FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – No amount of planning can prepare a team for the situation the New England Revolution confronted just six minutes into Saturday night's 1-0 defeat to Toronto FC.
That’s when Revs center back Stephen McCarthy left the game, subbed off due to concussion-like symptoms sustained in a clash of heads with TFC striker Ryan Johnson in the second minute. New England head coach Jay Heaps sent usual midfielder Shalrie Joseph in as a makeshift centerback, plunging an in-form and previously settled backline into uncertainty.
HIGHLIGHTS: NE 0, TOR 1
“It's very simple for me: I think the injury hurt us,” Revolution midfielder Clyde Simms told MLSsoccer.com after the match. “You're never ready for an injury or for a substitution that early in the game. We've had a lot of continuity with our back four. I think that threw us off a little bit and there was a little bit of an adjustment period switching things around.”
As the Revs tried to sort out their defensive shape with Joseph inserted into McCarthy's spot, the Reds created the only goal of the match after eight minutes.
Luis Silva ultimately scored his second goal in two games, but he owed a debt to neat buildup play from Danny Koevermans and Reggie Lambe on the edge of the penalty area. Lambe's incisive run and the neat one-two between Silva and Koevermans exploited the uncertainty in New England’s back four and paved the way for a simple finish.
It didn't take long for the Revs to find the proper defensive shape, and Toronto had difficulty staging any meaningful threats on goal. But those fleeting moments of doubt ultimately proved fatal to their chances of claiming all three points and extending their unbeaten run to six matches.
“[Losing Stephen McCarthy] hurt us,” Revolution defender Chris Tierney told reporters after the game. “We kind of lost our rhythm after that. To start the game, I thought we were OK and then he went down and it took us a little while to get [Joseph] on. [Shalrie is] obviously a fantastic player, and credit to him for coming in cold, but it threw our rhythm off and we had to adjust from there. We should have been able to get the job done and we didn’t.”