Revs grab point in season opener

CARSON, CA. – Poor conditions and a heavily favored opponent wasn’t enough to prevent the New England Revolution  (0-0-1, 1 pt.) from opening their season with a draw on the road against the Los Angeles Galaxy (1-0-1, 4 pts.). Shalrie Joseph gave the Revs a dream start with a goal in just the 3rd minute, but Juninho equalized for the defending Supporters’ Shield winners just before halftime and the two sides finished deadlocked at 1-1.

Revs Captain Shalrie Joseph opened the scoring on Sunday. (Photo by CHRIS ADUAMA/aduama.com)

The Revs, without the services of newcomers Didier Domi and Ousmane Dabo, as well as regular right back Kevin Alston, all due to injury, were forced to make several changes to their preferred starting line-up. Head Coach Steve Nicol opted to use a 4-3-3 formation with rookie center back A.J. Soares paired Franco Coria, a recent signing from Argentina, at the heart the defense. Darrius Barnes was played out of position at right back, while Chris Tierney got the start on the left.

Soares wasn’t the only rookie to start on his debut as first-year midfielder Stephen McCarthy started alongside Joseph and Pat Phelan in the midfield. Zack Schilawski started as striker, while Marko Perovic and Zak Boggs patrolled the wings.

It was Schilawski who created the Revs first chance of the match, hounding the Galaxy defense to earn the Revs an early corner. Perovic swung the set piece into the box, where the Galaxy’s clearance fell right back to the creative Serbian. Perovic immediately sent the ball back towards goal, where Joseph beat Los Angeles goalkeeper Josh Saunders at the far post with a header to give the Revs a 1-0 lead just two and a half minutes into the match.

The Galaxy had the better of the play the rest of the half and kept the Revs backline under near constant pressure. A 12th minute free kick from David Beckham forced an impressive save from Revs ‘keeper Matt Reis. Reis came up big again minutes later of a powerful header from Landon Donovan.

The home side thought they had found the equalizer in the 16th minute, only to see it discounted by a controversial call from referee Hilario Grajeda. Reis, struggling to grasp the ball in the pouring rain, failed to hold on to a Beckham cross and Juninho slotted in the rebound for the Galaxy. The home crowd’s excitement quickly turned to anger however, as Grajeda claimed Mike Magee had fouled Reis, though the contact seemed minimal.

Things turned sour for the Revs in the 22nd minute when Perovic, the team’s reigning MVP and the creative spark in the offense was forced to leave the match with a hamstring strain. Gambian International Kenny Mansally entered in his place.

Just a minute later the Galaxy again was celebrating what they believed was the tying goal. This time a long shot from Chris Birchall was saved by Reis, but the rebound fell right to Landon Donovan. Donovan’s shot was saved by Reis as well, but Magee redirected the subsequent rebound into the empty net. This time the assistant referee had his flag up the entire play, correctly ruling Donovan offside.

There was no help to be had from the officiating staff in the 39th minute, however, as Juninho rocketed a shot into the net from 30 yards-out to finally knot the score at 1-1. A poor clearance by Soares in the waterlogged pitch fell right to Juninho who took a touch before sending a powerful shot past a flailing Reis.

The Revs regrouped for the second half and began to do a better job holding possession. The visitors withstood a few chances from the Galaxy before Joseph nearly doubled his tally in the 65th minute. The Revs captain got the ball behind the defense off a deflected shot from Schilawski. One-on-one with Saunders, Joseph attempted to slot a shot inside the post, but his effort was denied by the woodwork. Joseph appeared offside in subsequent replays, but there was no call from the referee.

Both sides struggled to create chances as the condition of the pitch worsened from the wind and driving rain, but the Galaxy found time to have one more goal disallowed before the match ended. Juan Pablo Angel, a designated player acquired from the New York Red Bulls in the offseason, came on off the bench for his debut in the second half after missing the Galaxy’s season opener on Tuesday due to injury and thought he had opened his account with his new team in stoppage time. Angel’s goal, however, was nullified after he was correctly ruled offside.

The Revs return to action on Saturday as they take on D.C. United at Gillette Stadium  in the team’s home opener. Kickoff is slated for 4:30 p.m.

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About Sean Donahue

Sean Donahue has been covering the New England Revolution since 2002 for various publications. He has covered four MLS Cups, in addition to covering various international matches, including World Cup Qualifying and the CONCACAF Gold Cup. He has done freelance work for the AP and ESPN Boston. Sean hosted Revolution Recap, a weekly radio program covering the New England Revolution and U.S. Men's National Team from 2005-2008. He is a member of the North American Soccer Reporters. Sean can be reached at nesoccertoday@gmail.com or followed on twitter @SeanLDonahue