Despite a spirited second half surge that saw them create numerous chances, FC Dallas went down to defeat Wednesday night after a momentary defensive lapse allowed the New England Revolution to claim a 1-0 victory at Gillette Stadium.
Taylor Twellman made the vital breakthrough in the 23rd minute after the Hoops allowed Clint Dempsey to run at the defense without closing him down. Dempsey's cross slipped between defenders and found a similarly unmarked Twellman to tap home from six yards.
Dallas piled on the pressure in the late stages of the match, and rang the bar with an 81st-minute header from Drew Moor, but it could not find the opening necessary to earn a draw.
FC Dallas head coach Colin Clarke opted to rest captain Simo Valakari, inserting Mark Wilson in the center of midfield to pair with Richard Mulrooney. The Revolution welcomed back offensive fulcrum Dempsey and left back Avery John from World Cup duty and rewarded the pair with a spot in the starting 11.
It was a cagey opening 20 minutes as both teams took their time settling into the contest and generating little in the way of chances from open play. The home side had a free kick from 22 yards on 18 minutes after Bobby Rhine was harshly booked for a shoulder charge on Twellman as the forward headed towards goal, but Andy Dorman's free kick sailed well over the bar.
Twellman's 23rd minute goal sparked the contest to life for the home side. The striker had Dempsey to thank for a simple tap-in. Dempsey ran at a FC Dallas defense that was slow to close the Texan down. Given ample time, Dempsey's run exploited the space and gave time to slot through the unaware defense to the open Twellman. The striker gratefully tapped home from inside the goal area to open the scoring.
The strike encouraged the Revolution to push onwards and they created more through the running of Dempsey in the 28th minute, as his penetrating run found Twellman out wide and the forward crossed back into the area only for Dempsey to send his unchallenged header wide.
Ronnie O'Brien tried to draw his teammates back into the contest with a pair of chances late in the first half. O'Brien missed just wide of Matt Reis's left hand post with a cross to the far post in the 35th minute before hitting the bar on 44 minutes after Reis misjudged a distant free kick from the Irish midfielder.
It was almost disaster for Dallas four minutes after the interval as Dario Sala flapped at a cross from Jay Heaps and left it on the doorstep for Dempsey to hit home, but the Revolution midfielder was caught unaware and skipped the ball wide of the post.
Against the run of play, Carlos Ruiz nearly conjured an equalizer in the 52nd minute. Ruiz beat John down the center of the park but his low shot was brilliantly foiled by Reis with a quick reaction down to the left by the Revolution 'keeper.
Dorman replied quickly for the Revolution, taking a ball over the top from Jose Cancela two minutes later but the midfielder did not challenge Sala with his weakly-hit effort.
The visitors had a legitimate shot at a penalty on 59 minutes after Heaps felled Ruiz just inside the penalty area. As referee Abbey Okulaja waved play on, Kenny Cooper beat two Revolution defenders before Reis dived to claim the ball off Cooper's foot as the burly striker tried to round the 'keeper.
After Sala was down for several minutes with an unspecified head injury in the 66th which left him bandaged and wearing a tight-fitting skullcap, the Hoops gradually worked themselves back into the contest and looked the more threatening of the two sides as they moved the ball around with urgency.
Clarke made a pair of substitutions in the 75th minute with Roberto Mina and Simo Valakari on for David Wagenfuhr and Wilson in an attempt to spur FC Dallas towards an equalizer.
It nearly worked as Moor rattled the post from a Mulrooney cross in the 81st minute in the aftermath of a bitterly disputed free kick awarded to the Hoops after Heaps was adjudged to have undercut Mina as he attempted to climb for a header 25 yards from goal.
Substitute Dominic Oduro, on for Cooper in the 84th minute, drew a fine diving save from Reis in the 92nd minute, forcing the Revs 'keeper to full stretch to deny his goal-bound effort. Mina attempted to get on the rebound, but Reis was quick to get a hand on his attempt and force it out for a corner kick.
Oduro nearly found his goal with the last kick of the game in the ninth minute of stoppage time, slaloming through Revolution defense before his shot just sliced wide of Reis's left-hand post.
Kyle McCarthy is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.