FOXBOROUGH, Mass.—The halo effect of reaching the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final in midweek lasted about two minutes into the next game for the New England Revolution.
Sapong’s early goal proved an ominous sign on a night when those midweek exertions took an evident toll. The resulting 4-0 defeat at Gillette Stadium dashed the Revs’ hopes for translating cup success into league play and underscored the magnitude of the work ahead to seal a playoff berth.
“There are no excuses,” said Revolution coach Jay Heaps. “Across the board, we were second-best tonight. Credit Philly. They were better than us tonight, for sure.”
Most of the trouble once again occurred in the defensive half. Philadelphia operated deftly in possession with new signing Alejandro Bedoya and Tranquillo Barnetta linking well through midfield, but the Revs buckled at inopportune times. The frailties – from collective pauses, to mis-hit clearances, to suspect marking on set pieces – invited the Union to conjure the necessary thrust and punish the Revs for their weaknesses on the night.
This lopsided defeat marked the latest instance in a season-long trend of inconsistency in defense. New England sits at the bottom of the league in goals allowed (44) and goal differential (-15). Heaps cites his side’s penchant for conceding unnecessarily as one of the root causes for the defensive instability.
“It’s a little bit of everything if you look across the line,” Heaps said. “You can’t point a finger at one thing … We could break down every goal. There is something at fault in each of them. Sometimes, it’s positionally. That’s what we work on to make sure we’re not [out of position]. Sometimes, it’s overall commitment to making a defensive play. Sometimes, it’s a team breaking you down.
“You can live with the breaking you down; you can live with a team making a play on you, but I feel most of the goals we’ve given up are things that we could have avoided.”
At this stage of the season, Heaps and the Revs know they cannot afford continue along the same path if they hope to return to the postseason once more.
“The way I look at it, there’s only one way to go: We have to roll up our sleeves and get to work,” Heaps said. “Obviously, people are upset and this is as bad as it gets in terms of losses. However, we are still this fight. We have 10 games left. There is no one saying this thing is out of our control. We feel like when we get going, we’re dangerous. If we don’t get going – which is what we were tonight – we’re going to be watching some teams pass us.”