FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — One objective drove the New England Revolution this week: Get a victory against the depleted Vancouver Whitecaps.
It took a bit longer than expected to produce the required impetus and the Revs didn't replicate the performance they produced in last Saturday's 0-0 draw with Colorado, but Shalrie Joseph's penalty kick four minutes after halftime ultimately secured the desired three points.
“We've won,” Revolution coach Steve Nicol told MLSsoccer.com after the match. “We're excited to win the game. We've won the game, and I think we've deserved to win the game overall.”
WATCH: Full match highlights
Such plaudits looked unlikely during a disappointing first-half performance. New England passed the ball around reasonably well against the Rapids one week ago, but they struggled to find similar rhythm in the first half against a second-string Whitecaps side with one eye on Wednesday's Nutrilite Canadian Championship first-leg tie against Toronto FC.
“Give Vancouver credit,” Revolution midfielder Benny Feilhaber said. “They've had a tough week, but they came in here and hustled. They ran around a lot and made it difficult for us. I think they even had a little bit better of the game at parts during the first half, but I do think that as the game went on, we improved and started getting more dangerous plays closer to their goal.”
New England noticeably improved at the start of the second half and Feilhaber soon found himself in the middle of the most important sequence of the match shortly after play resumed. Vancouver didn't fully clear Darrius Barnes' long throw. Feilhaber collected just inside the Whitecaps' penalty area before plotting his decisive move.
“The ball didn't really sit up for me to shoot it that well,” Feilhaber said. “I didn't think I could have shot it, so I faked the shot and [Vancouver defender Wes Knight] bit on it. He stepped right on my ankle.”
Joseph stepped up to dispatch the ensuing penalty award to stake the revived Revs to a lead they would not relinquish. Feilhaber thought he had doubled the lead moments later after coolly chipping home after neat interplay with Rajko Lekic, but the assistant referee harshly ruled out the effort for offside.
Without the second goal in tow, the Revs needed to navigate a couple of nervous moments toward the end of the match. New England goalkeeper Matt Reis somehow pushed away Omar Salgado's header with 20 minutes to play, while Long Tan volleyed straight at Reis from a promising position shortly before full time.
Those efforts — and a driven Sainey Nyassi effort that Jay Nolly somehow poked away eight minutes from time — did not change the final outcome or the final verdict regarding the home side's showing. On this night, the focus fell solely on the ability to capture the victory.
“I don't know if we'll really have too much to build off on the performance,” Revolution midfielder Chris Tierney said. “It wasn't the prettiest win and we kind of had to grind it out, but the three points were definitely crucial. It was a game we felt like was a must-win at this stage of the season. We'll take the three and move on.”