FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – If third place FC Dallas expected an easy ride against the struggling New England Revolution, they were in for quite the surprise. The Revs (5-11-12, 27 points) grabbed – and held – an early lead through Shalrie Joseph before wrapping up a 2-0 win over the 2010 MLS Cup Finalist, Dallas (13-8-7, 46 points), with an 85th minute goal from Rajko Lekic.
“The one thing about this team is that even though things haven’t gone our way, we’ve kept our chins up,” said Revs goalkeeper Matt Reis. “We’ve really tried to improve and we finally put it together tonight. We held off. We got a late goal too to put it away. We probably played our best game of the year tonight.”
Joseph grabbed the lead for the Revs in the 14th minute after a cross from Monsef Zerka. The Moroccan got the ball on the right wing after a nice back heel from Milton Caraglio and sent a perfect cross to the near post where Joseph neatly tucked it just inside the post with his eighth goal of the season.
For the fifth game in a row the Revs had the early advantage, but, unlike the past four, the Revs actually made their lead hold. Lekic helped the Revs avoid the trend of giving up late equalizers by doubling the team’s lead in the 85th minute. A Benny Feilhaber corner kick found Ryan Cochrane at the near post and the center back flicked it on across goal. With Hartman scrambling across his line Lekic got on the end of the header to poke it inside the far post with his left foot for his sixth goal of the season.
“It was important [to get that second goal],” said Lekic. “You never know; they only need a free kick or a corner kick to get something lucky in the end, so when I scored the goal to [make it] 2-0, 5 minutes before the end, I was sure it was for three points.”
The Revs made one change to the starting line-up that blew a 4-1 lead in a 4-4 draw with Philadelphia on Wednesday, replacing Cochrane with Franco Coria. Like Wednesday, the Revs got off to a bright start with Joseph’s 14th minute goal.
But unlike Wednesday, the Revs defense looked organized and gave up few chances. And on the rare occasions when Dallas did find a breakthrough, Reis was there to make the save.
That was the case just two minutes after the Revs took the lead when Maicon Santos forced Reis into action after getting on the end of a cross from Zach Loyd. Santos, just a few feet from goal, directed a header on frame, but it was right at Reis, who easily made the save.
Dallas tested Reis again in the 36th minute. This time another Loyd cross found Jackson inside the box, where he connected with a bicycle kick on frame. Reis was well positioned to make the save.
Rather than go into a defensive shell as they did in Philadelphia, the Revs continued to attack in the second half. Both sides exchanged chances in the 51st minute, first with Rajko Lekic forcing Hartman into a diving save with a powerfully hit shot from about thirty yards.
Seconds later it was Jackson dribbling through the Revs defense to get alone on goal. His shot was denied by an onrushing Reis and then bravely cleared by A.J. Soares.
“Tactically we didn’t drop into a shell like we have been,” said Feilhaber. “It doesn’t work. Unless you’re an amazing team at defending 10 guys behind the ball and you have no brain lapses whatsoever and lack of concentration, it’s going to be real tough playing 45 minutes sitting back and not giving up goals.
“And we didn’t do that today, he added. “…We definitely didn’t drop in 11 guys behind the ball. We kept two forwards up there pressing their defense and didn’t make it easy for them to build it out of the back. So all those things play a huge factor.
Head coach Steve Nicol’s substitution pattern was quite different from Wednesday. In the midweek disastrous draw, Nicol brought on defensive midfielder Pat Phelan for Caraglio to aid the team’s defense. This time Nicol kept his team’s shape bringing in fresh legs rather than tactic changing substitutions. Cochrane, Kenny Mansally and Ryan Guy entered for Coria, Caraglio and Zerka, respectively.
“Stevie (Nicol) made some good substitutions,” said Reis. “We weren’t putting midfielders on for forwards. We weren’t just conceding possession.”
Reis was called on again to preserve the shutout in the 80th minute. This time Santos unleashed a curling shot from the top of the box that Reis just managed to tip over the bar.
“We did give them some chances and we did slow down a little bit, but, in the end, we still tried to keep the ball,” said Reis of the second half. “We were still getting chances and we weren’t just kicking the ball away so they could come right back down our throats.”
The win was the Revs first since July 20th and first home win since May 14th. It also marked the first time all season the Revs had won a match by more than a goal.
New England now returns to the road to take on the Portland Timbers on Friday at 11 p.m.