The New England Revolution left nearly all of their starters at home, fielding basically a side of reserve players and back-ups for their Lamar Hunt U.S. Open qualifier against DC United. Regardless, they left the Maryland SoccerPlex with a compelling 3-2 victory behind two goals from Kheli Dube after withstanding a frantic late charge from the home side.
A late United fury was highlighted by a brilliant dribbling sequence around five defenders and into the penalty area by Najar, who fell to the turf in hopes of drawing the penalty which was emphatically denied by referee Jose Carlos Rivero.
“The energy and the fight toward the end was great and exciting but the good teams don’t have to do that. The good teams put all that energy and passion in the beginning of the game so they don’t end up fighting to get a result,” said United Coach Ben Olsen.
The players may have been different but Steve Nicol’s message and structure were exactly the same for New England; stay structured, be physical, wait for United to make enough mistakes and capitalize on those mistakes. And as usual it worked.
“I think we certainly showed more than they did in the first 50 to 60 minutes. It wasn’t great, I don’t think either team was great but we certainly had the ball, we just didn’t simplify things and move the ball side-to-side and just find the open man,” Olsen continued.
“We were just going for killer balls, we struggled a little bit to hold the ball up but again, it is a new group and I thought we were lacking a little bit of energy, a little bit of concentration, that killer instinct in that first 50 to 60 and then we get that second goal and we woke up – and that part is unacceptable.
“Again, the good teams don’t need to wake up, they wake up at the start of the whistle and they are ready to go”, he concluded.
The Revolution got only four shots on goal and legitimately only had six significant forays into United’s end of the park while the game was still in the balance.
United garnered most of the possession throughout the match but whether it was poor touches or the final ball, it was generally disjointed. Branko Boskovic, the best player by far on the park for either side, was their only influential player, getting himself into good spots to collect the ball and distribute but in the end he didn’t get much help.
Boskovic was not on the field for United’s frantic surge however after injuring his left knee on a hard challenge. The preliminary report is a knee contusion and he will have an MRI today.
“That’s what happens when you get whacked over and over. We’re all human, you get that many licks, they start to add up,” said Olsen about the standard New England tactics, who totaled eighteen fouls to United’s seven.
“Boskovic was very good, very sharp, dictated the game…He has been a great pro for us and done everything we have asked. These aren’t always easy games to play in when you are a European international but he comes and plays hard.”
In the end, United’s bad judgment and poor defending were their undoing.
Completely against the run of play, Dube converted a cross from Kenny Mansally from the right flank to give New England the lead in the 34th minute and extended the lead with a barely contested shot that beat Pat Onstad from a step inside the 18-yard box just after halftime.
Alan Koger was left even more unmarked after collecting a spinning ball that United let inexplicably bounce just outside the penalty area, burying a shot to the near post to stretch the lead to 3-0 in the 69th minute.
United were careless either with the ball or in their decision making on all three Revolution goals. On Dube’s first goal, Ousmane Dabo won a sloppy ball near the center circle and quickly transitioned into the area behind United’s midfield and back line, before playing the original ball wide right to Mansally.
“I think in the second half we played very good – we scored two goals and found our game. A lot of games we have problems in defense, they scored so easy against us, we must be stronger in defense,” said Boskovic.
A simple ball by Koger, a second half substitute, off the right left Dube alone in space and he wisely took the shot before the nearest United defender could close him down for his second goal.
To their credit, United didn’t go away quietly as Boskovic had two great chances in a 7-minute span rejected by the goalkeeper and his sidekick.
After Otto Loewy was shown a well deserved yellow card for a reckless challenge on Blake Brettschneider just outside the 18-yard box in the 51st minute, Boskovic curled the free kick labeled for the top right corner but Bobby Shuttleworth extended well to his left to parry it away. He followed that up 7-minutes later with another free kick that rattled the post.
After collecting a simple lay off from Charlie Davies, who had come on in the 68th minute, Boskovic danced around the penalty area to get the ball onto his favored left foot before banging one home to cut into the Revolution lead.
Boskovic followed that up with a 30-yard thrasher from the left side in the 82nd minute after collecting a fairly innocuous pass from Andy Najar, taking one dribble and beating Shuttleworth inside the near post.
United will need to put this behind them quickly as they return to league play with a match at Houston on Friday night.
NE — Dube 34′ (Mansally)
NE — Dube 47′ (Koger)
NE — Koger 69′
DC — Boskovic 73′ (Davies)
DC — Boskovic 83′ (Najar)
DC — Boskovic, caution 16′
NE — Loewy, caution 50′
NE — Dube, caution 80′
NE — Cochrane, caution 85′
NE — Koger, caution 86′
DC — Morsink, caution 88′
D.C. UNITED — Pat Onstad; Brandon Barklage, Rodrigo Brasesco (Dax McCarty 79′), Ethan White, Daniel Woolard; Andy Najar, Branko Boskovic, Kurt Morsink, Santino Quaranta (C); Joseph Ngwenya (Charlie Davies 68′), Blake Brettschneider (Chris Pontius 64′)
Unused substitutes: Bill Hamid, Stephen King, Conor Shanosky, Perry Kitchen
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION — Bobby Shuttleworth; Darrius Barnes, Ryan Cochrane, Otto Loewy (Michael Augustine 91′), Chris Tierney; Sainey Nyassi, Ousmane Dabo (Diego Fagundez 76′), Stephen McCarthy, Ryan Kinne; Kheli Dube, Kenny Mansally (Alan Koger 46′)
Unused substitutes: Tim Murray, Zack Schilawski
Referee: Juan Carlos Rivero
Assistants: Mark Gorak, Ian O’Neil
4th official: Michael Donovan