FOXBORO, Mass.—It’s not often a 3-1 result is flattering to the losing side, but the margin could’ve been far worse for New York City FC, who lost their perch atop the Eastern Conference standings after a listless defeat to the New England Revolution on Saturday at Gillette Stadium.


Josh Saunders was the rare bright spot and the primary reason the Revolution’s final tally didn’t reach five or six, making nine saves – including a handful of spectacular ones – as NYCFC was outshot 24-10 and only put one attempt on frame. The ugliness extended beyond the score line and the stat sheet, as NYCFC were booked four times, including a red card to Federico Bravo for a reckless challenge in the 86th minute.


“We just didn’t approach the game with the right mentality and the right intensity, and we didn’t realize it until the second half. By that time, it was too late,” said forward Jack Harrison. “I think we’re trying to keep a level head … We’ll see what we can do better and then put it behind us and move on to the next game.”


The lone attempt on goal, a tap-in by Frank Lampard of a cross from RJ Allen, cut the Revs’ lead to 2-1 four minutes after intermission and gave a brief indication NYCFC had shaken off a sloppy first half. But they conceded a third goal, to Diego Fagundez, nine minutes later that effectively clinched the result.


NYCFC offered little resistance, providing New England’s attacking trio of Fagundez, Lee Nguyen and Juan Agudelo more than ample time and space to finish the Revs’ three goals. Agudelo opened the scoring when he wound up all by himself 10 yards from goal after a failed clearance attempt of a set piece set up by the first yellow card. Nguyen had such a vast window to finish the Revs’ second goal that the crowd of 23,235 groaned when he didn’t shoot at the first opportunity.


“They played much better than us tonight and they deserved to win the game,” said NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira. “We didn’t play at all. I think we had a lack of desire to compete against them, a lack of [aggressiveness], and when you don’t have that it’s difficult to play any type of football match.”


Toronto FC, which has a game in hand on NYCFC, seized a two-point lead atop the standings as NYCFC was faltering, and the New York Red Bulls can similarly surge past their cross-river rivals with a victory Sunday against D.C. United.


“We just weren’t good enough to get what we wanted out of the match. Overall we just need to be better,” said Allen, who came on to start the second half. “I think we need to learn from this … We have two home games coming up, two of the most important games of the year, and six points is a must.”