New England Soccer Today

Similar Scripts

Revolution center back A.J. Soares gets ready to challenge Sounders striker Eddie Johnson for a 50/50 ball during Saturday’s 2-2 draw. (Photo: Kari Heistad)

A different lineup, a different opponent, and a different venue seemingly should have led to two very different games for the New England Revolution. Instead, two games in a row the Revs found themselves trailing deep into stoppage time only to grab last-gasp equalizers to draw 2-2 against the Seattle Sounders in Foxboro on Saturday and away at Toronto FC a week before.

Besides both games featuring a 94th minute equalizer, the errors that led the Revs to being in that situation was quite similar. The positives – and the negatives – from both matches were nearly mirror images.

The headlines were largely stolen by the positives from both matches – a last second equalizer tends to spin a draw as a point gained rather than two points lost – and the good from both matches is something to cheer about. In fighting back from late deficits, the Revs showed a never-say-die attitude rarely seen last season.

“I think it shows a good resolve,” said head coach Jay Heaps. “It shows that we have that instinct that says, ‘uh uh, not today – we’re going to fight to the end.’”

That resolve is certainly worth celebrating – as is Heaps’ smart, game changing substitutions in each match – even if the Revs were able to take advantage of two teams in Seattle and Toronto that were in the midst of one of their busiest stretches of the season.

But, for all the good both matches showed, the negatives were a real concern. Both of Seattle’s goals and both of Toronto’s goals all came off headers with the assists coming from crosses from the left flank.

“Unfortunately, the two games were almost mirror images of each other – to give up two unanswered goals on two headers,” said Heaps. “It makes me upset that because we work on those things and it’s not anything other than owning up to it. Owning it’s coming in and you’ve got to do better … it’s just got to be on the player at that point.”

It’s easy to see why Heaps would be upset. At fault for goals in both games was a failure of defenders, particularly German veteran Flo Lechner, to put pressure on their opposing flank players, allowing their opponent an abundance of time and space to pick out the perfect cross.

While one might give Lechner a bit of a free pass against Toronto after coming in as a substitute and making his return from a long layoff due to injury, to see the same errors occur a week later against Seattle had to be frustrating.

Of course, Lechner alone wasn’t at fault. While his failure to close out on the crosser allowed for better service from the wings, it took poor marking by the rest of the defense for strikers to get on the end of the cross. Perhaps most surprising this late in the season were apparent miscommunications between veteran goalkeeper Matt Reis and center back A.J. Soares that led to easier finishes for opposing strikers in both the Seattle and Toronto games.

“We didn’t get close enough on a cross, unfortunately, on the second one, it was bad all the way around,” said Heaps after the draw with Seattle. “It was bad pressure, it was bad by Matt Reis, he’s got to come out and get that, and A.J. (Soares) can put a body on. So there’s three guys who’re at fault.”

Looking back at the Toronto game, undoubtedly both issues were ones the Revs sought to improve on. They didn’t. Even the return of captain Shalrie Joseph from suspension – and subsequent readjustment of the line-up – didn’t make the difference.

“Unfortunately as the game went on, we made the exact same mistakes we made in Toronto,” said Heaps. “And believe me, we worked on that all week, so that’s even more frustrating.”

Yet, the Revs still had chances to win both games. In particular, leading scorer Saer Sene wasted a trio of good opportunities against Seattle. Missed chances, however, will always be a part of the game a team has to overcome.

By not letting wasted opportunities frustrate them, the Revs were able to come back to grab a point in both games. That ability to overcome adversity will serve the Revs well as they look to make a push for a playoff spot. Such resolve allowed the Revs to gain two points in two games where they could’ve had none.

What can’t happen – if the Revs wish to return to the postseason – is giving up sloppy, easy goals to opponents and falling into early holes. And, making the same mistakes in back-to-back games is inexcusable. Such errors left the Revs with only two points from two games when they could’ve had six.

“We let them score,” said Sene. “The concentration on the two goals … we have to be careful for that in the next game.”

If the lessons weren’t learned from the Toronto game, Seattle gave the Revs a refresher course. Now it’s up to the Revs to take this week and do what they failed to do last week – learn from their mistakes and eliminate them against the New York Red Bulls on Sunday.

Leave a Reply