The New England Revolution entered RFK Stadium on Saturday night hoping to play spoiler for D.C. United's playoff hopes, but instead they coughed up a first-half lead and fell to United by a score of 2-1. The loss finished United's sweep of the season series between the sides, and had the added effect of mathematically eliminating New England from playoff contention.
The Revs actually came out relatively strong in the first half, creating early chances through Kevin Alston and Ryan Guy. However, the first half hour of the match was largely bereft of clear opportunities on goal for either team as the defenses did a good job of snuffing out the final ball.
That all changed for New England in the 29th minute. A Darrius Barnes long-ball was flicked on by Jerry Bengtson, finding Diego Fagundez in space. The teenager picked his head up and saw Kelyn Rowe streaking along with him on the right, unmarked, and played a nice diagonal ball to the rookie. Rowe took a touch into the box and then ripped a shot that took a slight deflection off a defender and blew over the head of Bill Hamid, clipping the underside of the crossbar before bulging the back of the net for a 1-0 New England lead.
D.C. responded almost immediately. After a counter in the 32nd minute, designated player Branko Boskovic left a nice backheel near the top of the D for Chris Pontius, and United's leading scorer laced a left-footed daisycutter that beat Matt Reis low to his right post.
The first half was characterized mostly by physical play, but referee Fotis Bazakos elected to leave his cards in his pockets and often let the teams play even in the face of widespread fouling. Both Jay Heaps and Ben Olsen appeared incensed by Bazakos' lax approach, but it did appear to be consistent across the board.
New England got a few chances in the early going of the second half, but it definitely seemed that D.C. was playing with renewed energy. Diego Fagundez warmed Hamid's gloves in the 53rd minute as he finished off a great counter with a first-time strike, but the young D.C. keeper caught it easily.
Matt Reis made a crucial save in the 61st minute on Maicon Santos. The Brazilian got on the ball in the box and found himself in on goal when Barnes whiffed on his attempted tackle. Santos tried to go far-post on Reis, but the canny veteran keeper had his angles right and parried away for Stephen McCarthy to clear.
Unfortunately, he would be able to do nothing about the next shot he faced in the 63rd. Chris Pontius danced around the left flank and beat several Revolution defenders before playing a floor pass to substitute Lewis Neal in the D. The midfielder just knocked a first-time shot on goal, curving toward the far post, and beat a despairing Reis to give the home side the lead.
Juan Toja made his Revolution debut in the 73rd minute, replacing Florian Lechner. He was subbed in along with out-of-favor midfielder Benny Feilhaber as the Revs switched to a more attacking formation featuring a three-man back line. Toja had a great impact, nearly setting up an equalizing goal in the 85th minute when he chipped a ball over the top to Rowe, but Hamid shut down the angle and saved the shot.
Feilhaber was guilty of missing on three good chances, though not for lack of trying. As the Revs fought desperately for an equalizer, Feilhaber drilled a low shot just wide of the near post in the 79th, then nearly scored with his face on a point-blank header in the 86th minute. On the ensuing corner, the ball squirmed for Benny all alone in the box, but although it was at short range, Hamid again somehow got a hand to the ball and made the save.