In soccer, it’s a mantra that many managers and coaches try to pound into their players’ minds in practice: You can’t win unless you have the ball.
And on Saturday night, the Revs proved that mantra true after they fell into the loss column against FC Dallas thanks, in large part, to their inability to hold onto the ball.
“A lot of the problems we had (Saturday night) were giving the ball away,” said Revolution manager Steve Nicol. “We either gave it away or didn’t give a good pass when we were not under any pressure.”
That was evident in the first half as FC Dallas wasted little time familiarizing themselves with the New England end of the pitch and immediately opened fire on the Revolution net.
“They were in our half most of the game,” said Revolution midfielder Zak Boggs. “We didn’t get much possession and when we did, we didn’t keep it long.”
As a result, Revs keeper Matt Reis and his defenders had their hands full with a lethal Dallas attack that looked like it could put a goal through at any minute. To the guests’ credit, they were successful in keeping their hosts off the board in the first frame.
“We had done well keeping it 0-0,” said Reis. “But (we) still needed to keep better possession of the ball. If we kept better possession we would have given them less chances and have the ability to create chances ourselves.”
If the Revs recognized this going in the second half, then they failed miserably to do anything about. For, once the second half got underway, the Hoops continued to run circles around the Revs.
As the hour approached, the combination of the Dallas attack and the sweltering Texas heat began to melt the Revs defense.
And in the 69th minute, Fabian Castillo took advantage of the Revs’ haphazard form when he pierced the defense and guided a severe-angled shot through to finally give his club the lead.
To Nicol, Castillo’s goal wasn’t a surprising development. After too many giveaways, it was only a matter of time before Dallas figured out a way to take advantage.
“We turned it over too many times and away from home,” said Nicol. “That is always going to lead to the opposition scoring.”
Staring down yet another deficit, the Revs claimed some measure of attacking success late when they finally recorded their first corner kick of the match in the 81st minute.
But even after a series of late set pieces afforded the Revs a couple of chances to level it, New England ultimately fell short of finding the back of the net against the second-best club in MLS.
After the game, Nicol hinted that a certain mantra might need to be echoed often during the course of training this week.
“We (have to) get back on the training field and try to get better passing the ball,” said Nicol. “When you turn the ball over so much, you’re encouraging the opposition to come after you.”
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.