It wasn’t the own goal that killed the Revolution’s chances from getting a win against D.C. United on Saturday. Rather, it was the response that came from it.
Following the moment of misfortune that saw Jose Goncalves put a Cristian Fernandez cross into the New England net, the Revolution showed initiative, but ultimately became all too predictable in the second half of their 2-0 loss at RFK Stadium.
“The own goal hurts, but I think everyone understood it happens in the game,” Heaps told the media after the match. “That said, I thought we rallied well, but maybe too well.”
In many respects, the Revolution could hardly be blamed for playing with a sense of urgency at the start of the second half. After all, they were down a goal to a club that hadn’t won since the previous summer. And the fact that the deficit was self-inflicted likely made the situation seem more than dire than it actually was.
So the Revolution, sensing the need to get one back, went to work to the find the equalizer. The sooner, the better. And that’s exactly how they played -- for better or worse.
“We started to look for ways to win the game in the first five (to) 10 minutes in the second half,” Heaps said, “rather than realizing that any goal would get us back in it whether it came in the 60th minute or the 80th minute. I think we pushed a little hard a little too soon.”
That clear sense of urgency only made a tough situation even tougher. By launching long ball after long ball toward striker Teal Bunbury, pushing for the equalizer in the most direct fashion, the Revolution became predictable.
Not surprisingly, D.C.’s center backs -- Jeff Parke and Bobby Boswell -- picked up on the Revolution’s plan of attack and stationed themselves perfectly in order to win a slew of aerial duels.
But instead of changing their approach, the Revolution continued to play it direct to Bunbury, or anyone else lurking in the final third. Meanwhile, creative players like Diego Fagundez, Daigo Kobayashi and Lee Nguyen found themselves starved of chances.
“I think we could have been a little better trying to probe,” Heaps said. “I think we risked it a little too early when we went after it right at the start of the second half. And, I think they did a good job defending, but we weren’t creative enough.”
The Revolution may have lacked inventiveness in the second half, but a couple of chances managed to fall their way. Not surprisingly, neither came from a sequence involving a long ball.
In the 50th minute, Bunbury grabbed a poor back pass from Fernandez and fired a shot that curled over the bar. Then, in the 73rd minute, Diego Fagundez nearly bicycle kicked a Chris Tierney pass through before it strayed wide of the far post.
To be fair, Heaps, who was ejected from the contest in the 90th minute, doesn’t discount the effort shown out on the pitch on Saturday. His players never backed down in their efforts to bring the match back to level terms.
But the own goal did more than just dig the Revolution into a deficit. It altered their mindset -- as well intentioned as it may have been -- in a way that made the rest of game harder than it had to be.
“I thought we rallied pretty well around it,” Heaps said. “We had the right attitude. Unfortunately, sometimes being overzealous and too early rather than let the game kind of dictate what we needed to do (hurt us).”