It was all but a given that lineup changes were coming for the Revolution on Saturday. The only uncertainty was which players would be shuffled.
Three days after watching his side get thrashed by the Galaxy, coach Jay Heaps made five changes to his starting XI. Exit Jose Goncalves, A.J. Soares, Kelyn Rowe, Diego Fagundez and Patrick Mullins. Enter Stephen McCarthy, Darrius Barnes, Scott Caldwell, Steven Neumann and Charlie Davies.
While the switches didn’t exactly clear the path to three points, Heaps nevertheless was pleased with what he saw from those who were called into action in Saturday’s 2-0 loss to FC Dallas.
“I think the guys that we inserted added a nice level of intensity,” Heaps told reporters after the match. “In that regard, we were happy, but just absolutely gutted by the result.”
The loss may have sent the Revolution to their seventh straight trip to the loss column, but it wasn’t for lack of energy or ambition, two things missing during Wednesday’s 5-1 drubbing. Heaps’ squad opened the match with a measured and precise approach, putting Dallas on its heels early.
Between the fifth and 10th minutes, the guests grabbed 70.4 percent of the possession. With the passing crisp and the tempo calm, it was all but a certainty that an early goal would come.
But that goal would belong to the hosts. Off a quick restart in the middle third, Adam Moffat played it forward to Tesho Akindele, who ripped a shot of the crossbar. Andres Escobar quickly reclaimed the ball, went to the near post and buried it as the Revolution conceded the opening goal in their seventh straight game.
“Quite frankly, I didn’t think it was a foul on our guy,” Heaps said of Lee Nguyen’s foul that led to the quick restart. “I thought it was a foul on their guy -- ball was moving and they played it quickly, and credit the play -- one ball through, and then they stayed in that positive way, and it was a good goal.”
Escobar’s goal could have sent the Revolution into another early tailspin. Instead, they recommitted their efforts, despite a number of frustrating moments in the final third.
“I thought we were going to be good enough to get something from the game, and we didn’t,” Heaps said. “But that’s the way it goes sometimes.”
New England continued to take care of the ball and moved it around the midfield with greater frequency. It was a stark departure from Wednesday’s match.
But energy and effort weren’t enough to get the Revolution over the hump. Their form in the final third only betrayed their efforts. Although the Revolution tipped the overall possession in their favor (55.4 percent), Dallas outshot them 24-9. More importantly, two of those 24 found the back of the net.
No doubt, it was a markedly improved showing for the Revolution. A late surge tested the Dallas back four, but the only goal that came belonged to the hosts after Akindele scored in the 91st minute.
“In terms of what we did tonight, in terms of energy and effort, it was a great bounce back for us,” Heaps said. “We made one mistake in the first half, and we got punished for it.”