For the second straight week, an uninspiring start undermined the New England Revolution, who dropped a 2-1 loss to Real Salt Lake on Friday at Rio Tinto Stadium.
A 35th minute strike from the spot courtesy of Javier Morales put the Revolution in a hole for the fourth straight game. Though the Revolution grabbed one back from Darrius Barnes in the 37th minute, a second penalty strike in the 64th minute saw Joao Plata put Salt Lake ahead for good.
“It’s tough,” Revolution coach Jay Heaps told revolutionsoccer.net after the match. “I don’t think we -- we didn’t play well enough in the first half. But I thought, throughout the game, we were pretty good (and) did a little bit of a better job.”
But before the Revolution were able to settle in and create opportunities, they had to weather a first half that saw Salt Lake take the game by storm in the early going.
Without the services of Andy Dorman, who was serving a one-game suspension for yellow card accumulation, the Revolution struggled to assert themselves. And Salt Lake wasted no time taking advantage.
Kyle Beckerman, who rejoined his team days only days ago after World Cup duty with the U.S. Men’s National Team, tested Bobby Shuttleworth with a hard shot from the top of the box in the 10th minute.
Not surprisingly, Beckerman tested Shuttleworth again in the 24th minute, and once again, the Revolution let out a collective sigh of relief after Salt Lake failed to capitalize.
But the goal that eluded the hosts early finally materialized with halftime approaching. Plata sent a corner kick into the box, where Chris Schuler looked to steer it through before Barnes brought him down. Referee Allen Chapman pointed to the spot, where Morales fired through the opening salvo in the 35th minute.
“I’m not going to talk about the referee, other than the fact that, from start to finish, it was a little bit cynical,” Heaps said. “A little bit cynical from the referee to give two penalties. It’s a tough one.”
Any allusions that the Morales’ strike may have deflated the Revolution were quickly erased in the 37th minute. Chris Tierney sent a free kick toward the back post, where Barnes nodded it through to put the match back on level terms going into the break.
The second half saw the Revolution press for another, and nearly succeeded in that quest in the 53rd minute. A hard shot from Jose Goncalves grazed the mitt of Nick Rimando and glanced off the bar before it rolled along the goal line. But the ball refused to trickle through before it was cleared away.
Not long after Goncalves’ shot refused to go through, another penalty was awarded to Salt Lake after Tierney cut down John Stertzer inside the 18. This time, it was Plata who slotted it through from the spot to put Salt Lake back on top.
Much like they did after the Morales goal, the Revolution immediately renewed their efforts to find an equalizer. Tierney sent a cross that Mullins slid through near the far post, but his shot veered wide of frame in the 68th minute.
Another opportunity arrived in two minutes later when Lee Nguyen lifted one over the defense for Kelyn Rowe, who had only had Rimando to beat. But the midfielder’s shot sailed well over the bar, leaving the Revolution empty-handed for the fourth straight league game.
“It’s tough because they’re a really good team,” Heaps said. “You have to credit Salt Lake because they don’t need two penalties to beat you, but I think tonight, that’s what they needed. I think we can do a better job. I have to look at the film, and see what we can do better.”