FOXBORO, MA- Putting the ball in the back of the net continues to be a problem for the Revolution, who fell 1-0 to Western Conference leaders FC Dallas (4-1-0, 12 points) on Saturday night and extended their scoreless streak to three games. Meanwhile Dallas snapped a streak of its own, getting its first victory at Gillette Stadium since July 16, 2003.
With the attack fumbling, the defense, which entered the game having allowed only one goal in three games, had added pressure to retain its form. And though Bobby Shuttleworth, in goal for Matt Reis (knee), and the back line dealt well with Dallas most of the game, they eventually caved in the 87th minute when Blas Perez scored the winner off a cross by David Ferreira.
The result extends the Revolution's (1-2-1, 4 points) scoreless drought to 298 minutes. It's also the second consecutive time this season that Shuttleworth has seen a positive result fly away because of a late goal.
"Itís frustrating [losing on late goals in both my starts]," said Shuttleworth. "Thereís no other way to put it. I donít think we gave away a whole lot, and they get a half chance in the 87th minute and weíre punished for not moving forward with our chances. Itís definitely frustrating."
The return of Jerry Bengston, who was away last week with the Honduran national team, plus starting Diego Fagundez, was expected to provide ample firepower for the recently gun-shy attack. But aside from not finishing, the Revolution had a sloppy passing game and only won 38 percent of the possession in the first half. Fagundez had the team's only shot on target in the first half, a slow rolling effort from 18 yards out that Raul Fernandez gobbled up in the 36th minute.
"We got a nice speech [from coach Jay Heaps] at halftime saying that we needed to work harder and that our possession was slow," said Fagundez, who earned his first start on the left flank.
"I think that the first half, there wasnít enough movement, there wasnít enough playing the ball quickly and a lot of what we worked on all week just seemed to go away," added Heaps.
The Revolution tried to put Heaps's halftime words into play, though they remained sloppy and still couldn't break through. They did, however, create the second half's first scoring chance.
In the 58th minute, Toja crossed a failed clearance by Dallas into the center of the penalty area for Bengston, who had his headed effort tipped over the crossbar by Fernandez.
Then, New England's offensive pressure folded and Dallas took over. Kenny Cooper headed a cross by Jackson into the goal in the 63d minute, but had his effort called offside by the linesman. He was replaced by the eventual goal-scorer Perez a moment later. Next, Lee Nguyen cleared a header by George John from a Michel corner kick off of the goal line in the 66th minute.
Kevin Alston replied just two minutes later, picking up possession in Dallas's penalty area after two defenders crossed legs and coughed up the ball. Alston went for the loose ball, took a touch, went in alone on Fernandez, but fired right at him. Toja tried again from close range, off a feed from Bengston in the 77th minute, but had his effort stopped once more by Fernandez.
It appeared that the Revolution's shutout streak would continue until Perez broke through and scored in the 87th minute. He found space in between AJ Soares and Jose Goncalves, heading a cross by Ferreira in off the left post and past the diving Shuttleworth for his first goal of the season.
"It looked like [David] Ferreira just kind of cut it back and there were two guys at the back post," explained Shuttleworth. "Perez got up and headed it across, and to be fair, he put it in a good spot, probably the only spot I couldnít have saved it."
Even with a defense in good form, mistakes will happen or opposing teams will come up with a tactic that produces a goal. On Saturday, the Revolution weren't hurt by a defensive error. They were hurt by their offense, which couldn't complement the defense's performance by scoring a goal. Converting on any of their five shots on target would have made the difference.
"Right now our play is a little bit out of sync with what our runs are, and thatís where I think we just have to continue to get better every week," said Heaps. "Obviously, we practice [finishing] and practice it. I mean, itís something that we do a lot of. Maybe we do it too much. We work on those things and you want to get yourself in a place to finish. I thought tonight we had chances to score and we didnít and so, we go back and work harder as a staff, as a team to take care of those chances when we get them."
The Revolution have a bye week, giving them plenty of time to find their scoring boots before they visit the Seattle Sounders April 13.
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