June 16, 2011
By Adam Burrows, New England Soccer News contributor
Scoreless draw for Revs, Toronto
FOXBOROUGH, Mass.--What happens when the league’s most tepid offense meets its most porous defense? Not much in the way of scoring, as the New England Revolution (3-7-5, 14 pts) and Toronto FC (2-5-9, 15 pts) played to a 0-0 tie Wednesday night at Gillette Stadium.
|Kevin Alston’s goal line save in the 36th minute denied Toronto’s Alan Gordon a potential game-winning goal against the Revs.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Perhaps the best that can be said about the exhibition, beyond the fact that it broke the Revolution’s four-game losing streak, is that few fans were there to see it, thanks to a conflict with Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals. A season-low crowd of 6,680 attended the match, as the attention of New England sports fans was directed toward the Boston
Bruins and another Canadian opponent.
Entering the game, the Revolution had scored only 11 goals in their 14 games, not surprising given that they had only generated 46 shots on goal, also dead last in MLS.
Coach Steve Nicol, encouraged by the livelier attack that followed last week’s second half switch from a 4-5-1 to a 4-4-2 against New York, started off with two forwards, pairing Mansally up top with Lekic, who too often had been isolated and ineffective in a lone striker role.
The decision produced chances, as the Revolution sent 19 shots forward, including seven on goal, but the outcome was all too familiar.
Nicol was encouraged that the Revolution “had plenty of balls in the final third” but lamented that the team “just didn’t have the quality when it was needed.”
Chances were few for both sides in the first half.
The Revolution pressed forward early, earning three corners in the first seven minutes, but the closest they came to scoring was a Rajko Lekic header into the arms of Toronto goalkeeper Stefan Frei.
Gambian international Kenny Mansally, rewarded with a start for his lively play in the final half-hour against the New York Red Bulls last Friday night, was a Revolution bright spot, providing a reliable target at the top of the box, holding the ball up and distributing it to Lekic, whose ninth minute volley sailed over the frame.
Toronto, winless in their last six, began to look more aggressive in the 15th minute, when a layoff from Alex Gordon to TFC winger Joao Plata forced a save from Matt Reis to his right. Soon after, Doneil Henry’s header off a corner just cleared the bar.
The Revolution pressed back and a swirling half-volley from distance off the left foot of Revolution midfielder Chris Tierney went just wide of the Toronto net in the 20th.
A Toronto corner in the 36th minute nearly produced a score but a fortunately-positioned
Kevin Alston deflected Alex Gordon’s blast off the line at the far post.
Sainey Nyassi replaced Zak Boggs at the intermission and made an immediate impact, creating numerous opportunities down the right flank.
In the 50th minute, the Revolution displayed solid build-up play, with Nyassi delivering the ball to Lekic in the box who then laid it back for a thunderous Shalri Joseph blast straight at Frei.
Soon after, Alston’s cross from deep in the right corner to the far side of the box found Lekic, whose volley back across the box toward the far post froze Frei but went just wide.
The Revolution generated their best opportunity in the 71st minute as Kenny Mansally, moved to wide position on the left after forward Zach Schilawski came on for Chris Tierney, cut into the box and sent his delivery just out of Lekic’s reach at the far post.
New England continued to control most of the possession and create half-chances, including another rocket from Joseph in stoppage time that Frei touched over the bar, but nothing would relieve the team’s continuing frustration in the final
The only roars heard at the nearly vacant football stadium came from the goals scored on ice at the other side of the continent.
As Joseph noted after the game, the Revolution put numbers in the box and created chances, but just couldn’t finish them. “Games like that, we have to pick up three points.”
Nearing mid-season, New England can’t afford to squander many more opportunities. Reis, calling the team “a little snake-bit,” acknowledged that the Revolution is “at the bottom looking up” and observed that “points have been there for the taking” in an Eastern Conference that “isn’t as strong.”
The Revolution faces the Chicago Fire, another struggling Eastern Conference opponent, at Gillette on Saturday. Joseph believes the team will “need to stay hungry” and play with “more desperation” to get back into the win column.