Revolution defender Michael Parkhurst seemed an unlikely candidate to convert the Major League Soccer goal of the year. Parkhurst, who has played three seasons in the league, made his first shot as a professional count, launching one from behind the halfway line for the first goal of New England's 2-2 tie with Toronto FC Saturday.
But Revolution coach Steve Nicol would not have discounted Parkhurst's chances of scoring.
"It was a fantastic shot, a fantastic goal - we are going to stick him up front," Nicol joked. "He is a smart player. He plays with his head up. He does all the basic things and he does them well. And that's what you need to do in order to get in position to shoot from there. Ninety percent of the players on the field, it would not have crossed their minds to shoot from there."
If Nicol's estimate is accurate, only a couple of dozen MLS players might also have thought of shooting like Parkhurst did, much less be able to pull it off.
In the first minute of first-half added time, Parkhurst noticed goalkeeper Kenny Stamatopoulos off his line. Parkhurst controlled the ball with a touch, then quickly launched the shot, the ball carrying over a retreating Stamatopoulos and under the crossbar.
Parkhurst, the central defender in the Revolution's three-back system, rarely advances past the halfway line and has been instructed by coaches to always remain in front of goalkeeper Matt Reis as the last line of defense. But that did not prevent Parkhurst from following his instincts against Toronto.
The Revolution (14-8-8 in the regular season) used the Toronto game as a warm-up for Saturday's visit to East Rutherford, N.J., in the playoff opener against the Red Bulls. The Revolution appeared to be in control against Toronto. Pat Noonan's first-half shot hit the post after being tipped by Stamatopoulos, and Taylor Twellman headed in a corner for his 16th goal of the season and a 2-0 lead in the 48th minute. But Collin Samuel converted (59th minute) after a shot hit the post, and Danny Dichio looped a shot over Reis in added time to tie the score, rewarding the 15th successive BMO Field sellout.
"That's been the story of our season," Twellman said of the Revolution squandering the lead. "We have to start getting ready for New York. [Toronto] is one of the coolest places to play, but it was a hostile environment and artificial turf, very hard, like it will be [at Giants Stadium], and we'll be ready."
It was the 13th time this season the Revolution have given up an advantage. The Revolution earned only eight points (2-3-2) in the last seven MLS games, despite having the lead in each match. This indicates the team can set the tone in games, but when the dynamic changes, the Revolution have problems adjusting, especially in the second half.
Nicol has moved Steve Ralston to a playmaking midfield position, and this has helped create offense from a possession game. Ralston also has been moved to right back in a 4-4-2 setup as a defensive measure late in games, with mixed results.
Ralston's first start as the playmaker was successful as the Revolution took a 3-2 win over FC Dallas in the US Open Cup final, Ralston helping protect the lead as a wing back in the final part of the game. Ralston went to right back in the 87th minute against Toronto.
"They were throwing everyone forward and we just wanted to get bodies back there," Nicol said. "It's all about percentages. There were four minutes to go, we were away from home, leading, 2-1, and they are just trying to get the ball in the [penalty area].
"The second goal should have been a free kick to us. It was a horrible goal. You almost wish [Dichio] had taken a great shot, but he was just trying to put it anywhere he could."
Frank Dell'Apa can be reached at email@example.com.