Revolution's unbeaten run ends in D.C.
They say that all good things must come to an end. On a perfect late spring night at RFK Stadium, up against suddenly resurgent conference foe D.C. United, the New England Revolution's undefeated season did exactly that.
Had they emerged victorious, the Revolution would have grabbed a share of the MLS record for the longest unbeaten start to a season (12 games). But United wanted no part in infamously going down in the record books tonight.
The defending champs dominated the first half of play, building an insurmountable two-goal lead in the game's first 10 minutes, and never looked back. Chants of "overrated" could be heard from the United faithful as the game ticked away into injury time.
Ending the undefeated streak was surely inevitable, but Revolution coach Steve Nicol would have preferred that it didn't come as a result of such a flat effort, especially in the first half.
"We never turned up for the first half," he said. "We were dreaming. Had we been four-nil down at halftime, we really couldn't have complained. ... Unless you win the battle to start with, you (haven't) won the right to play. We were second best in everything for (the first) 45 minutes."
Revs 'keeper Matt Reis put it a little more bluntly: "You can't come into someone else's town and not show up and expect to win games."
The home team got off to a dream start as up-and-down youngster Santino Quaranta netted his second goal of the season for United in the 10th minute off a Christian Gomez free kick, and assisted on a well-placed Jaime Moreno strike just two minutes later. The two quick goals proved to be a fatal blow for the visitors.
Of particular concern for the Eastern Conference leaders was the aforementioned lack of energy from the opening whistle as well as the inability to keep possession in the midfield.
"We didn't match their intensity," said Reis. "We lost the first two goals and it was tough to come back after that. Their three in the middle beat our three, so they were controlling the middle of the field. And when we match up with D.C., it's (all about) who wants the middle of the field more. Tonight, they wanted it more."
But New England was able to turn things around in the second half. Though the Revs were unable to find the back of the net, they created several good chances and had no real scares defensively.
"It was like the tale of two halves," said Marshall Leonard. "In the first half we didn't come out with enough energy and organization, but second half I thought we did a lot better."
Nicol went even further in commending his team's effort after halftime, but was disappointed that they couldn't cut into the D.C. lead on a handful of opportunities.
"We dominated the second half," he said. "We needed a more physical presence and we got that. I thought that if we had got one (goal), we might have gotten another one. (United goalkeeper Nick) Rimando made some good saves ... but you can't give a team like D.C. United an easy night like that."
For Reis, the lackluster showing to start the game -- and the need to put forth more focus and energy in the second half -- was a matter of pride.
"When you get beaten all over the field," he said, "you better change something in the second half. ... It's personal pride at that point."
Despite being on the losing end of a two-goal deficit, Reis put forth another admirable effort for the Revolution as the anchor on one of the league's stingiest defenses. He made a couple of quality saves on Moreno breakaways, and was rock solid between the pipes beyond the two concessions.
"Had we gotten a goal, then we would have been talking about just how crucial those saves were," Nicol said. "But unfortunately we never got that break."
Asked if his team can learn from being handed its first defeat, Nicol's response was crystal clear: "Absolutely.
"This is a good lesson," he said. "You have to turn up, you have to match teams physically. ... We've played 12 games and we lost one. I'm not happy, but it's just one game."
Leonard agreed with his coach's sentiment: "We're not thinking about it as the only loss in an undefeated season. Obviously that was going to come. We'll learn (from this). ... We can't cruise through a game."
Perhaps Nicol, waxing philosophic, summed it up best.
"The best way to learn is always the hard way," he said.
Omar Garriott is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.