New England Soccer Today

No Excuse

Three times this season the New York Red Bulls have scored four or more goals in a match. With legendary French striker Thierry Henry and skilled and experienced American forward Kenny Cooper up top, it’s not hard to see why.

With that in mind, any team venturing into Red Bull Arena would know the importance of a fast start. For the New England Revolution, however, taking the initiative proved problematic as New York had the visitors on the back foot from the opening whistle.

For a young team like the Revs, going into a fantastic soccer specific stadium like Red Bull Arena and facing off against the likes of Henry may have provided some pre-match jitters as the Revs gave up an early goal in a 1-0 loss.

“I think it’s a little bit of confidence,” said Benny Feilhaber after the match. “We kind of come into the game thinking, ‘it’s New York, it’s a big team, they’ve got Henry, a nice stadium’ and then we’re down 1-0. Then we realize ‘ok, we can play with these guys’, then we start playing and we have the better of the game.

“I don’t know what the reason is exactly for it, but we’ve just got to be confident of our abilities and going out there and playing against each and every team and trying to get results,” he continued. “I think [Saturday] we played well for a majority of the game, but we weren’t smart enough and confident enough and obviously didn’t put away some of our big chances when it mattered.”

The idea that the team could’ve been star struck, however, was one captain Shalrie Joseph was quick to dismiss, despite having some young teammates.

“We don’t get star struck,” said Joseph. “Even though we’ve got a lot of young guys; AJ [Soares] is in his second year, [Stephen McCarthy] is in his second year, Kevin [Alston] is in his [fourth] year. They’re never star struck no matter who they play. They’re that confident and they know that we prepare all week for whoever we’re going to play. It was just a slow start and we can’t afford to do that.”

Alternatively, what could’ve been working against the Revs was the two week gap between games. While the time off was needed for several Revs to recover from lingering injuries, it may have left the team a bit rusty at the start of the game.

Of course that possibility wasn’t ignored by head coach Jay Heaps, who certainly experienced plenty of gaps between games as a player. The first year head coach had hoped to prepare his team for that possibility.

“We prepared for that so I hope that wasn’t it,” said Heaps. “But, it was something, you could say whatever you want it was. It was bad, it was worse than rust to start. And then the second half you saw the game open up.”

Whatever the reason was, it was an unacceptable start for a team in need of results as it looks to put an end to its current losing streak, which now extends to three games. Beating New York was always going to be a tough task, but putting themselves in an early hole made it all the more difficult.

It’s no coincidence that in the two matches the Revs have won this year, they’ve jumped on their opponents early and grabbed early leads.

“We’ve got to look at ourselves in the mirror and realize that it’s important that we start off hard especially being on the road and against a team like New York that has so much firepower and attacking weapons,” said Joseph. “We’ve got to be able to start off with that intensity and start off right. We didn’t do that tonight, but as the game progressed you could tell we were the better team.”

Yet as much as Heaps drives in the importance of fast starts in practice, game day situations are hard to emulate. More games will continue to build chemistry, but, according to Feilhaber, the team also needs the confidence that comes with results if they are to get off to fast starts against star powered clubs like New York in the future.

“I think it comes with results,” said Feilhaber. “The more you get results the more confidence and then you start learning how to win those games.”

The Revs won’t have any of the same excuses when they face the Colorado Rapids at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday. A quick turnaround should eliminate the possibility of rust, while the Rapids squad is devoid of any big name stars. Add in home field advantage and there will be no reason for the Revs to get off to another slow start.

How the Revs react on Wednesday to the disappointment of Saturday’s loss will be an early test of the true character of Heaps’ young team.


  1. rick sewall

    May 1, 2012 at 8:25 am

    The Red Bulls came out loaded for bear. As a team you should assume every opponent will play the way New York did.

  2. Brian O'Connell

    May 1, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    And I think that’s exacly what the Revs did, Rick – but they let it scare them. I think they looked at the tape, saw all the goals NY scored, and rather than stepping on to the field confidently, it seemed like they approached the game worried about how many goals NY was going to score. To me, it looked like Red Bulls’ goalscoring form got inside their heads. You know the saying about if a team doesn’t firmly believe it will win, it’s already lost? I think we saw some of that in the first 20 minutes of Saturday’s match.

  3. rick sewall

    May 1, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    In the 60s and 70s in the Connecticut league we used to confront problems like the Revs had by playing very defensively for the first part of the game. It either did or did not work . No shame in losing to a team that has Henry. When he’s on his game he can still play at any level with anybody. He is probably the league’s best.

  4. Chris B

    May 1, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    It’s okay to be star struck as long as you handle it like Sene did. Sene was playing against his idol Henry for the first time but instead of fearing him, he tried to out do him and he ended up being one of the only consistent attackers out there. He had everything but the finish. It is evident that players like Soares don’t get star struck though. He handled Boyd, Buddle, Keane, Perez, and Cooper very well!

    At least the team didn’t underestimate the NY defense which is what I thought they would do. However, as Brian stated, you just can’t have a losing mentality.

  5. rick sewall

    May 1, 2012 at 6:33 pm

    In any case , I wouldn’t mind having a player like Henry on my team. He is a game breaker. At he same time I agree you should never be star struck. I remember playing as a semi pro against teams much better than ours. All it did was make me play much better.

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