New England Revolution head coach Steve Nicol was content with the result, if not the performance, in his team's 2-2 draw with the Columbus Crew on Saturday at Gillette Stadium.
The Revolution struggled to maintain possession or mount sustained offensive pressure for most of the match, but struck twice in the first half through a Steve Ralston penalty kick and a Pat Noonan header from a Jose Cancela free kick to gain a point at home.
Nicol said he felt his defense was at fault in the first half. Jay Heaps allowed Kyle Martino through on goal for his 20th-minute goal, while Edson Buddle was left unmarked for his 28th-minute header past Matt Reis.
"I don't think we played particularly well the entire game, but we got a point. I think we spent more time in their half," said Nicol. "The two goals we gave away in the first half were a disaster. Heapsy [Jay Heaps] has held his hand up on the first one. On the second goal, it was someone losing their marker."
With his team deadlocked at two in the second half, Nicol saw his side fail to mount any serious charge towards the Crew goal.
"We wanted to get forward, but we don't want to expose ourselves at the back for the counterattack," said Nicol. "We want three points, and we made changes with those goals in mind. If we were 40 points clear in the league, we wouldn't try to change our attitude or what we were doing."
Nicol had to withdraw midfield playmaker Jose Cancela after 77 minutes. Insightful in the first half, Cancela was growing less and less effective in the second. Cancela helped to draw the penalty converted by Steve Ralston by sending Taylor Twellman in on Crew 'keeper Jon Busch, and he also served the ball to Noonan for his strike. Nicol noted that he had caught a knock in the first half that detracted from his effectiveness.
"Cancela got a knock early in the game," said Nicol. "He played very well early in the match, getting good balls into the box. Somebody just caught him, and he was a bit hampered after that."
Nicol knows that the ship is not lost, as for the moment the Revolution have joined Chicago in fourth place on 19 points.
"We're one win away from a playoff position," said Nicol. "If we're playing the last game needing four points, then that is a critical position right now."
Revolution forward Pat Noonan noted that the frenetic pace of the first half, which saw both sides score twice, may have detracted from the ambition in the second half.
"The pace of the first half was frantic," said Noonan. The legs might have been a little tired in the second half."
Noonan also noted that his team needs put together a complete effort in order to come away from crucial matches with three points instead of one.
"We need to play a full 90 minutes," said Noonan. "We are making too many careless giveaways at the moment. We are giving the other team free chances from corner kicks, free kicks, and other dangerous opportunities. We can't afford to do that in this league."
Like his counterpart, Columbus head coach Greg Andrulis was fairly sanguine about the result.
"It's a tie," he said. "Scoring two goals in the first half was good, giving up two was not, especially the way we gave up the one at the end of the half."
And like the Revolution boss, Andrulis also pointed to some defensive deficiencies.
"The way we gave up the goals today was disappointing," Andrulis said. "I thought we bounced back well in the second half. New England gave us some space today and sat back and waited for their counterattack, which got them their first goal."
Crew midfielder Danny Szetela made his professional debut, entering the match in the 85th minute in place of Ross Paule.
"I didn't want to try and do too much and do things that I can't do," said Szetela. "I tried to pass the ball and work hard. It felt good to get out there, and I got a lot of pressure off my back. Hopefully, I can continue to work hard and get more time."