Today a friend asked me how the game was last night. With a moment's thought I replied "great game, bad result." I think that really is the best way to sum this one up. It really was a great game. You should see my fingernails. I felt FANTASTIC after the first half. Milton Caraglio's two goals happened directly in front of me and they were inspiring, to put it best. Going into the second half I truly was on cloud nine; Caraglio looked positioned for a hat trick, the team was actually passing the ball, and all in all things were looking just peachy.
Our section was immediately next to the Red Bulls supporters who traveled out for the game. They were quite boisterous and were definitely volleying some chants back and forth with The Fort (side note: their YSA chant in the second half was just in bad taste.. where was TeamOps on that one, hmmm?). At the start of the second half our section started shouting "we can't hear you" with some accompanying claps. It felt like a real rivalry game at moments. But a sinking feeling in my stomach knew that we'd be eating our words by time the final whistle blew. And sure enough, by the end, we were left quiet. This draw, ultimately, was a loss.
But let's look at some positives. Firstly, Caraglio looked great. It was exciting to see him and Lekic up top together, although I felt Rajko was up to his old tricks of trying too hard to get calls instead of assisting the play or scoring goals. It would be nice to see them get a rapport as a striking duo. And, although we've still yet to see what the Revs' newest signing Monsef Zerka will bring into the mix, it is encouraging to think of a totally revamped attacking group of international players getting experience together (and staying healthy) and developing some chemistry that will carry over to next season and produce some success. A boy can dream, right?
Our midfield, I thought, looked pretty composed in this one. I think our play (at least in the first half) should be the #1 example of why the Revs should be sticking with the 4-4-2 (a lot like when we switched to it in the second half earlier this season at Red Bull Arena, eh?). Benny and Shalrie kept good pace when the Revs had possession but also successfully made themselves key cogs in the attack. Kenny Mansally was serviceable on the left wing in place of Chris Tierney and I think should be thought of as a valuable replacement at that position moving forward with him and Tierney splitting time based on the match up. Obviously, though, he is an asset regardless since he can so easily be placed in different positions--admittedly some with more success than others.
Zak Boggs, in my mind, has not shown that he deserves the starting gig at RM. I know that Sainey Nyassi has become the preferable option and that Boggs has been seeing time due to Nyassi's injury, but why haven't we seen more of Ryan Guy? We've got to at least give him a chance to prove that he can be a better option than Boggs, no?
As far as negatives go from this match, there are a few. My main gripe is with Steve Nicol. How were there no subs made in the second half other than McCarthy to reorganize from the Mansally red card? Now, as a superstitious person myself, I can understand the hesitation with changing anything when things seem to be going well (seriously, you should bowl ten frames with me and see the wacky things I'm doing by the end), but a match like this one--with so many implications, such promise, and such a thirst for revenge from the previous meeting--is just no place to be caught in the headlights. Never underestimate the power of fresh legs, is what I always say (well, maybe I don't say it all the time, but I've definitely said it). It was infuriating to see no changes made to improve our chances at keeping the 2-1 lead and even more aggravating after New York equalized in the final minutes.
Our defense needs a makeover. Something needs to change and, I'll put it this way, it's not A.J. Soares. While I appreciate Ryan Cochrane's MLS experience, I think that he has done more harm than benefit overall this season (also, I just have to say, I was much more impressed when he was rocking just the single, solitary ‘stache earlier in the season.. just saying... something to think about...). But Kevin Alston has been my biggest complaint these past few games. The dude has been really banged up and for that I feel for him. And in general I have always appreciated his hustle and his passion. But his play has left me scratching my head of late. Maybe it is just nagging injury issues, but there have been moments when I have thought to myself I wish we had someone that we could sub him out for. But we don't. And, honestly, we don't really have many defensive bench options right now. With the loss of Domi and Franco Coria's on-and-off injury issues, we've been left pretty thin on defense. Now that we've addressed our immediate attacking concerns, perhaps this should be our next area of focus in the off season.
This game, like many in MLS, was a bit twisted by some questionable refereeing. Unfortunately, I was not able to take any notes during the game (I was far too busy drinking beer and yelling at Dane Richards). However, it did seem to me that the calls were consistent for the first 2/3 of the match. And for that I was thankful. The red cards were both the right calls to make. I was not able to see Dax McCarty's dive from a good angle, but was relieved to see that it was in fact ruled a dive and wasn't a penalty kick. I seem to remember what looked like a missed call that perhaps should have been a penalty for the Revs at the end of the game, right before New York's equalizer, but it was on the other end of the field and I didn't get much of a view of what happened (if anyone else does have some details about what happened there, please enlighten me in the comments section). All in all, I've seen worse refereeing at Gillette Stadium this year, for sure, but I was not without my issues.
I could not help but wonder to myself what Matt Reis could have done for us in this one. Considering his quality of play this season, my gut tells me that he would have stopped at least one of the Red Bulls' 2 goals. But, who can say really.
When all is said and done, leaving Gillette last night felt, in many ways, like leaving behind a season to forget with maybe some glimmers of hope to look forward to next season. But, if this season has taught me anything, it's to try not to get my hopes up too much.