FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The early stages of New England's 3-2 defeat to Chivas USA unfolded exactly how the Revolution wanted them to unfold.
Steve Nicol's side conjured up a bright and threatening start to the match by assuming responsibility for pushing the tempo of the contest. Ryan Cochrane and Chris Tierney both went close to opening the scoring as the Revs attempted to consolidate their early advantage, but both opportunities went begging.
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In a match that offered up plenty of talking and turning points, those misses ultimately proved costly as the Revs saw their unbeaten run halted at three games.
“I think we started really well,” Tierney told MLSsoccer.com after the match. “It was probably the best start we had all year. We just couldn't put one away. Ryan had a chance, I had a chance and we had a bunch of chances in the opening 20 [minutes]. They stuck in a sucker punch and we're chasing the game. It's different from there.”
Chivas USA settled into the match as the first half progressed and started to find their rhythm in possession. As the Revs continued to push forward, the Red-and-White made them pay for their lack of pressure on the ball with a neat sequence to open the scoring through Alejandro Moreno.
“We definitely didn't get the balance right, especially in the first 15 or 20 minutes,” Revolution midfielder Shalrie Joseph said. “We kept pushing the tempo to find that first one. Even when we were looking for the equalizer in the first half, we didn't keep our space well and, defensively, we weren't in the right positions. We didn't put enough pressure on the ball and that hurt us on the goal.”
Moreno's opener after 31 minutes exacerbated the problem as New England threw even more numbers forward. Nick LaBrocca exposed the Revs in transition after a giveaway in midfield to double the deficit in the 59th minute and force Nicol to take drastic measures.
Nicol handed 16-year-old Home Grown player Diego Fagundez his MLS debut in the 66th minute in an attempt to alter the situation. Fagundez didn't disappoint, as he immediately hauled the Revs back into the game by drawing a penalty two minutes after his arrival to throw his teammates a life line.
Moreno scored his second to potentially put the game out of reach with 10 minutes to play, but Fagundez popped up again to slot Kevin Alston's long ball home after 86 minutes to prompt a hefty dose of praise from Nicol and set up a grandstand finish.
“We were hoping to get a spark,” Nicol said. “We had thoughts about playing him at some stage anyway because he's been doing great in training. He just likes to play. You can see his enthusiasm. It looks like he has a footballer's brain. It was a no-brainer to get him on. He did a fantastic job. He gets a penalty. He gets a goal. What else can you ask for?”
A point (or three) would certainly have made Nicol's list as the Revs continued to create chances, but the equalizer never arrived. Chivas USA goalkeeper Dan Kennedy made two vital stops — one on Stephen McCarthy minutes before Moreno scored his second and one on Joseph in second half stoppage time — to thwart the home side's efforts to claim a result in the late stages.
“I thought we were going to come back in the last 10 minutes,” Fagundez said. “We attacked the whole time. They had a couple of chances, but we defended good. When we attacked, we were dangerous in the box.”
The inability to turn those chances into goals left the home side bemused at the final whistle. While the Revs know there were positives to take from the encounter, they know they must improve ahead of next Saturday's visit to Eastern Conference leaders Columbus.
“We just have to move on,” Revolution defender Darrius Barnes said. “There's a lot we can take from this game to apply to next game. We want to start the way and if we score a goal or two in the first 15 minutes, it's a completely different game.
"They're chasing us now, so maybe we can open the game up a bit and find a few more. We just have to try to finish our chances. I think that's what it boils down to: finishing our chances. It's easier said than done.”