HARRISON, N.J. -- Facing a one-goal deficit at the half, Revolution coach Jay Heaps knew that he needed to make a change for the start of the second frame.
Although the Revolution were regaining their confidence after Thierry Henry’s quick-strike goal in the seventh minute, Heaps needed to see more. He needed someone to help keep the possession scale in the Revolution’s favor and put pressure on the Red Bulls’ back line.
In short, he needed Benny Feilhaber.
While Heaps may not have pointed to the 27-year-old playmaker as the primary reason for his team’s improved form in the final 45 minutes, it was clear that Feilhaber’s presence helped -- even though the Revolution fell short at the final whistle.
“In the second half,” Heaps said, “when we made a couple of tactical changes, it certainly went our way in terms of possession.”
More than that, he brought a welcome element of attacking flair. Instead of deferring to defenders under pressure, he battled. He sought escape. He found teammates in the final third.
“I think our team did well in the second half,” Feilhaber said. “We pressed, did everything we could to try to get that goal back.”
That goal came close to realization three times on the account of the outside midfielder, who regularly switched sides with Lee Nguyen in the latter stages.
In the 58th minute, Feilhaber played a keen ball from the midfield into the box, where striker Saer Sene grabbed it and looked ready to score. But Red Bulls defender Brandon Backlage raced over at the last moment and dismantled the chance, despite cries for a possible penalty.
Although a penalty wasn’t granted, Feilhaber had another chance to level the score nearly 20 minutes later.
With attackers flooding the Red Bulls’ area in the 77th minute, Shalrie Joseph chipped it over to the far post, where Feilhaber awaited its arrival. But when Meara shouted as if he were coming off his line to intercept it, the unmarked midfielder nodded it gently expecting no one to be at the near post. One problem: Meara was right there and easily collected it.
“He tricked me,” Feilhaber said with a laugh. “I thought he was definitely coming out. I didn’t have a look, and I tried to head it past him, (and) he stayed in his goal. I could have brought it down. I’ll probably have nightmares about that one.”
But Feilhaber found one last crack at a goal in the waning moments.
From outside the area in the 88th minute, he blasted a shot that bounded off of keeper Ryan Meara’s mitts before it was eventually collected by the keeper.
“The shot you really can’t do too much about,” Feilhaber said. “Just rip it at the goal, try to get it past the goalie. He made a good save -- it was kind of right at him.”
In the final analysis, though, even Feilhaber’s form in the final 45 couldn’t save the Revolution from walking away without anything to show for it on Saturday.
“We attacked but we didn’t put a final ball in,” Heaps said. “We had a lot of chances but I felt we had a little flat start, which was disappointing.”