New England Revolution head coach Steve Nicol was pleased with the effort of his charges in their 3-1 victory against Chicago Fire on Wednesday night, but pointed to a key pre-game decision as the basis for the victory.
Midfielders Shalrie Joseph and Pepe Cancela have struggled with hip injuries as of late, and the Revolution boss elected to field the duo at less than full fitness tonight.
"Shalrie and Pepe were not at 100% tonight," said Nicol. "We felt that it was a big game tonight, and we thought it was worth the gamble. Obviously, it paid off."
The Revolution has struggled with service into the box all season. Nicol's preferred striker pairing of Taylor Twellman (two goals) and Clint Dempsey (one goal, one assist) each tallied on the night. Nicol credited the resurgence to the increase of service in the second half, precipitated by the halftime entrance of Richie Baker in place of Pat Noonan.
"When you have Taylor and Dempsey in the box, you have to get them service," said Nicol. "We did that in the second half tonight."
It was not all good news for Nicol on the night, as Twellman was ejected in the 90th minute for a poorly-timed challenge on the Fire's Andy Williams. Nicol had no qualms with the decision.
"The referee had no choice," said Nicol. "Players are individuals. Taylor was tired and he probably thought he was chasing a lost cause. There was no intent to hurt Andy Williams, much like C.J. Brown had no intent to hurt Brian Kamler when he caught him on Sunday night. It was a bad tackle."
Twellman noted that the victory was more important than his contribution to the match on the evening.
"We needed a win more than anything tonight," said Twellman. "Just as long as we got the three points, nothing else matters."
Fire head coach Dave Sarachan was left to rue a lost halftime lead and the momentum of a disciplined first-half performance.
"I thought we were solid and well-organized in the first half," said Sarachan. "We had good urgency and movement. The ball was moving good. Coming into the half 1-0 up, we talked about the second half. We said that New England is probably going to make an early push. They did."
Sarachan pointed to Matt Reis's 43rd-minute stop on DaMarcus Beasley as a key turning point in the match. If Beasley's attempt had found net, the Fire would have enjoyed a 2-0 advantage heading into the break.
"If DaMarcus gets that goal near the end of the first half, the game might be over," Sarachan said. "Reis [made] a good save."
Sarachan admits that the effort in the second half was not enough to overcome a spirited second half effort by the Revolution.
"When we got down 2-1, you would think we could play with some urgency," said Sarachan. "When we got down, we didn't make the right kind of push."
Kyle McCarthy is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.