but the USA youth international's snap header was parried away by a scrambling Matt Reis, who did incredibly well to get across to the post and down to slap it off the line.
Benny Feilhaber took matters into his own hands in the 76th minute with a brilliant drive from distance, but Jay Nolly had it covered all the way and caught it with relative ease. Six minutes later, Sainey Nyassi nearly put the finishing touches on a great Revolution team passing move by dicing up Blake Wagner and tearing off a scorching low shot that Nolly just managed to divert away from goal.
Long Tan had the last clear chance of the match - and the Whitecaps' best - in the 89th minute. A cross from the right flank flew all the way over to him at the far post and, unmarked, he attempted a right-footed volley that was on frame but Reis had it well closed-down and gobbled up the effort. Despite a flurry of pressure in stoppage time, the Whitecaps could not find the breakthrough.