Foxboro, MA- After weeks of last minute slip-ups and lackluster results, the New England Revolution cleaned up their act and put together a complete performance and defeated FC Dallas 2-0 at Gillette Stadium in front of 15,498 fans. The victory ended the Revolution’s seven-game winless streak as well as a home winless streak dating back to May 14.
“It’s hard to explain, but you get a feeling,” said coach Steve Nicol. “You kind of know when it’s your night. And to be honest, I sat there and felt as though we were going to get another goal. The key was obviously not giving one up. And as I said, I just had that feeling we weren’t going to make any mistakes and let them in. And we didn’t.”
The Revolution (5-11-12, 27 points) are still mathematically in the playoff berth hunt after the win, but will likely need to finish the season without losing another game to truly turn reaching the postseason into reality. Meanwhile, the result is an upset for Western Conference contenders Dallas, who entered the match in third place. But after coming off what was arguably their worst performance of the season last Wednesday night, drawing 4-4 against Philadelphia after being unable to hold onto a three-goal lead, the Revolution managed to bounce back and fight for a much-needed victory.
Monsef Zerka made his Gillette Stadium debut and worked on the right wing in the Revolution’s 4-4-2 formation. Zerka scored the Revolution’s third goal last Wednesday night in his debut against Philadelphia and it didn’t take him long to make his mark against Dallas. In the 14th minute, Milton Caraglio played Zerka wide. Zerka then crossed into the penalty area for Shalrie Joseph, who headed the ball into the net for his team-leading eighth goal of the season.
The Revolution carried their lead into halftime, though Matt Reis had to make saves on a Maicon Santos header in the 16th minute and a Jackson bicycle kick in the 36th minute. But unlike their previous three games, the Revolution continued to press in the second half instead of staying back to defend and absorbing pressure.
“We definitely didn’t drop in eleven guys behind the ball,” said Benny Feilhaber. “We kept two forwards up there pressing their defense and didn’t make it easy for them to build it out of the back.”
In the second half Reis had to make four more saves, but the Revolution responded by attacking the Dallas backline. The pressure nearly paid off in the 51st minute, when Rajko Lekic picked up possession off of a Dallas giveaway and fired a long range shot that Kevin Hartman had to parry away at full stretch. Moments later, Caraglio chipped a feed from AJ Soares over the crossbar. Darrius Barnes came out of the defense in the 74th minute and belted another long range effort at goal that Hartman had to push out of bounds.
The Revolution finally broke through and scored their second goal in the 85th minute. Ryan Cochrane deflected a Benny Feilhaber corner kick to Lekic, who was left wide open on the edge of the penalty area. Lekic hit a first-time drive with his left foot that rolled into the net, doubling the Revolution’s advantage and taking Dallas out of the game.
“It was on my left foot and to be honest, I hate to shoot with my left foot,” said Lekic. “But I said, ‘let me just try to hit it’ and I saw it in the net and I was so happy.”
“I felt like they had some openings on the front post,” said Feilhaber. “They’d been pretty good to cover it. [Cochrane] always makes that run and he did an excellent job to get a flick on it and [Lekic] did the rest.”
“Tactically we didn’t drop into a shell like we have been. It doesn’t work. Unless you’re an amazing team at defending 10 guys behind the ball and you have no brain lapses whatsoever and lack of concentration, it’s going to be real tough playing 45 minutes sitting back and not giving up goals. And we didn’t do that today.”