The New England Revolution battled physical tactics, poor officiating, and an eventual red card, but were unable to come up with any points at home as the Houston Dynamo defeated them 2-1 on Saturday night. Two second-half Adam Moffat blasts handed the Dynamo the victory, with sandwiching a Saer Sene finish.
"I think that it was by design that it was a very physical match, that guys are going to be on the ground," said head coach Jay Heaps. "We have to learn to be a little bit stronger and a little bit better."
The Revs opened the match flat, but still gathered up the best of the first-half chances. Diego Fagundez worked a neat give and go with Chad Barrett at the top of the box in the 18th minute. However, as Fagundez found himself free and clear with just the keeper to beat, his touch failed him and he overran the ball, allowing it to eventually be cleared.
That missed chance set the tone for the Revs' half, and really most of their evening.
New England went flat and Houston came out firing, firing off several chances with Andrew Driver as the catalyst. The first-half numbers heavily favored the Dynamo, as they hogged 61.6% of the possession and attempted over 100 more passes than the Revs, with an 83% success rate. They also launched five shots. The Revs had none.
"I thought that we just didn't start the game with that bright energy and that bright spark that we should have," said Heaps. "It took us a little too long to get into the game."
The second half saw all the fireworks. Although it was the half where the Revs seemed to work their way back into the match and generate some offense, it was kicked off with a Houston goal.
A 49th-minute corner was headed clear by Chad Barrett, but only as far as Adam Moffat. The Scot sized up the ball as it dropped, and without letting it bounce, ripped a volley that will surely be a goal of the year candidate as it found the back of the net past Bobby Shuttleworth like some manner of laser beam. Shuttleworth seemed late to react to the shot and may not have gotten a clear look at it.
New England responded with a goal of their own in the 55th. Fagundez had the ball on the right flank and dribbled to the byline and into the box. Seemingly without clear options, he opted to drill a low cross right along the face of goal, which Tally Hall deflected. However, the rebound fell directly to the feet of Saer Sene about 3 yards from the goalmouth, and the Frenchman tucked it home with his right foot.
The second half was more even overall, and both teams poked and prodded for the winner. In the end, it was Moffat who came up with it again, drilling a shot off the base of the left post that deflected off of Shuttleworth's back and into the net in the 79th minute. Moffat was undeniably the man of the match for the Dynamo on the night, even as he further cemented his already-tarnished reputation among New England fans with his physical play and confrontational demeanor. He also volleyed a ball off of one of the minutemen behind the Fort goal, though that was probably an accident.
Just because the match wasn't trying enough for the Revolution, Dimitry Imbongo elected to smack Eric Brunner in the face as retaliation for a fairly innocuous foul, earning a red card in the 82nd minute despite the fact that the free kick was in New England's favor. The Revs looked like they might be able to conjure an equalizer at points in the last ten minutes or so, but it wasn't to be.
Armando Villarreal, the match's head referee, did not have a good game. He missed calls on both sides, but it was his reluctance to produce yellow cards and take stands on physical play that really hurt the Revs in the end. Moffat drew blood on Chris Tierney in the first half - after having already committed several fouls in the half - and wasn't shown a card, while several Revs players were smashed into the ground without any call at all. Villarreal also missed what appeared to be a clear handball in the box according to replays in the second half, one that would have earned New England a penalty.
"It was really physical really early," said Heaps. "Lee Nguyen got whacked hard a few times by Ricardo Clark. You need a little help once in a while. You need the man in the middle to say ‘ok, guys, we're going to play today.'"
The Revolution begin a road trip this week, facing Colorado in Colorado on Wednesday night followed by a trip to Columbus on Saturday.