The New England Revolution put their best match performance of the 2014 season together, but unfortunately it didn't take much for the Revs to hit that threshold. The Vancouver Whitecaps came to Gillette Stadium and gritted out a 0-0 draw in the face of heavy pressure from a New England side desperate to score their first goal of the season.
Without goals to speak of, the story of the match remains the inclusion of Jose Goncalves in the starting lineup and his reinstatement as captain. Before the match, General Manager Mike Burns met with the media and assured all those present that the issues with Goncalves were smoothed over, and the Portuguese defensive titan was focused and excited to be playing for the Revs.
"There were many conversations that took place," said Burns. "And we feel that we're all at a much better spot now and we're ready to put all that behind us, and his focus now is to concentrate on helping us win games."
Passing and possession by both teams was sloppy at times as early showers and sustained wind conditions affected the flow of the match. That said, the Revolution benefited from solid, careful midfield play by the veteran Andy Dorman, and were able to put together a number of dangerous chances, particularly in the first half.
"It was a difficult, hard-fought match," said Jay Heaps after the game. "Difficult to get a ton going on both sides. But I thought, you know, we had 17 or 18 chances created, I thought we had a good time trying to get there. But in the end I was happy about how we played defensively, and we have to be better offensively."
Dorman combined with Chris Tierney in just the fifth minute to put the Whitecaps on notice that the Revs were not going to relax at home. Tierney's corner kick was fired to the near post, where Dorman expertly flicked a header back on goal. Vancouver goalkeeper David Ousted did incredibly well to parry it over and out for a corner kick.
Teal Bunbury had several near -chances in the first half as he showed that the chemistry with his teammates is building. However, his final touch and decision-making let him down repeatedly as he lost control of several balls and had most of his shots blocked by defenders.
Saer Sene forced a save out of Ousted in the 20th minute with an excellent low shot. In the 33rd, Diego Fagundez found himself with a brilliant opportunity to score after a failed clearance that had deflected off of Bunbury fell to him just outside the box, but his eventual shot was low, tame, and saved by Ousted.
"I was important we started well," said Dorman. "Unfortunately we didn't do enough to get the goal, but it was a positive start by us. I think we worked hard and played well at times."
Vancouver came alive a bit more in the second half. Kenny Miller nearly had a goal in the 51st minute when he tried to chip Bobby Shuttleworth over a bounced pass, but Shuttleworth saved at full stretch while in no-man's land in the box. Pedro Morales then almost scored from a direct free kick in the 56th minute.
Daigo Kobayashi entered for Sene in the 58th minute and had an immediate impact. He functioned as a complement for Dorman, playing simpler balls and keeping things moving, but further up the pitch. In the 60th minute he engineered a chance by dribbling into the box and cutting back for Fagundez, who laid off to Rowe, but the third-year midfielder's shot was wide of Ousted right post.
"[Daigo] came in and I thought [he] had an excellent game," said Heaps. "I don't think he had a wrong foot. He had a great chance, but worked hard. He's so good with the ball and crafty."
Kobayashi capped off a good substitute performance by nearly scoring a goal in the 79th minute. Andrew Farrell was played down the right flank by Rowe and slipped a ball back to Fagundez, who whiffed his shot but let it run to Daigo. The Japanese midfielder's strike was destined for goal, but blocked wide by a defender.
Despite the improved play through the midfield, a goal was not forthcoming and the Revs finished the match with a scoreless draw. Three games have now passed without a single goal, a worrying proposition for any squad hoping to be a contender, but especially so for a team with so much young attacking talent. The Revs can at least fall back on improved defensive play and the return of their captain to the regular lineup.
The Revolution are back in action next Saturday night in San Jose, where they will face off against the Earthquakes for a 10:30 PM West Coast kickoff.