It started well enough for the Revolution, but for the second straight game, it couldn’t close the door in the final scenes as D.C. United triumphed with a 2-1 win Saturday.
Sure, Jose Moreno made an immediate impact with his 6th minute goal. But without Shalrie Joseph on field, the Revs struggled to assert themselves in front of the home fans and, at the end of 90 minutes, watched a six-point swing go the wrong way.
Here are five things we learned from Saturday’s conference clash.
1. Matt Reis may be one of the best keepers in MLS, but let’s be honest: he can’t keep doing it alone. For the second straight game, Reis had to don the Superman cape to keep the score close. Whether it was Dwayne DeRosario’s rocket from distance in the 6th, Danny Cruz’s 13th minute shot from Nick DeLeon’s corner, or Josh Wolff’s 81st minute effort, the Revs relied heavily on Reis to come through in the clutch – which he usually does. But, he needs his defense to put together some heroics of its own as well. Sure, it was a wide-open game from start to finish. Even so, the back four has to do better to tighten up and avoid instances (see: 19th minute and 82nd minute goals) that leave Reis helpless.
2. Even when Lee Nguyen needs an IV before the game, he’s still one of the best players on the field. During the post-match presser, Jay Heaps revealed that his starting left sided midfielder was ill enough to require intravenous fluids before stepping on the field. Well, you couldn’t have ascertained it by the way he played. Not only did he allow create a number of early chances, but he also chipped in defensively by heading a Robbie Russell ball off the line in the 22nd minute. Although he couldn’t go a full 90, he certainly left it all out on the pitch for as long as he could – and hardly missed a beat.
3. Saer Sene may have already proven he can score goals in MLS, but he needs to fix the lens on his scope. Sene whipped in a great ball on the Jose Moreno goal, and he should be applauded for it. But what wasn’t applause-worthy was his propensity to put the ball either right to Kevin Willis or yards wide of frame. There’s no question that Sene has the ability to put some shots on frame. But he has to do better to find the back of the net, especially when the service is there. Otherwise, it may not be long before Bjorn Runstrom is called upon to play the role of supporting striker.
4. Saturday’s performance continues to reinforces one unavoidable truth: the Revolution is lost without Shalrie Joseph. And in saying that, it’s time to start thinking about the future. OK, so the Revs may have played better on Saturday than the last time Shalrie missed a match due to suspension (see last year’s 3-0 drubbing against the Union on Jul. 16). But let’s be honest: they’d be up a creek if their skipper had to miss a significant amount of time. Last year, there was some thought given to the idea of Stephen McCarthy possibly inheriting Joseph’s role down the road. And who knows? That idea may not be completely dead. Granted, it’s not easy to replace a center half of Joseph’s caliber. But, the Revs can’t continue to assume that Joseph – who’ll turn 34 next month – will be ready to go every week perfectly healthy (or without incurring a retroactive suspension, for that matter). It’s time to start considering grooming – or think about acquiring – a potential apprentice.
5. Jay Heaps cares more about results than the scoreline. Shortly after Chris Pontius gave D.C. the upper hand, Heaps could’ve easily made a direct switch when he introduced Fernando Cardenas in the 86th minute. Instead, he took out Kevin Alston, leaving only three defenders in front of Reis. Although the move may not have produced its intended result, it was a refreshing idea. Instead of playing it close to the vest and limiting the damage, Heaps wanted points and that substitution reinforced that idea. Sure, a three-man backline could’ve opened the door for another D.C. goal. But so what? A 2-1 loss still leaves you with the same amount of points as a 3-1 defeat: zero.