Scoring twice before halftime is often more than enough for a MLS team to emphatically punch its ticket for three points or, at the very least, a valuable, late-season point. And doing so on the road makes it even sweeter.
But even though the Revolution attack was firing on all cylinders in the first half, their defense let them down in the second frame and, as a result, they came away with nothing in Saturday’s 3-2 loss to the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park.
“It’s really frustrating,” Revolution center back Stephen McCarthy told the media after the game. “Looking back, it turned into a shootout there at the end, going both ways. We need to be smarter and get guys behind the ball. (The) second half was not our best stuff.”
Although the second half was nothing short of a nightmare for the Revolution, the first 45 was a different story. Ten minutes had yet to elapse when Kelyn Rowe launched a shot from 25 yards that took a slight deflection off Fire midfielder Patrick Nyarko before it floated over the reach of Sean Johnson and fell into the back of the net.
“I saw space in front of me and it took a nice little deflection, tipped over the goalkeeper,” Rowe told the media after the game. “A goal is a goal. I will take it. Unfortunately it didn’t lead to anything.”
The lead wasn’t as long-lived as the Revolution would’ve liked, as Juan Luis Anangono squeezed between Jose Goncalves and Andrew Farrell to score a 30th-minute equalizer. But when Saer Sene reclaimed the lead right before the half, it appeared that the Revolution were in position to sweep its season series with the Fire, who’d they blanked in their previous two meetings this season.
Sene, who earned his first start in over a month on Saturday, scored another in the 50th minute. Well, at least it appeared that way. Although replays showed he was onside when Rowe slipped him a ball through the Fire defense, he was ruled offside by the assistant referee, and the goal was nullified.
“It’s disappointing because that makes it 3-1,” Revolution coach Jay Heaps told the media after the game. “It’s two-fold there; at our level, we can’t defend the way we did, but the assistant referee cannot miss the call he missed, simple as that.”
Things went from bad to worse for the Revolution shortly thereafter. In the 55th minute, Patrick Nyarko fed a pass forward to Mike Magee, who slipped it past Bobby Shuttleworth to erase a Revolution lead for the second time on the evening.
For the next 20 minutes, the pitch rocked back and forth, as both sides made their attacking ambitions known. It appeared another goal was in the making -- it was just a matter of which team would find the breakthrough.
That question was answered in the 86th minute, when Alex collected an attempted Jose Goncalves clearance and blasted it through to give the hosts the only lead they’d need to clinch the win.
Meanwhile, the Revolution loss not only kept them winless in their last three, but also knocked them out of the fifth and final playoff spot -- a spot that the Fire were happy to claim in the wake of their comeback victory.
With only six games left -- and all against conference opponents -- McCarthy outlined what his team needs to do to avoid a late-season letdown.
“We have to get points,” McCarthy said. “We have to get wins. We need three points every game now. We have to make the playoffs.”