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Revolution survive, if not conquer, in tie in their opener

By Frank Dell’Apa
Globe Staff / March 22, 2011

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The Revolution were in survival mode in their season-opening 1-1 tie against the Los Angeles Galaxy Sunday night. The team’s starting lineup included debuting players, and others performing out of position. Then Marko Perovic, the Revolution’s leading returning scorer, departed with a left hamstring injury in the 22d minute.

But the Revolution gained composure, received a break as referee Hilario Grajeda negated a goal, then finished the game strong. In fact, the Revolution nearly won as Shalrie Joseph hit the post with one of the few clear chances of the game in the 65th minute, and Revolution players were justifiably upset when Grajeda whistled an end to the game before they could take a corner kick.

The Galaxy also believed they had produced enough offense to win, pointing to a phantom foul call against Mike Magee, who appeared to charge goalkeeper Matt Reis but made minimal contact as Reis mishandled David Beckham’s free kick in the 16th minute.

“It all comes around,’’ Revolution coach Steve Nicol said yesterday of the controversial incident. “We feel we got away with it. But at the same time, when we went to LA last year, in the 89th minute, we had a stonewall penalty kick and never got it.’’

This was a positive start to the season in difficult circumstances. Going ultra-defensive is certainly a valid strategy for a team that has won only four season openers in 16 seasons — 15 of those games away from home.

Now, though, the Revolution will be changing tack in preparing for the home opener against D.C. United Saturday. Danish striker Rajko Lekic will train with the Revolution tomorrow, though a signing by this weekend is not expected. But the Revolution likely will open up their attack against a D.C. team that took a 3-1 win in its opener, two goals scored by former Boston College and US national team star Charlie Davies.

Against the Galaxy, the Revolution lined up in a defense-first 4-5-1 formation but pressured early, exposing vulnerabilities. Zack Schilawski earned a corner kick, then Joseph finished Perovic’s cross in the third minute.

After that, the Revolution mostly just defended. But the way the back line held off the Galaxy provided a positive sign for the future. Central defenders Franco Coria and A.J. Soares, both 22 years old, displayed enough quality to give the team a secure feeling that often was lacking last season.

Soares erred on a clearance that Galaxy midfielder Juninho intercepted for the tying goal in the 39th minute but was otherwise nearly flawless.

“When you look at the pressure we were under at times, the two of them did a good, old-fashioned defending job,’’ Nicol said. “They didn’t waver, made good challenges when they had to. [Soares] was unlucky with the goal, giving it to the guy you don’t want give it to, but they both stood their ground, were strong and resilient.’’

The absence of Kevin Alston (hamstring) and Didier Domi (knee) caused Darrius Barnes, normally a central defender, and Chris Tierney, a midfielder, to start at outside backs.

Zak Boggs, who had been playing right back in the preseason, started on the right wing and Stephen McCarthy made his professional debut in central midfield alongside Pat Phelan and Joseph. Schilawski showed he has improved his hold-up play as he performed as a lone striker.

“We were under pressure at times, but we coped with it well,’’ Nicol said. “I don’t know many clear-cut chances they had, other than the goal. We had a couple chances on them, as well.

“As far as pressure is concerned, fair enough, you can’t argue about their possession — but we didn’t give them any real chances.

“Away from home, against arguably one of the better teams in the league, we defended well and tried to break on them. If we want to be greedy we could say we could have gotten 3 points, but it didn’t happen, and that’s fine.’’

Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at

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