The New England Revolution traveled to Bridgeview, Illinois in hopes of finding a way to halt their abysmal six-game winless streak on Saturday night against the Chicago Fire. Instead, they extended it to seven games - including four straight losses - while simultaneously pushing their winless run at Toyota Park to seven as well with a 2-1 loss.
The theme for the Revs in the buildup to Saturday's match was accountability, and cutting out mistakes. Unfortunately, they did not do a very good job of the latter, and will have some serious questions about the former on their return to Foxboro after both Fire goals came from preventable defensive errors. A.J. Soares conceded a penalty in the 4th minute that Chris Rolfe converted, and the whole team fell asleep on a throw-in at 25 minutes to let Sherjill MacDonald score and get the lead back for Chicago. Fernando Cardenas scored New England's only goal.
Revolution head coach Jay Heaps started the night off in interesting fashion, choosing to relegate USA international Benny Feilhaber to the bench in, letting Ryan Guy partner Clyde Simms in the center of midfield. He also elected not to start Jerry Bengtson, who played in a midweek friendly for Honduras.
Chicago wasted no time capitalizing on the Revs' lack of defensive discipline as Chris Rolfe started the scoring play in the fourth minute. Stephen McCarthy stepped out to close him down outside the box, and Rolfe played in Patrick Nyarko down the left before running on into the box.
This is where the play broke down; before Soares ever conceded the penalty. McCarthy, having been turned, signaled to Clyde Simms to follow Rolfe's run. Instead, Simms just drifted into space as Rolfe pulled out into the open, allowing him to receive Nyarko's return ball and forcing Soares across to challenge. Rolfe flicked the ball away from Soares, the Revs' defender caught Rolfe's foot, and the ensuing spot-kick was converted for the lead.
Seven minutes later, it looked as though the Revs had a chance of taking the Fire by surprise. Saer Sene chased down a long ball before crossing into the box and, after a scrum and some deflections, Fernando Cardenas pushed in his second goal of the season to bring the match even.
New England put together some sustained pressure after that, looking dangerous and dominating the midfield. They even had a shot at a rare set piece goal when McCarthy got on the end of a free kick, but his header was snapped wide of the near post.
Then, another mental error doomed the Revs to defeat. A routine 25th minute throw-in turned into a goal when almost the entire Revolution defense fell asleep, allowing Nyarko to get in behind and play in a cross off of the throw. Sherjill MacDonald was all alone in the box, and Soares couldn't get on him fast enough as the Fire's DP striker nodded a simple header home for the lead and the eventual winner.
After that it was all Chicago. The Fire asserted their physical dominance over the Revolution, creating at least three chances from set pieces that resulted in saves or near-misses. The second half brought on Benny Feilhaber for an apparently injured Lee Nguyen, but unfortunately Benny did not bring any change in fortunes, as MacDonald continued the physical superiority by nearly scoring after out-muscling Soares in the box.
Matt Reis made excellent saves, one off of a wicked Alvaro Fernandez volley and another from a Nyarko shot, to keep the Revs in the match, but they could not create any chances of note, even after Jerry Bengtson was introduced for Blake Brettschneider. In fact, the Revs next clear chance didn't arrive until the 82nd minute, when Simms floated a weak shot from distance wide of the goal.
Substitute Dominic Oduro nearly punished the Revs for a third goal on two separate occasions in the last ten minutes, flying through the Revs defense and getting himself into one-on-one situations with Reis, but in both cases he fluffed his chances. On the second, which was in stoppage time, he was behind every Revolution defender, but some incredible running and effort from Ryan Guy managed to put the Ghanaian speedster off just enough to blast his shot wide.
New England put some pressure on at the end, but their best chance was when A.J. Soares took down a clearance and blasted a half-volley on goal, but Sean Johnson dove to his left and caught it, saving handily.