Just over a minute into the New England Revolution’s 2014 season opener at Houston on Saturday night, the team found themselves down a goal and on the back foot. Things didn’t get any better for New England as the Houston Dynamo went up 3-0 inside 23 minutes on their way to a 4-0 victory.
It was about as bad a season opener for the Revolution as possible as the team started flat-footed and found themselves down big early. New England’s offense finally woke up about 40 minutes into the match, but lacked the finishing touch to cut into the deficit.
Without expected starters Andrew Farrell and Lee Nguyen out due to injury, and with Saer Sene still regaining match fitness, New England started newcomer Daigo Kobayashi and rookie Patrick Mullins in midfield, while Kevin Alston got a start at right back. Teal Bunbury started up top as expected, while Bobby Shuttleworth got the nod over Brad Knighton in goal.
The Revolution fell behind just over a minute into the match when captain Jose Goncalves overcommitted and failed to reach a cross by Kofi Sarkodie. The ball fell to Will Bruin alone in the box and he hit a shot into the lower corner out of the reach of a diving Shuttleworth.
Houston doubled their advantage in just the 13th minute after Mullins couldn’t control a Scott Caldwell pass. Corey Ashe won the ball on the left and ran forward before sending a cross into the box, where Bruin was left unmarked at the far post for an easy tap-in.
The news got worse for the Revolution when Alston was forced to leave the match with an injury in the 20th minute and was replaced by Darrius Barnes.
Three minutes later Houston added to their lead. Bruin again spearheaded the attack, running towards the top of the box before finding an onrushing Oscar Boniek García who eluded Chris Tierney’s sliding tackle and slotted past Shuttleworth to make it 3-0.
New England finally threatened to cut into the deficit in the 40th minute off a long throw from Barnes that the Dynamo couldn’t handle. Diego Fagundez was among those who attempted to get it on frame, but several goalline clearances from the hosts saw the ball go out for a corner. On the ensuing set piece, Tierney found AJ Soares, but his header was denied by the post.
The Revolution had another chance in the 44th minute when Bunbury got to a Dynamo turnover and found space in the left side of the box. His low shot on frame was tipped by goalkeeper Tally Hall and David Horst than cleared it out for a corner as the ball rolled towards goal. It was the only shot on frame New England had all night.
A minute later Fagundez got behind the defense on the end of a lobbed pass, but was too slow to get off the shot before Horst slid in to block his effort.
New England continued to stay on the offensive in the second half, but didn’t get a quality chance till the 60th minute when Fagundez found Kelyn Rowe with a beautiful flick. Rowe attempted a volley on frame, but his effort was just high of the net.
Two minutes later it was the hosts with a chance as Bruin had an opportunity to complete his hattrick, beating the offside trap and running alone in on goal. Bruin attempted to place a shot past an onrushing Shuttleworth, but the Revolution keeper made an impressive save.
Halftime substitute Jerry Bengtson had a chance to pull one back for the Revolution in the 68th minute after Houston failed to clear a free kick from Chris Tierney. Fagundez eventually flicked the ball on to Bengtson about a yard from goal, but the Honduran striker somehow sent his effort well high of the target.
Shuttleworth then came up with an impressive diving save to keep the deficit at three in in the 72nd minute to deny a curling effort from Andrew Driver. The sixth year keeper came up big late with two more saves on substitute Omar Cummings.
The Revolution got some positive news in the 74th minute with Saer Sene, making his return after suffering a season ending injury with a dislocated left ankle and broken left fibula in October last year, entering for Kobayashi, but it wasn’t enough to spark a comeback effort from the club.
Houston would add a fourth in the 92nd minute on a long range effort from Ricardo Clark that deflected off Cummings and beat Shuttleworth.
The loss was the biggest season opening defeat in club history. New England returns to action with a trip to face the Philadelphia Union next Saturday.