TORONTO – In the buildup to Saturday's season-ending 2-2 draw at Toronto FC, New England coach Steve Nicol challenged his players to show their professionalism in the final match of 2011.
The game carried no tangible impact – aside from jockeying for Re-Entry Process and SuperDraft position at the bottom end of the table – for either side. Under these circumstances, some players and some teams wouldn't approach the match in the proper manner. Nicol didn't want his players to fall into that trap.
“That's what I asked the guys,” Nicol told MLSsoccer.com after the match. “You're playing for the fans, for your teammates and the club. Let's see who the good pros are. Do you play because you love the game or do you play for a paycheck? They went out to a man and played because they want to play.”
By applying themselves from the opening whistle, the Revs were able to keep pace with the Reds and produce the type of performance required to capture a road result.
“It's an improvement from the past couple of games we played,” Revolution defender Darrius Barnes said. “Of course, we wanted to go out on a high note and get all three points. Unfortunately, that didn't happen. But I was happy with the way we started the game. We had a little spell where we relaxed and they got control of the ball. Both teams played well. It was end-to-end a little bit. Unfortunately, we weren't able to get the winner.”
Although Danny Koevermans dashed the Revs' hopes of collecting all three points from the ragged affair with his 83rd minute equalizer, the road draw reinforced that there are potential building blocks in place for next season, according to Revolution goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth.
“We're away from home, so a point isn't the worst thing in the world,” Shuttleworth said. “We're out of the playoffs. You could say that there isn't much to play for, but we showed we're still giving 110 percent. We want to put the pieces together for next year.”
The exact composition of next year's squad will provide a constant topic of discussion for the winter, but Nicol said this group managed to end its difficult season in the right way.
“At the end of the day, we didn't win the game, which I thought we deserved to do,” Nicol said. “But they showed they're good pros. I'm pretty proud of them for the fact that it's the last game and they played right to the very end.”