FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - The New England Revolution again failed to hold onto an early lead and had to settle for a 1-1 draw at home tonight with the Houston Dynamo. Despite typical heroics from Matt Reis and a bright start to the match, a chronic inability to keep possession dogged the Revs yet again and allowed Houston a gratuitous number of chances to get back into the match, making it only a matter of time until they did. The match was further marred by a straight red card for Reis in the 94th minute after an altercation with Adam Moffat, who also received a second yellow for his trouble.
New England once again showed a disturbing propensity to move into a defensive shell far too early in games where they earn an early lead. By the 30th minute, Houston were imposing their will upon the Revolution midfield and defense, earning 65% of the possession at halftime, a habit that several players maintain needs to stop.
"All season I think we have done it. It's a problem with this team and a problem with me, from my perspective a serious problem," captain Shalrie Joseph said after the match. "We sit back and allow teams to play, especially when we have a 1-nil lead, and we can't do that. For the last couple of games, you can see that's killing us."
"Leads for us this year have been kinda hard to come by," said defender Ryan Cochrane. "When we get that lead, it's kinda like, you know, here we go, we've got an opportunity now and you want to everything you can to not let them get back on the board. It's just a natural habit to bunker in and tuck in and let them have the run of play."
It didn't appear to help matters when Nicol used his final two substitutions on defensive players, bringing on Phelan and rookie Stephen McCarthy. By that point, Houston had clearly gained the upper hand in the match and the Revs hadn't shown so much as a whimper of attacking threat for most of the second half. They didn't have the capacity to threaten the Dynamo, and the additional defensive subs allowed them to commit more numbers forward and pin the Revs further back.
It was Cochrane's first MLS goal since 2008 that got New England off to a great start in just the fourth minute after he pounced on a Milton Caraglio rebound and buried from close range. "On a personal level, in the moment, you know, it's good to get that goal against your old team," the goalscorer said. "Obviously, it means a little bit more than any other goal you might score."
Unfortunately, the Revs couldn't maintain the momentum. "I think we played all right for the first 30 minutes of the game," Cochrane maintained. "I think in the last 15 minutes of the second half they really had us on our heels and we were soaking a lot of pressure. I thought we were all right for spots in the second half, they had a little bit more of the play."
Goalkeeper Matt Reis had a phenomenal match, making a season-high nine saves, including several for the highlight reel on Je-Vaughn Watson, Moffat and Geoff Cameron in the first half, and Cam Weaver in the second. Even on the Dynamo goal, Reis managed to get down and save an excellent header from Carlo Costly, but no one was around to clean up his rebound and Bobby Boswell tapped it in.
The saves, however, were hardly Reis' most exciting involvement in the match. Literally at the stroke of full time, Reis and Pat Phelan were herding the ball out of bounds and shielding it when Adam Moffat barged into Phelan's back, sandwiching him between Moffat and Reis and sending the player to the ground. Reis - undoubtedly remembering that Phelan has had difficulties with concussions - took immediate offense and went toe-to-toe with Moffat, who was hustled away by his teammates.
The altercation didn't end there, however, as officials got involved in the fracas. During the course of their interaction with Reis, he became increasingly agitated and appeared to need his teammates to restrain him from the referees as well. The matter was eventually resolved, but match officials and other representatives convened both on the pitch and after the match in the team offices to review the action and decide on punishments. Speculation in the Revolution locker room reflected confidence that Reis would be available for Saturday's tilt against New York.
"Hopefully the officials will use common sense," said Nicol. "Nobody deserves to get a red card, it was a lot of huffing and puffing."
Unfortunately, in a ruling that was passed less than an hour after the match, Reis was penalized a straight red card and will have to miss Saturday's match unless New England can successfully appeal. The Revs must now prepare for their weekend clash with the I-95 rival Red Bulls knowing that they may not have the services of their starting keeper.
Joseph, for one, is undeterred. "It's still in front of us, in terms of if we want to get to the playoffs, and there's no doubt we have to get three points."