FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- To say that it was a night to forget would be tantamount to saying that the New England Revolution simply lost the chance to grab three points.
Whether it was the lack of possession, the backbreaking 47th-minute Real Salt Lake goal or the prospect of facing a two-goal deficit with nine men, Saturday night's 2-0 loss to Salt Lake was one many of the Revolution players would like to have erased from their memory.
"Well, there's no hiding behind it, we weren't good," said Revolution manager Steve Nicol. “'Frustrating' is the right word for the whole evening.”
Frustrating, maddening, sickening. Pick one. Or pick all of them. You name the negative emotion and it was visibly present inside the Revolution locker room as a number of Revs players held their heads down.
And with good reason. After Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis unleashed a starting six that more accurately resembled a second-choice six, the Revs not only failed to make it a match, but stumbled embarrassingly early and often en route to their first loss of the season.
It began innocently enough with Salt Lake (3-0-0) coming out of the gate strong and forcing the issue against an uninspired New England (1-1-3) squad coming off an ugly 1-1 draw at Vancouver three days prior.
Whether it was tired legs and fatigue following their mid-week clash or simply lack of motivation, it was clear that the Revolution were missing something Saturday night.
After Salt Lake comfortably acquainted itself inside its adversary’s half, its pressure on the Revs defense gave way to a corner kick in the 28th minute. From the left corner flag, Collen Warner whipped a perfect pass to Chris Schuler, who rose above a pack of players and nodded it into the net to give the guests a lead they did not relinquish.
“I was calling for it, but I didn’t get through to the guys,” said Shuttleworth. “That one was on me.”
But all the blame couldn’t be placed on Shuttleworth’s shoulders for what transpired after that. The team, as a whole, failed across the field. Their passes were off and their shots were speculative. Even with the return of Marko Perovic from injury, the team fell flat on its face in the first half.
Faced with a deficit into the second frame, Nicol made a pair of substitutions to find some attacking momentum to counter Salt Lake’s spirited form. Switching from the 4-5-1 to the 4-4-2 with the addition of Ilija Stolica and the switch of Perovic from the right to the withdrawn forward’s role, Nicol hoped that the Revs would finally find inspiration to attack,
That hope lasted all of three minutes. Off a giveaway inside the middle third, Paulo Araujo raced down the right, cut into the box and banged it past Shuttleworth to make it 2-0 in the 47th minute.
“That was the backbreaker for us,” said Shuttleworth. “That happens and now you’re trying to claw back from two goals to get back into. It’s tough to do.”
The tough got even tougher as the 70th minute approached. Still searching for a reply, the Revs began to get frustrated. Their slide tackles began to get sloppy. Instead of keeping their composure, they lost it. And it came to a head when skipper Shalrie Joseph was ejected when referee Jasen Anno flashed him a red card after Joseph poked his finger in the face of Kyle Beckerman.
With their form deteriorating by the minute, the Revolution continued to play reckless and undisciplined soccer. In the 85th minute, Pat Phelan, who had already been booked for a reckless tackle shortly after Joseph’s dismissal, was shown a straight red after taking down Robbie Russell and subsequently shown the door.
Down to nine men with a two-goal deficit, there was nothing the Revs could do. It was simply too much ask for from a team that was devastated by Salt Lake’s picture-perfect play.
“As much as we’re shell-shocked with the red cards and everything that happened in the last 25 to 30 minutes of the game, it doesn’t hide the fact that we got what we deserved tonight,” said Nicol. “They got it right and we got it wrong.”
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.