RICHMOND, Va. -- Contrary to popular opinion, sometimes success lies in how you start rather than how you finish. Just ask the New England Revolution. Or the Richmond Kickers, for that matter.
On Wednesday, the Revolution jumped out to a two-goal lead going into the break before they found themselves on their heels for the second half, forcing them to sweat out a 3-2 Open Cup win over the Kickers.
"We gave away too much at the end there," said head coach Jay Heaps. "It's a little frustrating because we had that game in control, and we gave away a little too much going into that second half."
While the first half certainly showcased the potency of the Revolution offense, the final 45 is sure to keep Heaps and the coaching staff busy with looking at the game film ahead of Wednesday's fifth-round match against the Rochester Rhinos.
For starters, the conditions (93 degrees at kickoff) probably didn't help the Revolution cause in the second half. Unaccustomed to the stifling heat -- which nearly reached the daily record for the Richmond area on Wednesday -- the Revolution struggled with sharpness after the break.
Sensing an opportunity for his side to take advantage, Kickers coach Leigh Cowlishaw used all three substitutions afforded to him right at the start of the second half. The idea: Use fresh legs to gain an immediate advantage that could potentially yield big dividends once full time arrived.
The moves paved the way for a rejuvenated Richmond attack that pinned New England in its own half for extended stretches. With substitutes Matt Delicate, Shay Spitz and Christiano Francois all finding ways into the final third, it was just a matter of time before the Kickers would capitalize.
In the 74th minute, first-half goalscorer George Davis IV crossed it for Delicate, who nodded a ball beyond the reach of Brad Knighton to cut the margin to one -- and with plenty of time to find another.
"Obviously, them getting the goal in the second half made it a little interesting at the end," said Revolution midfielder Steve Neumann. "But I thought the guys worked really hard and fought really hard to get the win."
That win, though, was anything but assured in the final moments. Francois chipped a dangerous ball on frame that Knighton was forced to tip over the bar in the 80th minute. Samuel Asante fired a shot that veered just wide of frame in the 87th minute.
With five minutes of stoppage to work with, the Kickers claimed a trio of set dangerous set piece opportunities. But each one fell into the wastebasket, as the Revolution held on for dear life in the closing seconds to secure the victory.
Hoping to avoid a similar finish against the Rhinos, Heaps is sure to preach the importance of seeing the game out once the players return to training on Monday.
Meanwhile, Neumann was quick to point to Richmond's relentless effort in the second half as the primary reason why the Revolution wobbled late.
"Credit to them; they made it tough on us in the second half, definitely," said Neumann. "The first half was great. The guys gave a great effort and any time you can get a win -- especially in heat like this -- at someone else's place, it's definitely a good result."