Summer months have not been kind to the New England Revolution in the last few seasons, and their attempt to reverse that trend against the Chicago Fire on Saturday night was unsuccessful. The Fire earned a 1-0 result at Gillette Stadium and extended the Revs' league losing streak to five matches, matching their five-match winning streak from earlier in the season.
"Tough loss," said Jay Heaps. "That one really hurt, because I thought we had some tough decisions against us last week and I thought we responded well. And then tonight I thought we were going to come out flying, and we got punched right in the face in the first two-and-a-half minutes. We have to be better, it's on us."
Quincy Amarikwa got the scoring off to a blistering start in the third minute, taking advantage of the sort of defensive error that is becoming characteristic of this Revolution squad. Jeff Larentowicz was fouled at midfield but referee Jose Carlos Rivero played advantage, and Mike Magee caught the Revs sleeping with a diagonal ball over the top to Amarikwa. The striker got goal-side of Andrew Farrell and muscled him down before finishing delicately past Bobby Shuttleworth for the lead.
New England's best chance of the night came late when substitute Jerry Bengtson was brought down by Gonzalo Segares in the box. Chris Tierney stepped up to fill in for regular penalty-taker Lee Nguyen in the 86th minute, but his hard drive to Sean Johnson's left was saved.
"It happens," said defender Andrew Farrell of Tierney's miss. "If Lee Nguyen's not in there, Chris is another one of our great PK takers, and Jay called his number. I thought he put a good shot on frame, it was a big-time save."
The absent Nguyen was likely a factor in the team's play, as his ability to go box-to-box and pull strings from anywhere in the midfield was sorely missed when Chicago packed the middle of the pitch and dared the Revs to break them down instead of counter-attack.
"He's one of our playmakers, and someone we look to, to help facilitate our attack," said Heaps. "But at the same time, I thought we had enough firepower to create. It's a really tough run, and we have to dig ourselves out."
Like in previous losses, the Revs responded to the early goal by peppering their opponent's goal with shots. They finished with 23 attempts, seven of which ended up on target. A full 16 of those shots came in the second half. Chicago, however, defended hard and defended well, keeping New England off the board.
Going down early is something the Revs have struggled with all season. Coming into tonight's match, the Revs were 6-0-0 when scoring the first goal. They are now 1-8-1 when conceding it. Playing on the back foot early was a big factor on the night, and seems to be one that's affecting them throughout their recent run.
"I think something that we've been doing well when we get a win is that we've always battled a team," said Farrell. "We've always been the team that's attacked first and put them on the ground. I think we're a little bit behind in that aspect. In the past couple of games we've gone down a goal, and we haven't been physical enough. We haven't been doing what suits us best when we're playing our best soccer."
The misery piled on for the Revolution midway through the first half when stalwart midfielder Andy Dorman went down under a tough challenge from Bakary Soumare, who was attempting to block Dorman's shot. The Welsh holding midfielder was forced off in the 29th minute with his injury, and left the locker room on crutches.
Scott Caldwell was drafted in to replace him, and the second-year player had a fair match in relief. He defended tenaciously and added a level of passing acumen that complimented the Revs well, especially once the Revs moved to a 3-5-2 later in the match to press the issue.
"I thought [Caldwell] did a great job," Heaps praised. "Scotty came in and had no warm-up time, and went in and really was chomping and biting and trying to make plays."
New England has a quick turnaround this week, taking the long trip to Los Angeles to face the Galaxy on Wednesday night at 10:30 PM ET.