Saturday, March 23, 2013
Wind blows away scoring chances
By Brian O'Connell
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. The beautiful game it was not, and that was the prevailing sentiment from both lockers rooms following Saturday's scoreless draw between the Revolution and Sporting Kansas City.
With winds gusting up to 30 mph, pushing the ball and assorted debris toward the south, both clubs were forced to err on the side of caution and do whatever they could to keep the other off the board.
Players like Ike Opara and Chad Barrett battled the elements as much as one another for possession of the ball Saturday.
"It was a tough game all the way around," Revolution coach Jay Heaps said. "It certainly won't go down as the prettiest soccer game ever played."
It wasn't pretty at all for the Revolution attack. They spent much of the first half cobbling chances together, as the wind wreaked havoc on their passes. While they may have tipped the possession scale in their favor (53.6 percent) for the first 45, their 56.6 percent passing accuracy was indicative of the effect the gusty conditions had on the match.
Sporting Kansas City didn't fare much better, although they were able to do something New England couldn't accomplish until the 77th minute: pit a shot in the general direction of the net.
Their best opportunity at cracking the scoresheet came in the 19th minute when CJ Sapong smacked the bar, and Benny Feilhaber followed up with a shot that Matt Reis collected to cool Kansas City's heels.
For the duration of the match, both teams tried to deal with the conditions, and while the gusts subsided somewhat in the second half, Kansas City left back Seth Sinovic conceded that the chances simply weren't falling for either side.
"The conditions were pretty atrocious today," Sinovic said. "It was kind of a grind it out, long ball fighting kind of game and it was just kind of how you had to play today. You couldn't really play a pretty game today."
New England opened the second frame intent on stealing a chance or two. In the 54th minute, Andrew Farrell advanced into the attacking third, and played a cross inside the area intended for Clyde Simms. The ball appeared to deflect off the biceps of Ike Opara, but shouts for a handball went unanswered.
The hosts called for another penalty nine minutes later when Lee Nguyen sent a free kick into the area, where Jose Goncalves gestured toward referee Edvin Jurisevic that Sapong had brought him down.
With only 13 minutes left, the Revolution finally recorded their first shot of the match. From a free kick near the edge of the area, Juan Toja ripped it inches over the bar. So close, yet so far away.
"I don't want to make any excuses, but the wind was definitely difficult to play in," Heaps said. "The wind was just pulling everything [away from the benches]. It was hard to switch the field and change the point of attack."
Any adjustments made to the wind proved to be fruitless for both teams. Even when the ball was kept on the carpet, the final product was still lacking.
"There were a few times that both teams tried to play a little too much and they got caught on it and they kind of got countered," Sinovic said. "So I think it was more of [us] trying to get in behind them and lock them down in their half of the field."
Breaking free from the hold that Sporting Kansas City held on the Revs was much harder without striker Jerry Bengtson at their disposal. But veteran forward Chad Barrett pressed the issue nonetheless, and for the better part of his 63 minutes, he battled Opara and Aurelien Collin for long balls and chances in front of Jimmy Nielsen.
A scoreless draw wasn't what Heaps wanted to greet the Revolution supporters with in Saturday's home opener. However, he couldn't help but be pleased with the effort, especially with the elements conspiring against them.
"It was a good fight from our guys," Heaps said. "I was really excited about the way we approached the match but in the end, we didn't get enough chances."