Stephen McCarthy’s early injury gave Toronto FC an opening to grab the lead and the New England Revolution were never able to recover from the early 1-0 deficit as they fell to TFC at Gillette Stadium on Saturday night.
When McCarthy went down in just the second minute with concussion-like symptoms after colliding with Ryan Johnson, the Revs were left without their most consistent defender over the past month. Even more devastating, the budding partnership between McCarthy and A.J. Soares that had proved so effective on many occasions this season – including last Saturday’s 2-0 win over New York – was broken.
“I think the injury hurt us,” said defensive midfielder Clyde Simms. “We are never ready for a substitution that early in the game, and we have had a lot of continuity with our back four. So I think that threw us off a little bit, and there was a little bit of an adjustment period, switching things around and unfortunately they got the goal in that adjustment period.”
Four minutes after the injury the Revs brought on captain Shalrie Joseph to fill in for McCarthy at center back. While Joseph certainly has the skill to play the position – and proved it earlier this season – the chemistry with Soares that McCarthy has been building all season clearly wasn’t there and the forced switch left the backline scrambling to find cohesion.
“It’s a tough one,” said Soares. “It’s tough for (Shalrie Joseph) to come in cold, kind of right in the heat of it. Everyone’s starting and been warming up super hard and the game always starts fast so it’s a really tough situation for him to come in and I just hope (Stephen McCarthy)’s OK. You never want to see someone get hit in the head like that it’s always a tough thing.”
While Joseph said he was ready, coming into a game off the bench so early is never an easy scenario for any player, let alone a central midfielder filling in at center back.
“It’s kind of something you’ve got to be ready for,” said Joseph. “(McCarthy) going down like that definitely hurt our team a little bit. He’s been playing unbelievable for the last couple of games … But being on the bench… you’ve got to be ready to play at any time.”
Toronto took advantage of the confusion, intercepted a poor defensive clearance and sliced through the Revs defense before Danny Koevermans found a seam in the Revs back line and sent Luis Silva into the box. The rookie slotted a shot past goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth inside the far post to give the visitors the lead just eight minutes into the match. It was the only goal they’d need in the 1-0 win.
“(Losing McCarthy) hurt us,” said left back Chris Tierney. “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 (Shalrie Joseph) on. He’s 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.”
The Revs were left with 82 minutes to recover from the early deficit, but in reality, it seemed to take until halftime – after Toronto took advantage of the defense again and nearly added to their lead through Ryan Johnson – just for the Revs to adjust to McCarthy’s injury. By that point, Toronto was content to sit back and defend until the 90 minute mark. The Revs didn’t have enough ideas to break them down.
“Obviously we want to be better in the first half,” said Soares. “Over the 90 minutes we’re confident that we’re going to score more goals than them but tonight it just didn’t happen.”
Returning to the road on Wednesday with a road trip to face the Montreal Impact, the Revs can’t afford to give up another early goal and a lackluster first half. A strong opening 45 minutes will be key.
If the post-game reaction on Saturday was an indication, expect the Revs to be ready.
“We come away angry and hopefully use it as fuel to get us three points when we play on Wednesday,” said Tierney.