Revolution recover, hang on to lead
FOXBOROUGH - The Revolution seemed to have forgotten how to win in recent weeks. Even ties on the road felt like defeats. But the Revolution recovered their winning formula last night, taking a 2-0 decision over FC Dallas, their first home victory since May 14.
Shalrie Joseph converted in the 14th minute and Rajko Lekic in the 85th minute as the Revolution (5-11-12, 27 points) kept their slim playoff hopes alive before a 15,498 crowd at Gillette Stadium.
“It’s been frustrating, for sure,’’ Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis said. “But, even though we tied the last couple games, we’ve still been playing better than we have in the past.
“The one thing about this team, even though things haven’t gone our way, we’ve kept our chins up and tried to improve and we finally put it together. We got the late goal to put it away and we probably played our best game of the year.’’
The Revolution, who visit Portland Friday, were victorious at Gillette Stadium for the first time since a 1-0 victory over Vancouver, nearly four months ago, snapping a seven-game (0-3-4) home winless streak.
Joseph provided the advantage as the Revolution scored first for the fifth successive game. Joseph capitalized on a Dallas mix-up to run through former Revolution midfielder Daniel Hernandez and Brek Shea, then found Milton Caraglio with a through ball.
Joseph continued his run as Caraglio back-heeled to Monsef Zerka, who crossed for Joseph and he sent a sharp header inside the right post for his eighth goal of the season.
Lekic scored after winning a corner off a long goal kick from Reis. Substitute Ryan Cochrane flicked on Benny Feilhaber’s corner to Lekic, who was unmarked at the back post, Lekic volleying just inside the post.
Many of the players involved in the Revolution goals were not with the team at the start of the season. But the addition of Lekic, who has six goals, Caraglio, Feilhaber, and Zerka has helped transform the team.
“I guess I should be ecstatic,’’ Revolution coach Steve Nicol said. “But I kind of look at it now and think, had we not made the mistakes previously, we’d be in a great position. It’s good to win. But I think we probably just deserved it. We certainly rode our luck a couple of times – but so did they.’’
This was the Revolution’s first shutout since June 20 (1-0 at D.C. United) and the first time in eight games (1-2-5 record) they prevented an opponent from scoring after the 80th minute.
Part of the reason for the Revolution’s improved performance was tactical. Instead of abandoning their attack, they stayed with a two-forward setup and counterattacked.
“We didn’t drop into a shell like we have been,’’ Feilhaber said. “That kind of stuff doesn’t work. Unless you’re an amazing team at defending, 10 guys behind the ball, and you have no brain lapses whatsoever, and no lack of concentration, that’s going to be tough to play sitting back 45 minutes and not giving up goals.
“And we didn’t do that. Of course they came at us more. More times than not the team that’s losing is going to come at the team that’s winning. And the team that’s winning has got to create chances off the counterattack. We definitely didn’t drop everyone behind the ball.’’
Caraglio hit the side of the net, missing an open goal after running onto a back pass and rounding goalkeeper Kevin Hartman in the 45th minute. Kenny Mansally replaced Caraglio in the second half, combining with Lekic to pressure defenders and provide speedy counters.
But FC Dallas threatened in the second half, changing its formation as Andrew Jacobson moved into central midfield and Shea was replaced by Jeremy Hall.
Dallas produced chances with Maicon Santos threatening off crosses. And Lekic blocked an indirect kick (57th) in the penalty area after Reis handled a back pass.
“We did give them some chances and we slowed down a bit,’’ Reis said. “But in the end we still tried to keep the ball and we were still getting chances and we weren’t just kicking the ball away.
“We were still attacking and we were trying to score goals, and we weren’t just sitting back. We didn’t play the perfect game but we got 3 points and we’re not out of it, yet.’’
Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.