CARSON, Calif. -- Entering Saturday night’s match, the Revolution had every reason to feel confident about their chances against Chivas USA, a stingy, but generally unimposing one-win club.
Never mind that the Revolution hadn’t beaten Chivas in Los Angeles County since 2008. Or the fact that the Goats hadn’t conceded a goal to New England for a whopping 282 consecutive minutes going into the match. The Revs, coming off a pair of high-scoring victories, believed that Saturday night would be their night.
“We were definitely confident coming in here,” Revolution captain Shalrie Joseph said. “We tried to get after it tonight and get the three points.”
In the opening minutes, the Revs were taken by surprise by an energetic and fast-paced opponent who refused to give New England an inch anywhere on the pitch.
“We started off really slow and we didn’t keep possession of the ball,” Joseph said. “We were chasing the game a little bit and they got a couple crosses, like three or four crosses into the box, and they scored on two of them.”
Down two goals before the interval, the Revs were shell-shocked. Chivas had exploited the Revolution’s lack of communication in the back. They had stretched New England’s four-man midfield to its limit and ran through acres of space as a result. By the halftime whistle, it was clear: Absolutely nothing was working for the Revs.
“There are always occasions in a season where you have just nightmare games,” Revolution coach Steve Nicol said. “That was certainly one. Forgetting tactics and all kind of things, as soon as the whistle goes, you have to win the battle against your opponent.”
But instead of reasserting themselves and adjusting to Chivas’ game plan in the second half, the Revs continued to watch the Goats runs circles around them.
“The longer it went on, the harder it got for us,” Nicol said, “because we did all the chasing and all the running and that catches up with you eventually.”
And it caught up with them moments before the hour. With tired legs and concentration giving way to frustration, the Goats capitalized on New England’s deteriorating form when Alejandro Moreno gathered a poor clearance and put it through to make it a three-goal affair in the 57th minute.
Down three goals and nothing to lose, the Revs tried in vain to collect what little energy they had left to mount a few attacks to at least put Chivas on notice. But after chasing the ball for the previous hour, the Revs' quality had deteriorated to the point of total burnout.
“When you’re under pressure for so long,” Nicol said, “eventually when you do get [possession], you don’t have the strength to use the ball well.”
While the Revs may have been finished, the Goats were more than ready to keep the pressure on.
At the 71st minute, goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth pushed away a pair of dangerous, close-range shots that could have made it a four-goal game with plenty of time remaining. And while the Goats continued to terrorize the Revolution as the match approached its final stages, all the Revs could do was flood the back and pray for the final whistle.
In the end, the abysmal performance could only be chalked up to forgetting the basics.
“It was just simple mistakes, lack of concentration, knowing what’s around you and communication from all over of the field,” Joseph said. “We didn’t have that tonight.”
Despite the effort, or the lack thereof, Joseph knows that even though they came in confident, Saturday’s match was a growing pain experienced by a team still coming into its own.
“We still have a young team, we still have an inexperienced team, we still have a lot of growing to do,” Joseph said. “We have to put our work in next week and come out for Colorado.”
Brian O'Connell is covering the Revolution for ESPNBoston.com. He is the co-founder of New England Soccer Today (www.nesoccertoday.com), which covers professional soccer within New England. He can be reached at BOConnell21@aol.com.