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NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION

September 22, 2012
FIRST STEPS
Revs hope small successes lead to brighter future

By Adam Burrows
New England Soccer News Correspondent

The Revolution had victory over the Red Bulls in their grasp on Saturday, but Jerry Bengtson's apparent fourth-minute goal was nullified by a questionable offside call.
The Revolution had victory over the Red Bulls in their grasp on Saturday, but Jerry Bengtson's apparent fourth-minute goal was nullified by a questionable offside call.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
FOXBOROUGH, Mass.---From small successes like these might the New England Revolution and its rookie Head Coach Jay Heaps envision a better future.

One week after being eliminated from the post-season for the third consecutive year, the Revolution dug deep to salvage a 1-1 home draw with the high-octane New York Red Bulls, who are battling for an Eastern Conference playoff spot.

Despite outplaying their long-time rivals and going a man up when Red Bull right back Connor Lade earned a second caution in the 74th minute, the Revolution entered stoppage time locked in a scoreless draw after being denied goals by poor officiating, the crossbar, and alert goalkeeping from Bill Gaudette.

Then misfortune struck, just as it has for much of this unfortunate season.

New England goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth, making his third start of the season, failed to corral a Wilman Conde cross, and after a brief scramble, Joel Lindpere, who had entered after Rafa Marquez left with hamstring tightness, headed the apparent game-winner into the empty net.

“It comes to Conde,” recounted Shuttleworth. “I’m at the near post because he could take a shot. It comes across and I hear A.J. (Soares) shout my name. I tried to kind of pick it off his head instead of punching through it, which is what I should have done. And then unfortunately I fell down and Lindpere was there to clean it up.”

But instead of lying down, the Revolution pressed ahead and with the clock winding down in the fifth and final minute of stoppage time, Ryan Guy sent a long delivery into the box that Darrius Barnes rose above the pack to head into the net for the late equalizer and his first career MLS goal.

“Finally, finally,” joked the versatile Barnes, who was forced to move from his more familiar center back post to right back after Flo Lechner departed in the first half with a knee injury. ”It kind of felt like LeBron winning his first championship.”

“It’s been a long time coming,” continued the fourth-year defender. “And it’s just great that it came at that point in time when we were down after they had just scored in the ninetieth minute. We were able to have that resiliency and come back and get one of our own. It helped us get a point and you know we were unfortunate not to get three because we definitely had some great chances in the first half.”

Earlier in the summer, when the forecast for the season had still looked promising, the Revolution had scored at the death in consecutive matches to earn draws with Toronto and Seattle, but in the second half of the year, much like last year, it has been the Revolution surrendering leads and giving up late goals.

Saturday night’s dramatic reversal of fortune before a season-high home crowd of 24,364 may give Heaps and company a much-needed jolt of confidence heading into the final four games of the season and beyond.

“I thought it was good fight to the end from our guys,” said an upbeat Heaps. “I thought we played well enough to win the game and had some chances, a couple of chances that weren’t awarded. But that said, I thought that when we went down the goal late, we showed a nice fight, and that to me is probably the most positive to take from the game.”

Heaps did not pull punches in criticizing the offside call that denied Jerry Bengtson a fourth-minute goal after replays indicated that the Honduran international had timed his run perfectly.

“I don’t want to comment further besides to say that it was a goal. What do you do? It’s tough, because to me that changes the entire game.”

Looking ahead, the first-year coach insisted there remain important goals for 2012 besides spoiling the chances of playoff contenders.

“There is so much to fight for. We are in the process of building something. We took a lot of steps forward; we’ve obviously taken a few steps back. I wanted to be fighting for the playoffs right now, but we’re not. But that doesn’t mean we’re not day-in and day-out pushing the best teams in this league. And that’s something we pride ourselves on. Obviously the results haven’t gone our way, but real men go in the locker room and find a way. We’re trying to build that. We’re trying to get our guys to respond like they did tonight, when they’re down a goal after the 93rd minute and they know they have a minute left and they pull their socks up and get something out of nothing.”

Heaps also made clear that he’s still evaluating talent heading into the winter, particularly in goal, where 37-year-old Matt Reis has been the mainstay for nine seasons.

“Obviously the focus is winning. The focus is preparing our guys to fight and battle like tonight, but you saw tonight we made two changes to the line-up tonight from last week in Bobby Shuttleworth and A.J. Soares. Bobby Shuttleworth, he unfortunately got injured right around the end of July, right after he’d started two games and played well. He and Matt were pushing. We’re at a place now where Bobby’s fully healthy and we’re getting a chance to see him over one, two, or three – I don’t have a number of games, but I wanted to let him know he has a couple of chances to really show where his trajectory is going to be. Whether it’s a top-class goalkeeper. He needs opportunity and tonight was about getting him that. A.J.’s the same thing. We know A.J.’s been fighting hard all season and tonight was about rotation. We’re going to see some more players over the next couple of weeks as well.”

The Revolution head back on the road to face Houston, another playoff contender, and Philadelphia, before returning to Foxborough for their final home game of the season against the red-hot Chicago Fire on October 20th. The Revs then wrap up the 2012 season the following week in Montreal.

   
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