FULLERTON, Calif. - Defensive midfielder Shalrie Joseph scored his first goal in almost a year late in the second half and goalkeeper Matt Reis made six saves, as the New England Revolution clinched first place in Group B of SuperLiga 2008 with a 1-1 draw with MLS foe Chivas USA at Cal State Fullerton's Titan Stadium on Sunday night.
With the result, the Revs (2-0-1, 7 pts.) finished undefeated in group play of the competition, setting up a meeting in the semifinal round with the most recent Mexican Apertura champion, Atlante, on Wednesday, July 30, at Gillette Stadium. Atlante (2-1-0, 6 pts.) finished second in Group A, beating CD Guadalajara in a head-to-head tiebreaker. Complete details for the semifinal match, including time and ticket information, will be released on Monday.
Chances were limited in the opening half of Sunday night's match, as both teams struggled to maintain possession on the choppy playing surface. The first serious chance of the contest fell to the Revs in the 24th minute, when Steve Ralston's long free kick from near midfield was driven into the box to defender Chris Albright, who flicked a header just wide of the right post with his back to goal.
Seven minutes later, Chivas USA threatened for the first time through Ante Razov. Midfielder Sacha Kljestan's long-range drive was blocked, but the deflection looped over the Revs' backline and into the path of Razov, whose bouncing, left-footed volley was pawed away by Reis.
Reis was forced into another save in the 42nd minute, this time diving full-stretch to deny Jesse Marsch. The Chivas USA midfielder lined up a left-footed drive from 20 yards out, and his effort appeared to be heading for the upper right corner. However, Reis dove to his left to push the ball around the post and out for a corner kick.
The Revolution had a great chance to take the lead less than a minute into the second half, but Dan Kennedy denied Sainey Nyassi with his first save of the match. Joseph's long, diagonal pass from well behind the midfield stripe was controlled well by Nyassi in the right side of the area, as the Gambian jumped over Goats' defender Francisco Mendoza and brought the ball down with his chest. However, Nyassi's low shot was smothered by Kennedy, who had come charging off his line.
Razov had two more opportunities to put Chivas USA on the board in the 52nd and 56th minutes, respectively, but failed to find the back of the net on either occasion. First, he was denied by Reis, then he sent a flashing volley inches wide of the right post.
However, the Goats' forward would finally convert one of his chances in the 59th minute, finishing his own rebound after having his initial shot saved. After being sent on a breakaway down the left side, Razov had his first effort saved by Reis, but the ball squirted under the Revs' goalkeeper and bounced toward goal. Razov was first to the rebound and finished high into the net past a pair of backtracking New England defenders.
The Revs responded to the goal by replacing defender Amaechi Igwe with midfielder Khano Smith in the 69th minute and switching from a 4-4-2 formation to a 3-5-2 setup, as Smith took over on the left side and Ralston moved into an attacking midfield role.
Just nine minutes later, New England was rewarded for its tactical change with the equalizing goal. Ralston's corner kick from the right side swung to Joseph near the penalty spot, and the Grenada National Team member's powerful header was driven low to the left side of the net. Kennedy appeared to get his hand behind the shot, but the ball slipped under him and just across the goal line before an attempted clearance by Goats' midfielder Daniel Paladini.
After drawing level, the Revs seemed content to defend for the final 10 minutes and secure the point, knowing that the result would clinch top spot in the group. Reis finished with six saves for the Revs, while Kennedy stopped one shot between the pipes for Chivas USA.
If New England defeats Atlante in its semifinal match, the club will host the SuperLiga 2008 Final at Gillette Stadium on Tuesday, Aug. 5. Following SuperLiga, the Revs will resume their MLS regular-season schedule on Saturday, Aug. 9, when they will host the Chicago Fire at Gillette Stadium.
New England Revolution at Chivas USA
July 20, 2008 - Fullerton, Calif. (Titan Stadium)
CHV - Ante Razov (unassisted) 59
NE - Shalrie Joseph (Steve Ralston) 78
New England Revolution: Matt Reis (GK), Amaechi Igwe (Khano Smith 69), Michael Parkhurst, Jay Heaps, Chris Albright, Steve Ralston, Shalrie Joseph, Jeff Larentowicz, Sainey Nyassi (Wells Thompson 81), Kheli Dube, Kenny Mansally (Chris Tierney 86)
Substitutes Not Used: Doug Warren (GK), Rob Valentino, Brandon Manzonelli, Brandon Tyler
STATS: Shots 6; Shots on Goal 2; Saves 6; Corner Kicks 6; Offsides 2; Fouls Committed 5
Chivas USA: Dan Kennedy (GK), Francisco Mendoza, Bobby Burling (Shavar Thomas 84), Claudio Suarez, Carey Talley, Jonathan Bornstein, Sacha Kljestan, Jesse Marsch, Daniel Paladini (Lawson Vaughn 86), Atiba Harris (Jorge Flores 84), Ante Razov
Substitutes Not Used: Lance Parker (GK), Jim Curtin, Anthony Hamilton, Roberto Nurse
STATS: Shots 17; Shots on Goal 7; Saves 1; Corner Kicks 6; Offsides 7; Fouls Committed 14
NE - Steve Ralston (caution) 17
NE - Wells Thompson (caution) 93+
Referee: Abbey Okulaja
Referee's Assistants: Corey Rockwell (SAR), Claudio Badea (JAR)
Fourth Official: Jorge Gonzalez
Time of Game: 1:54
Weather: Sunny and 74 degrees
New England will host Atlante in the semifinal round of SuperLiga 2008 on Wednesday, July 30, at Gillette Stadium ... the Revs played Atlante just four months ago as part of their preseason training, falling to the Mexican side, 1-0, on Mar. 6 in Playa del Carmen ... the match saw nine cautions and three ejections, with eight of the cautions and two of the ejections going to the Revolution.
Ante Razov's goal in the 59th minute was the first conceded by the Revolution in SuperLiga 2008, making the Revs the last team in the competition to allow a goal ... New England held opponents scoreless for the first 239 minutes of the tournament.
Shalrie Joseph's goal was his first of the season in all competitions and his first in almost exactly one year ... Joseph last scored on July 22, 2007, when he converted a penalty kick in a 3-3 draw with Houston at Gillette Stadium.
Steve Ralston's assist was his second of SuperLiga 2008 and his sixth in all competitions this season.
Steve Ralston, Jeff Larentowicz and Chris Albright all returned to the starting lineup after missing the Revs' previous match against Pachuca (July 16) ... Ralston (L quad strain), Larentowicz (L quad contusion) and Albright (L hip flexor strain) all played in the Revolution's SuperLiga Group B opener against Santos (July 13) before missing the Pachuca match through injury.
The match was Michael Parkhurst's last for the Revolution before departing for duty with the U.S. Olympic team ... Parkhurst will be with the U.S. Olympic team until at least mid-August, as the Americans are scheduled to play group games at the 2008 Beijing Games against Japan (Aug. 7), the Netherlands (Aug. 10) and Nigeria (Aug. 13).
The match was the first-ever between New England and Chivas USA outside of MLS regular-season action, while it was also the first time that the two teams had ever met at Cal State Fullerton's Titan Stadium.