|Chicago's Cuauhtemoc Blanco stands tall during a battle for the ball with Chris Albright. (PAUL BEATY/Associated Press)|
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. - Nearly everything went in the Revolution's favor on opening day. But things went against the Revolution in the early going of their second game, as they surrendered a goal to Chad Barrett and lost midfielder Jeff Larentowicz to a red card in the first seven minutes of a 4-0 loss to the Chicago Fire last night.
The Revolution were responsible for their slow start, surrendering possession and remaining flat-footed defensively. And the Fire (1-0-1, 4 points) capitalized with finishes by Polish striker Tomasz Frankowski (22d and 39th minutes) and a Cuauhtemoc Blanco penalty kick (37th) in handing the Revolution their worst defeat in nearly two years.
The Revolution took their most decisive opening-day win with a 3-0 victory over Houston last Saturday. And the Revolution appeared capable of matching that offensive output against the Fire, even playing with 10 men. But after failing to convert their chances, the Revolution allowed the match to open up and failed to switch to a four-back alignment until late in the first half.
Larentowicz was red-carded by referee Baldomero Toledo and will miss Wednesday's game at Kansas City.
"To lose a goal so quickly, it was a bad start," said Revolution coach Steve Nicol. "But the sending off spoils the game."
The Fire took advantage of a Khano Smith giveaway at the halfway line to set up the opening score. Justin Mapp went down left wing, then crossed past Larentowicz, Barrett one-timing a shot from the penalty spot in the fourth minute.
Smith was replaced by Gary Flood in the 12th minute as the Revolution went to a 3-5-1 alignment. Frankowski speared in the second goal in the 22d minute after Barrett penetrated to the end line off a Blanco through ball.
"The second goal was poor decision-making," Nicol said. "When we're 1-nil down, with 10 men, we still think we have a decent team. That was a bad goal. But you're always learning. And if a similar situation arises, we'll make the change [to a 4-4-1] a bit quicker. But it was our intention to try and retrieve the situation."
Sainey Nyassi, who overwhelmed the Dynamo with his speed on right wing, kept the Fire off balance and nearly scored in the first half. But the Revolution struggled with their finishing, missing Taylor Twellman (knee), who is out six weeks. Mauricio Castro started in a playmaking role in place of Steve Ralston (shoulder), though the Revolution's revamped alignment did not have a chance to function for long.
Nyassi speared a counterattack, Castro's cross (27th) rolling free in the penalty area after goalkeeper Jon Busch's muff. Kenny Mansally shot high (29th) off a corner and Nyassi followed a throw-in by drilling the ball from the end line, the shot heading toward the back post before Busch punched it away.
"I saw the goalkeeper slip out of the goal to try to stop the cross," Nyassi said. "So, I shot it to the goal and it was going in."
Nyassi surrendered a penalty (35th) after making contact with Mapp, Blanco roofing the kick in the 37th minute. Blanco found space on right wing, then set up Mapp for a cross to Frankowski for a 4-0 lead in the 39th minute. The Revolution then sent in Chase Hilgenbrinck, replacing Mansally, to balance the defense.
This was the highest goal total against the Revolution since they surrendered four goals in the first 19 minutes of a 4-0 loss to FC Dallas May 20, 2006.
"I was trying to avoid [Mapp] and he went down," Nyassi said. "We created a lot of chances. I was able to go by them. But they must have watched the tape of the [Houston game] and they were hard on us. This was a good experience for me and I can learn from this."
The Revolution attacked effectively in the first half, but did not read the game properly. The Revolution needed to control the pace and pick their spots to go forward, instead of surrendering possession easily and allowing a chaotic pace to develop.
In the opening minutes of the second half, the Revolution continued to threaten as Adam Cristman's point-blank drive was blocked (48th) by Busch and Castro's 30-yarder was knocked out (49th) for a corner. Nyassi earned another corner (52d) and the Fire continued to struggle until Blanco set up Stephen King for a shot that was saved (64th) by Matt Reis.
"This was their home opener; we beat them the last three years and knocked them out of the playoffs, plus the weather and field conditions, and some inexperience on our part led to some mistakes," Reis said. "And they are a team that can really come at you. But we looked at the second half and went out to get our respect back. We worked on the situation, we knew we would be playing 45 more minutes a man down, and there is the possibility of the same situation arising again sometime."