The New England Revolution came out firing in the second half against the New York Red Bulls on Saturday night, but a defensive lapse doomed them to just a 1-1 draw. The Revolution went ahead almost right out of the gate, but within a minute the Red Bulls were able to pull level.
Diego Fagundez played the hero for a few seconds in the 54th minute when he buried his own rebound off a corner to double his goal tally for the year and take sole possession of the lead for the team's golden boot race. Unfortunately, Lloyd Sam equalized mere moments later after an apparent mix-up between Kalifa Cisse and Jose Goncalves left him unmarked in the box and free to fire past Shuttleworth.
"We're disappointed not to get the three points tonight," said head coach Jay Heaps. "I think we did enough, we gave up one shot. It was so disappointing to give the goal up the way we did, you know, right after we scored and didn't have any time to regroup. It's just a momentary loss of concentration, and boom - they scored."
It's been said in soccer that the vast majority of goals are scored within five minutes - start or finish - of a half, and within the five minutes following a goal. Tonight's equalizer showed exactly why that's the case; a team scores, and while the defense is still overcome with elation and relief, the opposing team strikes quickly and exposes the weakness. With Cisse and Goncalves each appearing to believe that the other had Sam covered, a through pass from Andre Akpan put the winger clear in on goal, and he made it count.
Though Wednesday's first conceded goal wasn't so immediate, it may provoke some to point to disturbing pattern in the Revolution defense. Heaps was quick to dismiss any notion of a lax or otherwise detrimental mentality in the team that could lead to these mistakes.
"I don't think it's mentality, I think it's concentration," he said. "I think it's those situations where you score a goal, so you're elated and you're tired. I just think we have to, after we score a goal, just turn on, and that was just...yeah, it was poor."
A bright spot in the match, however, was Fagundez. The 18-year old was probably the most dangerous player on the pitch for New England, with at least two other dangerous chances, including a shot that he fired just over with literally the last kick of the game.
Fagundez led the team with six shots, three of which ended up on target (including the goal). In all, it was a strong performance from the teenager that should further solidify his place in Heaps' midfield.
"I just came with an energy to come play and show that I should be starting," said the winger. "I'm going to be here every game proving it, getting better and better, and just take it from there."
A talking point from earlier in the match was the decision to start Dimitry Imbongo over Jerry Bengtson. The move paid dividends, as Imbongo put in a high-energy shift, playing good passes and fashioning a solid chance for himself in the first half. His hold-up work was integral to the Revs' ability to get the ball into dangerous positions and find opportunities for shots on goal.
It was Imbongo's first start of the 2013 season, and just his fifth since joining the team last year. Despite not scoring, his impact was felt in the smoothness and continuity of the attack, and according to the striker himself, that was exactly what his coach wanted to see from him.
"Jay wanted for me, on the field, to take the ball, to hold the ball, to play it back, and to try to score," Imbongo said. "Because we need, when we play with one striker, we need somebody when they have the ball, to play it back and make the run into the box. That's what Jay wanted me to do, that's what I did tonight. I am a little bit disappointed that I did not score tonight."
Statistically, this was one of the Revs' best performances of the season. They finished with 55% of the possession, and attempted more passes than their opponents (448-363), completing a creditable 81.5%. In all they managed twelve shots, four of which were on goal, forcing three saves from Luis Robles. Robles had a spectacular save on Fagundez in the 80th minute to deny the winger his second goal of the game.
"He even told me it was just a reaction shot, and just a good save by him," said Diego after the match. "Nothing I could have done."
The Revolution finally have a full week off, and will return to action next Saturday against the Houston Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium. After taking just one point from six in this recent home stand - including just the one point off of a conference rival tonight - they find themselves in the unenviable position of really needing a positive result in one of the most difficult places to play in all of MLS.