FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When Shalrie Joseph scored the first goal of Saturday night's match in the 14th minute to give the Revs an early lead, their fans had to be anxious.
After all, in the Revs' last four games prior to Saturday’s showdown against Western Conference contender FC Dallas, the team scored the opening goal only to watch their early leads evaporate late.
But this time, the Revs scored early -- then late -- and held on to beat Dallas, 2-0, on a night in which the Revs' defense finally held their end of the bargain to secure the win.
“It’s huge,” Revolution midfielder Benny Feilhaber said. “It felt like [for the past four games] that we were just getting goals for fun in the first half and we couldn’t keep them. It was fantastic [to finally win].”
The difference between Saturday’s performance -- which snapped the Revs' seven-game winless streak (0-2-5) -- and their previous late-game disappointments boiled down to a reversal of form in the second half.
Instead of dropping numbers back and smothering their opponents, the Revs kept their forward line high, which, in turn, kept the Dallas defense honest and kept them from sending waves of attackers into New England territory. According to many Revolution players, including Feilhaber, it was a welcome change.
“Tactically, we didn’t drop into a shell like we had been,” Feilhaber said. “I think that kind of stuff doesn’t work.”
It certainly hadn’t worked for the Revs this summer. Since their last win back on July 20, the Revs had scored the first goal in six of their seven games prior to Saturday’s match. But in the second half of each game, the Revs dropped back, substituted attacking players for defenders, and flooded the rear, hoping to disrupt and smother their opponents’ hopes for an equalizer.
And in each instance, it failed. Miserably. Whether it was conceding an 89th-minute equalizer in Kansas City, or allowing a stoppage-time goal against Houston, it seemed as if the Revs looked at each match as an opportunity to find new ways to blow the lead, both at home and on the road.
But that all changed on Saturday night. With the Revs holding onto a precarious one-goal lead going into the final 10 minutes, they not only kept attacking but didn’t make any defensive-minded substitutions in the second half.
“Stevie [Nicol] made some good substitutions,” Revolution keeper Matt Reis said. “We weren't putting midfielders on for forwards.”
Not only did the Revs keep the pressure on Dallas’ defense, but they also secured vital goal late, thanks to Rajko Lekic’s left-footed laser in the 85th minute. And for the first time in nearly two months, it appeared that a Revolution lead was safe and sound.
Additionally, Lekic’s late goal not only proved that the Revs were no longer content to sit back and defend, but it showed that the team had no problem taking the game by the horns.
“[The second goal] just showed how we were still attacking. We were trying to score goals,” Reis said. “We weren't just sitting back. We didn't play the perfect game, but we got three points and we're not out of it yet.”
While the Revs may be staring at the playoff picture from a distance, Feilhaber believes that the focus should be the short term rather than the bigger picture.
“I still think we should be thinking [about] taking it one game at a time and putting in [good] 90-minute performances,” Feilhaber said. “We did that today, so now we can look forward to trying to build.”
Building will certainly be the key as the Revs look to inch their way up the standings, regardless of whether or not they make the playoffs. With a tough two-game road stretch ahead, the Revs will undoubtedly have to take it one game at a time.
“If we get three points here, three points there and we’re starting to climb up the rankings, then yeah, then maybe we can sneak in there,” Feilhaber said. “But that’s not where our minds should be right now.”
-- With the win, the Revs snapped their seven-game winless streak (0-2-5) and recorded their first win since their July 20 victory at D.C. United.
-- It was the Revs' first win at Gillette Stadium since their 1-0 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps on May 14.
-- The two-goal margin of victory was the largest for the Revs all season.
-- Shalrie Joseph’s 14th-minute goal upped his team high to eight tallies.
-- Lekic’s 86th-minute goal gave him six on the season, good for second on the team in tallies.
-- Feilhaber’s assist on Lekic’s goal gave him a share of the team lead for assists (4) along with Chris Tierney.
-- For the eighth time in their last nine games, the Revs scored the opening goal (but only have two wins to show for it -- tonight’s 2-0 win and a 1-0 win at D.C. on July 20).
-- With the win, the Revs’ all-time record against Dallas at home went to 12-5-1, including 7-1-1 record at Gillette Stadium.
-- The Revs extended their home unbeaten streak vs. Dallas at Gillette Stadium to eight (7-0-1).
-- The Revs went 1-1 vs. Dallas this season, and haven’t lost a season series to Dallas since 1999.
-- Lekic’s 85th-minute goal was the first time the Revs had scored in the second half since Diego Fagundez’s 86th-minute goal vs. Chivas USA on Aug. 6.
-- Reis recorded his fifth shutout of the season and his first since the Revs’ 1-0 win at D.C. on July 20.
-- FC Dallas defender Zach Loyd, who normally wears No. 19, gave up his number for the night and went with No. 91 instead as a tribute to former Dallas midfielder Bobby Rhine, who passed away earlier this week at age 35. Rhine, who played for Dallas from 1999 to 2008, wore No. 19 for the Hoops.
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.