Riding a five-match unbeaten run and following a comprehensive performance against New York, the New England Revolution did not expect to leave Gillette Stadium on Saturday night with no points. Unfortunately, that's exactly what they did, as an early goal from Luis Silva handed the victory to Paul Mariner and Toronto FC.
"For me to come back and get a win is a wonderful thing," said Mariner. "Obviously, I feel sorry for Jay [Heaps], because his team was going in the right direction, but they still will go in the right direction."
Silva, who scored midweek against Vancouver, notched the game's only strike in the eighth minute after some slick interplay with Reggie Lambe and Danny Koevermans. It was the third time in four weeks that the Revs found themselves in a hole early in a match, but this time there were no late-game heroics to save their blushes in front of the home fans.
The goal was perhaps due to a little confusion, as Shalrie Joseph had just been substituted in for Stephen McCarthy. McCarthy left in just the sixth minute after a clash of heads that left him with concussion-like symptoms.
"I think the injury [to McCarthy] hurt us," said midfielder and captain Clyde Simms. "We are never ready for a substitution that early in the game, and we have had a lot of continuity with our back four. So I think that threw us off a little bit, and there was a little bit of an adjustment period, switching things around and unfortunately they got the goal in that adjustment period."
The match devolved into a slugfest after that, with New England beginning to get their feet under them but Toronto determined to pack it in and ride out their lead. The chances of Toronto finding a second goal - or even making a good case for it - were drastically reduced late in the first half when Danny Koevermans was stretchered off with a knee injury.
"I fear the worst for Danny and I've got my fingers crossed," said Mariner. "But I spoke to the doctor from New England, who I have the highest regard for, and it doesn't sound too good."
The second half featured sustained New England pressure, but the Reds had a job to do and did it. The Revs, after mustering just three first-half shots and two corners, rattled off fifteen shots and eleven corners in the second half. Furthermore, the Revs held 67.1% of the possession in the second half as Toronto struggled with an abysmal pass completion rate of 54.3%.
The story of that half (and the game), however, is told in fouls. A 15-5 disparity in fouls called illustrates a match where Toronto bullied and hacked their way through the Revs in an effort to break momentum and keep the play stunted.
"I think it's clear what's happening: we're trying to play and getting fouled," said Jay Heaps. "And you just want that to be taken care of early so it doesn't turn into what happened in the second half where no one on their team has a yellow card, except for one player who they sub out. And now their entire team is free and available to chop anyone down and kill the play whenever they can."
Regardless, this was a match the Revs needed to win. They leave for Montreal early in the week to begin a three-match road trip that also features stops in Kansas City and Philadelphia. All three matches are against Eastern Conference foes and will represent important three-point swings; in short, they are very tough games, and it would have been much better for the Revs to have these points in their pockets before getting on the road.
Heaps probably summed it up best: "It was shameful, to be honest."