The New England Revolution kept their playoff pulse alive with a comfortable 2-0 victory against the Dallas Burn on Saturday night at Gillette Stadium, as goals by Taylor Twellman and Steve Ralston either side of halftime ensured the points for the home team.
The artistry of playmaker Jose Cancela made the critical difference between a rather dour effort from both sides as he created the second goal just after the break to seal the victory that pulled New England back to within three points of the fourth-place Chicago Fire in the Eastern Conference.
It was almost the worst possible start for the home side, with Eric Quill testing Revolution 'keeper Matt Reis from a sharp angle after two minutes. A smart save from Reis kept the Burn from an early lead. Reis was again called into action in the seventh minute, only an acrobatic save denying an Eddie Johnson curling effort headed for the upper right corner.
Pat Noonan was almost gifted the opener on 21 minutes. An ill-advised slide rule pass by Carey Talley found Noonan unmarked at the top of the box, but his shot to the lower left was well saved by Garlick. Dallas responded four minutes later, as Quill curled in a cross to Toni Nhleko, but the burly South African only managed to hit a tame volley at Reis.
It became all one-way traffic for the Revs as the half wore on. Noonan curled a ball back into path of Cancela in the 38th minute, but Cancela's well struck first-time effort was directed squarely at Garlick. Kamler put a ball over the top of the Burn defense for Noonan three minutes later, but his flashing effort was denied by Garlick.
The pressure finally yielded a goal for the Revolution in the 42nd minute. Left back Marshall Leonard was given time to hit a cross 40 yards from goal. The inch-perfect cross was rewarded with a goal, as Taylor Twellman evaded the shoddy marking of Reyes and Clarence Goodson to power a header to the far post past Garlick. The onslaught continued after the break, and the Revolution doubled their advantage just after the interval. Noonan played an intelligent ball to the left edge of the box to the feet of Cancela. The class of the Uruguayan was on show as his delicate chip from the left side of the area found the run of Steve Ralston, who tucked a glancing header just inside the far post.
Dallas nearly conjured an instant reply two minutes later. Talley's well-struck volley nearly slipped through Reis's legs, but it was kept out by the Revs 'keeper.
Rusty Pierce then nearly gave the Burn a route back into the match with a 58th-minute giveaway. A poor clearance to the feet of Ronnie O'Brien was flicked on by Kreis to Nhleko, but his near post effort was deflected for a corner.
The Burn had a penalty appeal turned away in the 79th minute, as Shalrie Joseph hacked down Johnson in the box, but referee Alex Prus waved away the protests.
That all but sealed the Burn's fate, as only a brilliant diving save from Garlick stopped Twellman from claiming his double in the 81st minute, with Twellman's far-post effort acrobatically denied by Garlick at full stretch.
The Revolution continue their bid for a place in the MLS Cup Playoffs next Saturday when they face D.C. United at RFK Stadium in a massive match in the East (7:30 p.m. ET), while the Burn put their dwindling postseason hopes on the line with a second consecutive away match at the Los Angeles Galaxy (10 p.m. ET).
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Jose Cancela (New England Revolution)
Dallas Burn (10-13-5) vs. New England Revolution (7-12-9)
October 02, 2004 -- Gillette Stadium
NE -- Taylor Twellman 9 (Marshall Leonard 1) 42
NE -- Steve Ralston 6 (Jose Cancela 8, Pat Noonan 8) 47
Dallas Burn -- Scott Garlick, Carey Talley, Cory Gibbs, Clarence Goodson (Oscar Pareja 80), Milton Reyes, Ronnie O'Brien, Simo Valakari, Eric Quill (Brad Davis 53), Eddie Johnson, Jason Kreis, Toni Nhleko (Bobby Rhine 72).
Substitutes Not Used: Matt Behncke, Jeff Cassar.
TOTAL SHOTS: 11 (Toni Nhleko 4); SHOTS ON GOAL: 6 (Eddie Johnson 2); FOULS: 20 (Toni Nhleko 4); OFFSIDES: 3 (Toni Nhleko 2); CORNER KICKS: 9 (Ronnie O'Brien 5); SAVES: 8 (Scott Garlick 7)
New England Revolution -- Matt Reis, Rusty Pierce, Avery John, Marshall Leonard, Jay Heaps, Steve Ralston, Jose Cancela (Andy Dorman 80), Shalrie Joseph, Brian Kamler, Taylor Twellman, Pat Noonan.
Substitutes Not Used: Richie Baker, Perek Belleh, Bobby Thompson, Luke Vercollone, Doug Warren.
TOTAL SHOTS: 14 (Pat Noonan 4); SHOTS ON GOAL: 10 (Pat Noonan 3, Taylor Twellman 3); FOULS: 19 (Andy Dorman 3, Marshall Leonard 3); OFFSIDES: 5 (Taylor Twellman 4); CORNER KICKS: 4 (Jose Cancela 4); SAVES: 6 (Matt Reis 4)
DAL -- Eric Quill (caution; Tackle from Behind) 12
DAL -- Ronnie O'Brien (caution; Pushing, Holding) 37
NE -- Marshall Leonard (caution; Professional Foul) 47+
DAL -- Carey Talley (caution; Reckless Foul) 90
DAL -- Cory Gibbs (caution; Reckless Foul) 92+
Referee: Alex Prus
Referee's Assistants: Craig Lowry; Bill Dittmar
4th Official: Niko Bratsis
Time of Game: 1:52
All Statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial