FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – One moment shortly before halftime changed the course of the match for New England, who ended up losing 2-1 to Philadelphia on Saturday night.
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Before Cory Gibbs decided to challenge Eduardo Coudet four minutes before the break, the Revolution looked on course to end a two-match skid. Ilija Stolica staked New England to a deserved lead with a neat turn and finish after 31 minutes and the home side appeared comfortable as the Union struggled to conjure up any ideas in the attacking half.
All of that momentum seeped away once Gibbs tardily slid into Coudet at midfield and elicited a red card from referee Hilario Grajeda to reduce the Revs to 10 men.
“We went out tonight to get three points,” Revolution coach Steve Nicol said after the match. “And up until Cory is sent off, we were pretty much sitting comfortable. One-nil up, Bob [Shuttleworth] hasn’t had a save to make, and then the referee’s decision totally changes the game.”
Gibbs' dismissal may have altered the course of the game, but its impact did not arrive immediately. New England retained their defensive shape – Gibbs' departure prompted a switch to a 4-4-1 formation, with Marko Perovic as the lone frontrunner – fairly comfortably for most of the second half as Philadelphia pressed forward in numbers without displaying the creativity required to unlock the resolute Revolution.
“When Cory got sent off, it was a game changer,” Revolution defender Darrius Barnes said. “Any time you go down a man, it's going to change the game a little bit, but right when he got sent off, we thought collectively that we could still play and we were fine.
"Up until the 80th minute, they were panicking a little bit and we had them right where we wanted them. Then there were a couple of changes in events, they get a goal to tie it up and get the winner. It's disappointing.”
Two defensive mistakes ultimately undermined those efforts and sent the Revs crashing to their third consecutive defeat. Philadelphia substitute Justin Mapp enjoyed far too much time and space to loft in a deft chip from the edge of the penalty area to supply Jack McInerney for the equalizer. A few minutes later, Mapp slotted home a Sebastien Le Toux feed after Chris Tierney failed to send his clearing header to safety in second-half stoppage time.
“I take full responsibility,” Tierney said. “I muffed the clearance, obviously. I thought I did a decent job to get back and make the tackle. I don't know if we didn't track runners or what the problem was, but it was my fault. I probably should have headed the ball off the clearance. We were stretched and that was soccer. What are you going to do?”
In this particular instance, New England must attempt to brush this crushing defeat to the side quickly in order to prepare for Wednesday's SuperLiga final against Monarcas Morelia.
“As tough as it is, we just have to try to forget about this one,” Tierney said. “It's the hardest thing to do. It might be the worst loss we've had this year, all things considered being 1-0 up in the 80th minute. But that's soccer and these things happen. We have to get ready. We have a final on Wednesday and it is a must-win.”