When Scott Caldwell knocked that Luis Silva cross into the back of his own net, and Lee Nguyen had his first penalty try denied, you had to feel like the soccer gods had all but abandoned the Revolution.
Two weeks after they watched Sorin Stoica award two penalties to Montreal and a red card against them, and one week after a good goal was disallowed and a bad goal against was upheld, it seemed like the gods had better things to do. And that belief was only strengthened in the first 57 minutes of Saturday’s match.
Not only did one of the club’s most reliable players give the Revolution a self-inflicted deficit, but he handed the conference doormat – who came into the contest with a whopping four road goals – their first lead outside of RFK Stadium this season.
Then, in the 57th minute, it appeared the Revolution were about to stumble on some good fortune. Nguyen earned a penalty after he was fouled by Dejan Jakovic, and it looked like it 1-1 was imminent.
But Bill Hamid collected Nguyen’s weak shot from the spot, and at that point, it appeared all would be doomed for the Revolution and their puny playoff hopes. The gods? Well, as we saw a minute later, they weren’t as far as we initially believed.
On a quick strike into the D.C. half, Saer Sene played a picture-perfect through ball to Diego Fagundez, who even without the benefit of replay, looked well offside. Nevertheless, the flag stayed down and the teenager leveled the match at one-all.
As the final scenes unfolded, the Revolution benefited from another (!) penalty call, and even though Nguyen probably made 19,187 pulses race as he grabbed the ball and put it on the spot, he knocked his second try through. And not too far away, the gods were finally smiling upon the local XI.
While it was nice change of pace to see the fortunes reverse as the Fagundez goal stood, the reality is that the Revolution esssentially got away with one on Saturday. Hamid was his usual strong self and was up to the challenge for most of the night. Most often than not, assistant referees get it right on offside calls, despite what happened in Chicago last week. Oh, and most teams that concede and own goal, then miss from the spot don’t often get to collect three points in the process.
This, however, shouldn’t take away from the bottom line. Namely, the Revolution pocketed all three points and reclaimed fifth place with five games to go. For a team that hasn’t tasted the postseason in four years, this, in itself, is nothing short of an accomplishment, however minor it may be. An accomplishment that, to be sure, may have been achieved with a little bit of outside help.
Anyway, aside from all the hijinx, what did we learn from Saturday’s clash?
1. Scott Caldwell’s performance following his own goal showed how much of a pro he is. Soccer can certainly be a cruel game, as evidenced by what transpired in the 11th minute. Despite playing virtually flawless soccer all season, all eyes were cast on Caldwell when he accidentally pushed Luis Silva’s cross into his own net. Not only did it give D.C. the surprising lead, but the only road lead they achieved all season. Yes, you read that right. But Caldwell displayed his steel nerves shortly thereafter. He didn’t shy away from the ball one bit in the defensive third, and continued to tidy up the rear, as exemplified by his 11 recoveries. Just as a importantly, he helped the Revolution attack greatly in the second half. Want proof? If you’re the kind of supporter who pores over passing charts, check out Caldwell’s from Saturday night. Spoiler alert: it’s pretty darn good. Sometimes, it’s hard to believe that Caldwell is just a 22-year-old rookie, and that idea was especially true as the Homegrown Player bounced back to help the Revolution get a much-needed win.
2. Let’s be honest: the Revolution were bailed out by the officiating. For the third straight occasion, the controversy cloud hovered above a Revolution game. But this time, it downpoured on their opponent. As good as the Revolution attack looked in the second half, they were clearly helped by not one, but two calls for a penalty kick. In the 57th minute, Nguyen was brought down on a tough challenge by Dejan Jakovic, even though Jakovic appeared to get a piece of the ball. A minute later, Diego Fagundez appeared to be a good yard to two offside when Saer Sene layed him the through ball on the equalizer. The gridiron lines should’ve made it an easier call for the assistant referee, but he kept his flag down and the Revolution were suddenly even with D.C. Then, of course, a second penalty was awared to Nguyen in the 83rd minute, who this time nailed it to give the Revolution the come from behind victory that certainly wasn’t hampered by a little bit of home field officiating.
3. The Revolution probably would’ve blown out D.C. had it not been for Bill Hamid. Back in the first Revolution-D.C. meeting of 2013, Hamid was the hero in a suprising 0-0 draw on June 8. Not only did the Revolution enter the match fresh off a 5-0 trouncing of the Galaxy, but they fielded one of their strongest lineups of the season. But Hamid did well to stifle the Revolution, making key second half saves to preserve the road point. On Saturday, Hamid was once again the guests’ best player. While his signature moment was the save on Lee Nguyen’s first penalty, he was actually just as good – if not better – in the 68th minute. Nguyen launched a long-distance effort that Hamid barely tipped enough for it to hit bar before making another acrobatic stop on Nguyen again seconds later. It has not been a season to remember in D.C., but Hamid put together one of the best singular performances by a United player in 2013.
4. The comeback showcased how close a unit this Revolution group is. If there was any question of just how tight-knit this team is, one needn’t look any further than Saturday night. After Caldwell conceded the early goal, Matt Reis helped up his rookie midfielder from the ground rather than screaming his head off like a certain U.S. Men’s National Team regular. Seconds after Nguyen saw his first penalty stopped by Hamid, Diego Fagundez immediately scored, showing a collective resolve that’s been missing in recent years. Less than half an hour after Nguyen’s first miss, the midfielder was given a second crack from the spot, which he buried. And in the postgame scene, the support was just as obvious. When asked about Caldwell’s miscue and Nguyen’s miss, Jay Heaps was quick to point out that he’d scored a few own goals and missed a handful of penalties during his day. In the locker room, Nguyen mentioned that Fagundez and Reis bailed him out, and reiterated the same on Twitter. Saturday’s game could’ve been an ugly and frustrating 90 minutes, but the Revolution rallied around each other to show just much they had each other’s backs.
5. The fact that Charlie Davies didn’t get on the field was telling. With Juan Agudelo not listed among the gameday 18, Davies figured to be one of the Revolution’s first subs. Not only had he been in town for over a month, but if there was a game in which he was anxious to make an impact, it was the one against his old club. Apparently, the script got lost, as the goal-allergic Jerry Bengtson and gritty Chad Barrett came on. Barring an injury up top, it was clear the former B.C. Eagle wasn’t going to see the field, and that was confirmed when Andy Dorman came on in the 89th minute. When Davies arrived in Foxborough last month, many believed he’d be an extra bullet in the chamber. A player who could change the dynamic of a game off the bench. But after he was kept on the bench for the entire 90 against the worst team in MLS, it may be a sign that Davies hasn’t quite fit in as well as we all expected.