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Sunday, May 8, 2011
Revs draw but show improvement


FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- On Saturday night, the New England Revolution bounced back from their worst effort of the season to keep the Colorado Rapids, the defending Major League Soccer champions, off the scoreboard with an encouraging, yet frustrating, 0-0 draw.

Although they performed remarkably better than they did a week ago against a Chivas USA side that throttled them by the score of 3-0, Revolution manager Steve Nicol couldn’t help but ponder the number of opportunities that evaporated in the final third.

“We didn’t create enough with the bit of ball we had in their final third,” said Nicol. “That’s disappointing. We have to do better. We’re not going to win games unless we do better with the ball in the final third.”

Indeed, it wasn’t for lack of opportunities that the Revs were kept off the scoreboard Saturday night. Far from it. In fact, New England collected a trio of teasing chances to stuff the net against the defending champs, only to have all three fail to find the twine.

The first occurred in the 15th minute when Chris Tierney launched a free kick from the left flank that found Ryan Cochrane amid a crowd of players. But Cochrane, who leaped to head the ball on frame, could only watch as the ball bounced off the bar and over the end line.

Despite the missed opportunity, the Revolution continued to play inspired soccer by controlling the midfield, winning balls and making the Rapids run around their own half. Surely, another chance was in the works.

That chance appeared in the 57th minute. From the right corner flag, Kenny Mansally delivered a picture-perfect cross to a remarkably wide-open Shalrie Joseph, who normally nods so many sure-fire shots through when given that much space to operate. But this time, the skipper’s header sailed right toward Colorado keeper Matt Pickens for the easy save.

“It was a good ball by [Kenny],” said Joseph. “I was in good spot. I just have to put that one away.”

Typically, a team that fails to convert their chances gets flustered and becomes disorganized. It loses its shape. But instead of getting frustrated with their lack of success on the scoreboard, the Revs became sharper. Their passes became quicker. And one more opportunity emerged.

In the 74th minute, Sainey Nyassi collected a perfect through ball from Joseph and raced down the right flank. With Benny Feilhaber lending support to his left, Nyassi deferred to Feilhaber, who keenly cut the pass off the side of his right foot toward goal. But, just as it had nearly an hour before, the ball mercilessly banged off the bar, leaving Feilhaber visibly frustrated at the squandered strike.

“I just wanted to put my foot on it to guide it in,” said Feilhaber. “The ball just didn’t seem to dip. I was just a bit unlucky in the end.”

Despite the collection of lost opportunities, Feilhaber felt that the overall improvement of the team’s performance from last week’s forgettable affair against Chivas was a step in the right direction.

“I thought we had more confidence in one another, and we worked hard and we battled in every sense of the word and we didn’t do that last week,” said Feilhaber. “I think it’s more encouraging than anything. This is a building block. If we can continue this style of soccer, we’re going to get the points along the way.”

Joseph, who played one of his best games of the season Saturday night, echoed that sentiment. While the Revs might have left points on the pitch, the captain was happy with what he saw out of his teammates.

“Possession-wise, we looked good tonight,” said Joseph. “We’re moving the ball. There’s stuff we still need to work on and try to improve on, but it’s looking positive and we can take a lot from tonight. It’s still disappointing that we didn’t get that three points tonight, but there’s a lot we can take [from it].”