FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- It’s easy to overlook an expansion team, especially one that hadn’t claimed a single Major League Soccer point prior to Saturday night.
After an impressive series of matches against the Los Angeles Galaxy and D.C. United in which New England grabbed four points out of the gate, the Revolution sputtered against the Timbers in Saturday night’s 1-1 draw, leaving many to wonder: Did the hosts approach the game with too much confidence?
“No, not at all,” said Revolution coach Steve Nicol. “I don’t know what it was exactly, but I don’t think it was [overconfidence].”
New England certainly opened the game confidently, as the three-man central midfield of Pat Phelan, Shalrie Joseph and Stephen McCarthy appeared to pick right up where they left off after last week’s 2-1 win over D.C. Taking a physical and spirited approach with well-timed tackles, it appeared that the Revolution were in command and ready to pick up another three points.
Hoping for another quick start, the Revs attacked early and often inside of the Timbers’ half, intent on to picking up the first goal of the game for the third time in three tries.
And they did so, in the 22nd minute, when Zak Boggs charged down the right flank and sent a cross into the box before it found Timber defender David Horst. But Horst’s effort to clear the ball went right to McCarthy, who immediately banged the miscue through for the early lead.
Normally, clinching an early goal -- especially against an expansion side -- often grants a confident team even greater surety in itself. Clearly, more goals would come and the Revolution would claim another three points against an expansion side, right?
Instead of taking the game by the horns, the Revolution’s form faltered shortly after the McCarthy goal. In fact, the organization disintegrated and was left searching for chances rather than creating them.
“We just didn’t have any passing,” said Nicol. “We didn’t pass the ball well at all. And when you don’t, you’re going to struggle.”
While the Revolution struggled, the Timbers salivated. With chances suddenly appearing thanks to their opponents’ poor form, Portland midfielders Jack Jewsbury and Jeremy Hall began to put the pressure on the Revs.
Portland’s pressure came to a head in the 38th minute deep in New England territory when Jewsbury took a perfect feed from Jeremy Hall and put it past Matt Reis for the equalizer.
“I felt like we were just impatient,” said McCarthy. “[We were] just trying to play that perfect ball when new should have just been playing separate passes."
Surely shocked to be even at the interval, New England’s woes continued in the second half as the team’s form continued to betray them. It appeared often that the Revolution were simply trying to do too much.
Despite their less than stellar form, one glimmer of hope appeared amid the struggles.
In the 79th minute, Sainey Nyassi crashed the box and went one-on-one with keeper Kevin Gleeson. With the far post screaming his name, Nyassi tried to push it through, but his finishing touch was much too weak as New England watched their best chance to find three points fall by the wayside.
It was a game the Revolution should have won. But, in the end, the Revolution’s failure to execute left them wanting for more.
“We’re just disappointed, all around,” said Nicol. “We had a few chances that could have won the game, but in all honestly, we’re pretty disappointed tonight.”
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.