Fernando Cardenas’ 11th minute goal put an end to the New England Revolution’s 269 minute scoreless streak, but unfortunately for the Revs it was sandwiched between two goals for the Chicago Fire in a 2-1 loss at Toyota Park on Saturday night.
The Fire grabbed the lead through Chris Rolfe on a fifth minute penalty kick, but Cardenas took advantage of some poor defending for an easy tap-in six minutes later. Fire Designated Player Sherjill MacDonald would score the game winner in the 25th minute.
The loss kept the Revs (6-13-5, 23 points) winless in their last seven (0-6-1) and mired in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, while the Fire (12-7-5, 41 points) jumped to third in the conference, only behind the New York Red Bulls in goals scored. Chicago is 6-0-1 all-time against the Revs at Toyota Park.
Head coach Jay Heaps made several changes to the line-up with Blake Brettschneider and Fernando Cardenas both getting their first start since July 14 in place of Benny Feilhaber and Kelyn Rowe. Ryan Guy slotted into the center of the midfield in Feilhaber’s place while Brettschneider started up top with Saer Sene.
“A few of the decisions were tactical, and others were just trying to get the best players on the field,” Heaps told the media after the game.
The Fire grabbed the lead just five minutes in after earning a penalty kick when Chris Rolfe was taken down by a sliding A.J. Soares in the box. Rolfe stepped up to take the spot kick and blasted it into the lower left corner. Matt Reis got a hand to it, but couldn’t keep it out.
New England responded with some direct play in the 11th minute, finding Saer Sene down the left flank with a long ball. Sene hit a low cross into the box that the Fire defense failed to handle. The ball bounced around before Fernando Cardenas slid in to tap it into the net and knot the score at 1-1.
But the Fire would grab the lead back in the 25th minute, after the Revs defense fell asleep on a deep throw in, allowing Patrick Nyarko to get the ball and dribble to the endline before sending a cross towards the six yard box. Dutch striker Sherjill MacDonald rose above Soares to power a header past Reus to make it 2-1.
“It’s always tough when it goes back and forth like that,” center back Stephen McCarthy told the media after the match. “You’re really happy when you score and it comes back, and you get scored on like that, it’s real tough mentally. I thought after their second goal we didn’t fold but we probably should have been a little stronger mentally. So, it’s tough, but we have to be stronger mentally and play better.”
The Fire perhaps should’ve added to the lead in the 43rd minute, first causing the Revs backline fits with some good skill down the right flank that led to a corner kick. On the ensuing corner, Pavel Pardo found Arne Friedrich, who beat his defender to the ball and flicked it on to MacDonald. MacDonald had lost his marker and had space at the far post, but sent his header wide from close range.
Chicago nearly scored a third in the 54th minute after saw confusion in the Revs defense and an injury to Kevin Alston saw the ball bounce out to Alvaro Fernandez at the top of the box. Fernandez blasted a shot towards the post, but Reis made an acrobatic diving save to keep the ball out.
A minute later, it was the Fire again on the attack, with Patrick Nyarko beating Alston into the box and running in on goal. Nyarko powered shot on frame, but Reis was quick off his line to block the shot.
The Fire continued to lead the charge offensively with a corner kick in the 74th minute. Again, the Revs set piece defense let them down as Jalil Anibaba rose up to head a shot on frame that Feilhaber, a halftime substitute, managed to clear off the line at the post. Dominic Oduro attempted a bicycle kick on the rebound, but couldn’t keep his effort on frame.
Five minutes later, Chicago substitute Michael Videira, a Milford, Mass. native and former Revolution player, nearly made an instant impact off the bench, blasting a shot on frame from just outside of the box after a nice run that forced Reis into another acrobatic save.
With the Revs pressuring late, the team finally got a shot on frame through AJ Soares from distance five minutes into stoppage time. The Revs defender unleashed a dipping shot, but Sean Johnson managed to keep it out with a diving save.
The Fire outshot the Revs 22 to 7 in the match, with only four crucial saves from Reis keeping Chicago from running up the score.
The Revs remain on the road and face the Columbus Crew on Saturday, Aug. 25. The game is set to kickoff at 7:30 p.m.
“We need to change the little things,” Revs midfielder Ryan Guy told reporters after Saturday’s match. “The little things are going to be the difference. A positive season and one we’d rather forget.”