On the one hand, the New England Revolution will have to look at last night's result as two points lost. The Colorado Rapids side that met the Revs at Gillette were not the MLS Cup Champion Rapids; they were horribly depleted by injuries and playing their third match in seven days. Especially with Conor Casey and Omar Cumming missing it appeared the perfect opportunity for New England to pick up a valuable win against one of the league's class sides, and they failed to do that.
On the other hand, New England did manage to keep a clean sheet, their first of the year. In fact, Colorado was limited to just one shot on goal, a knuckling piledriver from distance by Andre Akpan that Matt Reis was able to parry away. Apart from one or two slightly hairy moments created by poor touches in the defensive area, Colorado never even looked threatening in the match, which is very encouraging. As a side that is struggling to score goals, the Revolution will have to be at their defensive best if they can expect any results.
Chris Tierney certainly saw that as a positive. "If you look at the game, it was probably one or two shots from distance and Reis made a great save, but other than that they didn't really threaten us too much.
"Of course we wanted the three [points] - at home you always do - and I think we probably deserved it," said Tierney, who started the match at left back before moving to midfield late in the match when Darrius Barnes replaced Ousmane Dabo. "But at the end of the day a point's a point."
As much as I agree with the importance of defensive excellence, I can't help but feel like this accomplishment is overshadowed by the fact that, despite bossing the midfield (for once), the Revs only created three or four clear chances and contrived to miss them all. This profligacy before goal cannot continue if New England expects to make the playoffs this season.
Apparently I'm not crazy, because Shalrie Joseph agrees. When asked what the final ingredient would be to getting the three points after winning the midfield battle, he responded with: "Finishing. Rajko is still learning a little bit, learning how to play with each other. I think once he gets that second goal he's going to open up a little bit, but it's all about trying to finish our chances."
I will say that personally the biggest positive I took from this match was Ousmane Dabo's MLS debut. The Frenchman looked assured in possession and sprayed passes accurately in all directions. It might be another week or two before he can manage a full 90 minutes, but it was very encouraging to see him out there and involved in the play.
The captain was effusive in his praise for his new midfield partner. "His first touch and his technique is so second-to-none, you can say that he allows me and Benny to be a little more free.
"It was excellent that we got back Dabo, perfect timing...against a team that plays physical and good in the midfield. He loves to control the tempo of the game, get a little bit more possession and calm the game down."
One way he did that is by showing for the ball, which is something I hope he teaches to McCarthy. Stephen has some serious potential as a defensive midfielder in this league, but he needs to learn to seek the ball rather than waiting for it to come to him. Before he was subbed out a the inteval there were long stretches of the first half where he disappeared and was marked out of the game even though the Revs had most of the possession. Dabo, meanwhile, was constantly making himself available as an outlet, whether it was for the defenders, for Shalrie, or either of the wingers.
A final item of concern made itself obvious near the end of the match, when Sainey Nyassi spurned a final chance in stoppage time. He ignored a totally unmarked Rajko Lekic at the far post - a decision-making error, something that has plagued Nyassi throughout his career - and the Danish international took serious exception to the mistake. The two were clearly arguing about it well after the play was dead, and when the final whistle blew, Lekic made a beeline for the tunnel. The latter may be unrelated, but it would seem to be more than coincidental.
While it's never a good idea to have those sorts of disagreements publicly, I can't really blame Rajko. Nyassi did very well to get in free behind, but he totally botched it after that and is solely responsible for ruining an excellent scoring chance. Mistakes do happen, when they happen in stoppage time and represent the winning goal slipping away, well, frustration can reach a boiling point.
More ominous, perhaps, is the fact that this fits Lekic's MO. Anyone who has followed his career or the teams he's played for has said the same thing: he's a predatory goalscorer with great instincts, but his personality and demeanor when things aren't going his way are what earned him the nickname "Psycho." Some have gone as far as to say he's a locker room cancer; I would definitely hesitate to make that judgment in just his fourth game in a Revolution kit, but it is still worrying to think about. For me, it's too small a sample size to draw a conclusion either way, but this might still be a situation worth monitoring.
Overall, the result was frustrating but it's difficult to get too worked up over it because the team played well and just didn't get the breaks they needed for a win. They whiffed on their chances and didn't create as many as they should have, but on the other hand they kept a clean sheet and won the midfield battle for the first time all year.
Oh, and Dave Gantar had a pretty good game refereeing. He called the right fouls and used cards sparsely but effectively. He maybe could have shown Jeff Larentowicz a read for his tackle on A.J. Soares - it was two-footed and the studs were up - but no one seemed particularly aggrieved over his decision to give only a yellow.
Upset that the Revs didn't get all three points? Happy about Dabo's debut? Notice anything I didn't mention? Continue the discussion below!