WASHINGTON – With the prospect of slipping out of remote playoff contention looming ominously, New England coach Jay Heaps took decisive action with his final two substitutions to try to retain hope for another week.
He looked down his bench and told Benny Feilhaber and Juan Toja to take the field for the final 17 minutes of the Revolution's 2-1 defeat at D.C. United.
“It allowed us to change formation a little bit,” Heaps told reporters after the match. “We wanted to go out guns blazing.”
Feilhaber (on a quest to reclaim a starting berth) and Toja (on his Revolution debut) certainly played their part to live up to that directive in the final quarter of an hour.
The dynamic midfielders assumed positions in the center of the revamped 3-5-2 setup and exerted their influence on the game with clever passing and good movement. By picking up intelligent positions and providing plenty of service for their teammates, Feilhaber and Toja brought other players into the game and piled the pressure on United's rearguard.
“I think once Juan Toja and Benny Feilhaber came on, they really created chances for us,” Revolution midfielder Kelyn Rowe told MLSsoccer.com after the game. “I got the ball a lot more. You saw a lot more one-twos. Ryan Guy and I were able to find stuff out wide. Lee Nguyen was underneath the forward and found the ball a lot. I thought we created chances.”
If not for United goalkeeper Bill Hamid, one of the several opportunities launched toward goal – including a couple from Feilhaber and one created by a sublime Toja pass – in the final stages would have produced the equalizer and prolonged their quixotic playoff chase for another week.
Instead, the Revs were left to ponder another decent overall performance without the corresponding reward and the production of their two high-profile midfielders in the waning stages of the encounter.
“We had plenty of opportunities,” Heaps told reporters. “I thought Juan did a nice job of finding space. He hit some great vertical balls. Benny, too, found some nice holes and connected with Lee [Nguyen]. When the three of them were firing, we were looking pretty good.”