FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - The New England Revolution broke the curse tonight against FC Dallas, carrying a first-half lead all the way through and seeing it out to pick up their first win since July, and their first at home since May. The captain Shalrie Joseph and Rajko Lekic scored en route to the 2-0 victory.
Joseph's first-half goal was reassuring, but players and fans alike could be excused for thinking it was business as usual as the match wore on and everyone waited for the inevitable capitulation, resulting in a disappointing draw. The script was flipped, however, and Lekic's second-half tally, his sixth of the season, put the result over one of the league's best sides beyond doubt.
The match started slow until the seventh minute, when both teams had chances at either end. A poor foul at the edge of the area first set up Jackson for a free-kick opportunity, but although his effort beat the wall it also cleared the cross bar. Then, moments later, Shalrie Joseph played a ball through to Milton Caraglio, who turned and flicked the ball up before trying an audacious half-volley with the outside of his left foot from over twenty yards out that ended up just over.
Unexpectedly (or perhaps as expected, given how the last month or two has gone for New England), the Revs broke it open in the 14th minute. Shalrie Joseph played a through ball to Caraglio that drew him toward the right corner flag. The Argentinean played a clever no-look backheel to Monsef Zerka behind him, who played a cross first-time. Joseph was lurking in the area and Zerka's ball found his head with precision, leaving the Grenadian with little to do but drill it low and in the right corner of the net.
A minute later, Brek Shea trapped a ball with his chest at the edge of the Revolution area before ripping a half-volley into Matt Reis's chest. Dallas then had another clear chance in the 16th minute when Zach Loyd fought to the right byline and floated in a cross to Maicon Santos. The Brazilian was unmarked in the six-yard box, but put his header right at Reis when he really should have scored.
Caraglio almost put one on frame in the 22nd, when a Benny Feilhaber corner drifted out to him at the far post. He headed down, but it bounced high over the goal from a tight angle instead of staying on target. Neither team was able to produce much of anything for over ten minutes following that, until Maicon Santos nearly scored in spectacular fashion with an overhead bicycle kick that, unfortunately for him, was right at Reis.
New England had one more really great chance to double their advantage as the second half drew to a close. Jair Benitez played an ill-advised ball to the middle of the field that was seized upon by Caraglio. "El Toro" touched it around Hartman, but he ended up putting himself too close to the byline and couldn't finish with the tight angle.
The teams started the second half the same way they started the first: slowly, followed by two quick-fire chances at either end. Jackson, who was really one of the best players on the pitch for Dallas, skipped inside from the left and had a low shot smothered by Matt Reis. Off the ensuing clearance, Lekic picked up the ball around 25 yards out before ripping a half-volley that had Kevin Hartman at full stretch to save.
Jackson then caused more nervy moments for the New England back line a minute later in the 52nd, cutting inside from the left again and this time electing to take on Reis. The stalwart keeper got low and took the ball off Jackson's feet, but it managed to bounce behind him and had to be cleared off the line by A.J. Soares. Completing a triumvirate of close chances for the Brazilian, Jackson headed just high and wide from a good Andrew Jacobson cross in the 54th minute.
Milton Caraglio should have doubled the lead in the 60th minute. A long ball from Franco Coria split the defense and put Caraglio in on Hartman. He cut to slightly to Hartman's right and tried to half-volley the bouncing ball from close range, but ended up ballooning it over the crossbar when he should have done better. Caraglio was involved again in the 66th minute in an attack down the left side. In a move similar to the one that set up Joseph's goal in the first half, he laid a ball back to Tierney, whose cross found the head of Lekic near the far post. Unfortunately, the Dane's header into the turf was tame and bounced easily into the hands of Hartman.
Unlike in the midweek game against Philadelphia, where most of the substitutions were early and defensive, the Revs decided to keep the standard 4-4-2 shape when they brought in their first battery of subs, going like-for-like with Ryan Cochrane on for Franco Coria and Kenny Mansally for Caraglio. Moments after the changes, in the 74th minute, a goal nearly came from one of the unlikeliest sources. Darrius Barnes took a pass from Tierney, touched it forward and then ripped a blast from well outside the box that put Hartman at full stretch to knock away from the far post.
New England must have been thinking that the nightmares of recent matches could continue as the game wore on and Dallas began creating a few more chances. In the 80th minute, Maicon Santos did a little dance on the right edge of the box before switching to his left and ripping a shot on frame that Reis just barely managed to tip over.
Luckily, Rajko Lekic came to the rescue. In the 85th minute, Benny Feilhaber drilled an in-swinging corner that Cochrane rose to meet at the near post. He flicked it on to the far post, where Lekic lay in wait. The striker let it fall before him and then swept it home with his much-unfavored left foot, enabling the Revs to breathe a collective sigh of relief and wrapping up the result.
Dallas made sure they reminded New England that it wasn't over yet when Santos nearly scored from close range in the 88th, but Reis was on hand to make the save. The Revs could have made it three in stoppage time, but Feilhaber's laser from distance was jabbed away by Hartman before the Revolution finally saw out the last few minutes and held onto a lead to win at home for the first time since May.