First the Bruins dropped Game Two of their playoff series against the Capitals, and now the New England Revolution have made it two losses on the trot after succumbing to a re-invigorated D.C. United 2-1 at Gillette Stadium Saturday night. Jose Moreno opened the scoring for the Revs in his home debut, but his moment was spoiled by Maicon Santos and Chris Pontius, whose goals condemned the Revolution to a six-point swing in the Eastern Conference standings.
"It's unfortunate," said head coach Jay Heaps after the match. "We have a home opportunity like this and we've been on the road so much this season, we just felt like we were going to come out and fly. D.C., you've got to give them credit, they came in to win, and that's what they did."
Much like in the home opener against Portland, the Revs wasted little time getting on the board, and again Saer Sene was involved. Lee Nguyen - who fought a fever of over 100 degrees and required a pre-match IV just to make his 55-minute appearance - played a great ball down the left channel to Sene, who then clipped in a good left-footed cross. Moreno was in the six-yard box, free of his marker, and he buried the ball with an excellent right-footed volley to put New England in the driver's seat.
After the goal, DC began to take control of the match, and the absence of suspended captain Shalrie Joseph began to show as New England struggled to keep possession and link through the midfield. "[Shalrie's] our captain," said rookie midfielder Kelyn Rowe. "He's our leader and he's the guy in the middle of the park that we always look for to play the ball through, to find options and to really hold the ball for us."
"I think there's times where we tried to go forward, forward, forward and a lot of times when Shalrie's in the game, he's the one that connects from one side to the other, and we missed that a little bit tonight," added former D.C. midfielder Clyde Simms.
D.C. drew level in the 19th minute off a corner kick. Nick DeLeon played a corner kick to the far post. It drifted out to Dwayne De Rosario, who lost his marker and attempted a bicycle kick (one of several that both sides tried in this match). It was deflected but found the head of Maicon Santos, who rose above his marker and nodded it in the back of the net to even the scores.
New England appeared more poised and driven after the halftime break and began taking charge of the match. Unfortunately, the ailing Lee Nguyen was unable to continue more than ten minutes after the interval, and he had to be replaced.
"Props to him for going out and playing his all," said Rowe. "He looked about dead and he gave us all he had. He showed well like the player he is, he created chances for us with the width, he had a couple of shots as well. Playing with a fever, and playing as well as he did, what a player."
Nguyen's replacement was Benny Feilhaber, who is working his way back from the peroneal strain that has kept him out since the Revs' second match of the season against Kansas City.
"I thought Benny did well when he came in," said Heaps. "He was a spark. We asked him to go in there and fight, and that's what he did."
New England created several chances, but Joe Willis was up to the challenge. In the end, the Revs finished with seven shots on target, but just the one goal. Saer Sene in particular was a bit profligate, heading several good chances straight into Willis' mitts. Swedish striker Bjorn Runstrom made his Revolution debut, coming on for Moreno in the 79th minute, but was unable to find the breakthrough.
Finally, it was a late goal that again undid the Revs, as it did so many times last season. Willis thundered a goal kick into the opposing attacking third, and Josh Wolff beat A.J. Soares to a header to win the first ball. Nick Deleon then won the second header and knocked it down to Chris Pontius. Pontius, one-on-one with McCarthy, executed a quick drag-back and placed a good finish inside the far post to give United an 82nd-minute lead, which would hold to the end of the match.
"In Soccer, it only takes a few seconds to score a goal, one play to break down for the other team to score and it takes total concentration for 90 minutes," said Simms. "As the game goes on guys get a little leggy, a little tired, but it can't be an excuse for us. It's something we have to get better with."