DC United’s poor home form continued as New England snapped a nine match winless streak and shocked DC 1-0 in front of Sunil Gulati and 15,000 plus at RFK. Matt Reis made six saves and kept New England in the match long enough for a late go-ahead goal from Stephen McCarthy.
The first half saw a different DC United team than the one that lost to New England 2-1 in March. The Black-and-Red dominated in the midfield and created a fluid passing game that stretched the field and created some quality scoring chances in the first half. The problem for DC was that the forwards could do nothing with the passes; Charlies Davies struggled to create quality chances as New England doubled him every time he touched the ball. A turning point in the game came in the 43′ when Davies missed a penalty kick. The penalty was called due to a cross that Pat Phelan elbowed in the box; Davies immediately stepped up to take the kick and skied it over the net. The blown chance epitomized the half for DC; they had numerous chances but either a failed connection on a pass or Matt Reis’ gloves prevented a go-ahead goal.
The weather (90+ degrees and humid) and DC’s draw with Dallas on Saturday left the team looking slower and less aggressive in the second half. And again it was the usual problems for DC that came back to haunt them. New England started the match in a 4-3-3 but switched to a more attacking 3-5-2 in the second half. The 57′ substitution of Sammi Nyassi for Kevin Boggs also gave the Revs some pace they missed in the first, allowing more chances down the wing. One of those chances resulted in Perry Kitchen coolly knocking the ball out for a corner, a corner which Chris Tierney expertly placed where an unmarked McCarthy headed it into the corner of the net. The score was not unexpected, however, as New England two minutes prior had a golden opportunity on a corner that they had misheaded.
“It’s obviously a tough [loss] to take because of the opportunities we had early to put a game away,” said DC head coach Ben Olsen after the game. “If you don’t do that, we’ve all seen the script, right?”
The win was the first for the Revolution since May 14 when they beat Vancouver 1-0 at home. What was particularly encouraging for the Revs was they won the game without Benny Feilhaber (red card suspension) and they bounced back from their weekend thrashing by Philadelphia. The 3-5-2 formation did put some pressure on the wings and helped the visitors create some good opportunities late as well as pressure rookie fullback Perry Kitchen. While Shalrie Joseph struggled as a attacking/central midfielder (understandably), Rajko Lekic played well up top for New England and created some chances.
All of this would have been a moot point if not for Matt Reis, who had an incredible game and made some critical saves, especially in the first half when DC was pressuring. Late in the game he put an exclamation point on his match with a deflection off his leg of a point-blank De Rosario attempt. Head coach Steve Nicol praised him after the match: “He made a couple of saves at real important times. He gave us the strength to go on and win the game.”
DC falls to 2-3-5 at home, the kind of record that halts any talk of playoff contention. The two newest acquisitions (De Rosario and Brandon McDonald) were the best players on the pitch, with DeRo creating numerous opportunities (as well has having great scoring chances) and McDonald not only organizing the defense but solidly stopping a few quality New England chances. Another star for DC was young keeper Bill Hamid, who made a couple of great stops and was aggressive and confident in goal. But again, it was set pieces and defensive lapses that hurt this team in the end, as well as an inability to convert early chances. Whether it be tired legs or growing pains, DC let a great opportunity to climb the standings slip by yesterday.