New England Revolution: A.J. Soares
True, the Revolution were outshot 14-9, and only one of those efforts was deemed on target. And yes, Salt Lake connected on 82 more passes in the attacking half.
But the fact that it took not one but two penalty kicks to send the Revolution to their fourth straight league loss suggests the guests could've earned a result against Real Salt Lake had referee Allen Chapman called the match differently.
"I thought we played well enough to get at least a point," Soares told revolutionsoccer.net after the match. "We defended really well and had plenty of chances going forward. To get no points is super disappointing."
In some respects, the Revolution were lucky the match was decided by only a single goal. After all, goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth was called upon to make no fewer than three acrobatic saves just to keep Salt Lake at bay before the half-hour mark.
The Revolution might have been living dangerously in the first half, but it took a curious call from Chapman to tilt the match in Salt Lake's favor. No one in a navy blue uniform was happy about it.
In the 34th minute, Joao Plata sent a dangerous corner kick into the mix, where Chris Schuler had put himself in position to possibly head it through. But as he rose to meet it, Darrius Barnes ducked down behind Schuler, who quickly tumbled to the ground.
Chapman pointed to the spot, which opened the door for Salt Lake to grab the goal that had eluded them in the early stages of Friday's match. Despite protests from a number of Revolution players, Javier Morales stepped up and sent it through moments later.
"I didn't get an explanation," Soares said of Chapman's call on the penalty. "But I didn't ask for one, so I can't tell you. He saw something, called it, and it's fair enough -- he's the ref, and he can make whatever call he wants, I guess."
Instead of smarting over their misfortune, the Revolution quickly sought out the equalizer and found it two minutes after Morales opened the account.
On an expertly guided free kick from Chris Tierney, Barnes escaped his defender and nodded it through to put the match back on level terms in the 37th minute.
"[The goal] kind of woke everybody up a little bit," Barnes told revolutionsoccer.net after the match. "Obviously we feel like that's a tough [penalty kick]. I don't agree with it, but that was the call, and fortunately we responded. We tied it up, it's 1-1 at halftime, and we felt good going into the half."
Those positive vibes were effectively chased off the pitch after Chapman awarded a second penalty to Salt Lake after Tierney brought down John Stertzer in the box in the 63rd minute. Plata took the penalty and scored to reclaim the lead for the hosts.
Nevertheless, Tierney nearly added his second assist of the game by sending a perfect ball for Patrick Mullins deep in the 18, but the rookie striker couldn't push it through in the 68th minute.
"We knew we were going to come out and play better -- we had to play better in the second half, and I thought we did," Barnes said. "We created tons of chances, and we should have finished a couple of those."
But in the end, the two penalties were all that separated the Revolution from the result Soares believes his side should've grabbed on the Fourth of July.
"I'm disappointed with both calls on the penalty kicks," Soares said. "It's a hard one to swallow because we didn't deserve to get no points."
AJ Soares netted a 14th-minute goal, while Diego Fagundez tallied for the third time in two games in the 27th minute. Lee Nguyen struck back with his team-leading fifth goal of the season in the 49th minute, while Chris Tierney used a free-kick opportunity to scribble his name on the scoresheet in the 57th minute. Meanwhile, rookie Patrick Mullins scored in his third straight game on a 67th-minute strike assisted by Fagundez.
Backup goalkeeper Brad Knighton made his first start for the Revolution this season, making four saves along the way.
Vincent Nogueira gave the home crowd a measure of hope in the 36th minute, while Sheanon Williams scored in the 76th minute. Sebastien Le Toux capped the goal bonanza in the 92nd minute on a strike from the spot.
Union midfielder Cristian Maidana was sent off in the 81st minute for a studs-up challenge on Steve Neumann, dooming the hosts to 10 men for the remainder of the match.
The Revolution's 5-3 victory snapped a six-game winless streak at PPL Park that dated back to the Union's debut season in 2010. The victory also extended the Revolution's current unbeaten streak to six (5-0-1).
What it means: The last time the Revolution came to PPL Park, they were a team in dire straits, unable to score with a host of concerns in the rear. It's safe to say that the Revolution side on display Saturday has put the past behind them -- in more ways than one. Not only did they score early and often, but they put the PPL Park jinx behind them to grab their first win in the shadow of the Commodore Barry Bridge. With players like Fagundez, Teal Bunbury and Nguyen in form, and plenty of depth on the bench, there appears to be no stopping the Revolution going into the summer.
Stat of the match: Soares' 14th-minute goal snapped the Revolution's goal drought at PPL Park at 360 minutes. The last Revolution goal in Philadelphia came from a 12th-minute goal from Saer Sene in a 2-1 loss on July 29, 2012.
Knighton makes season debut: Knighton was given his first start of the season against the Union after starter Bobby Shuttleworth suffered a concussion in training on Thursday. Incidentally, Knighton, who spent his first three seasons (2007-09) in MLS with New England, was selected by the Union in the 2009 expansion draft and collected eight starts for the Philadelphia squad in 2010. He was subsequently waived following the season.
Back to Gillette: The red-hot Revolution will look to continue their offensive exploits at Gillette Stadium on Saturday, May 24, for their second meeting of the season against longtime rival D.C. United. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. On April 5, D.C. staked a 2-0 win over the Revolution at RFK Stadium.
Although the Revs have accumulated one more point than their expansion adversary, it's been the Whitecaps who've impressed many observers this early in the season. After claiming a decisive 4-2 win over Toronto FC in their season opener, the Whitecaps briefly stumbled with 1-0 loss to the Union at Philadelphia. But, once they returned home last weekend, they resumed their offensive output and mounted a massive 3-3 comeback draw against Sporting Kansas City thanks to a pair of stoppage time goals by Camilo seconds before the final whistle.
In order for the Revs to find any measure of success against Vancouver, they'll have to do three things:
1. Make the aforementioned Camilo and Atiba Harris disappear. To do so, Ryan Cochrane, fresh off his first start in a Revolution kit, and rookie A.J. Soares will have to bring their A games to Empire Field if they hope to keep the potent Whitecaps off the board. Soares, who's looked the part of a first-round pick so far, has been one of the key cogs in the Revs revamped defending corps and may well assume a key role in Wednesday's match.
2. Take it one pass at a time, fellas. It sounds elementary and simplistic, sure, but after Saturday's unremarkable performance, Revs skipper Shalrie Joseph mentioned that he and his teammates found themselves trying to do too much when holding the ball. It's good to be ambitious, but too much ambition can cause a club to lose its composure. Therefore, the central midfielders will have to establish the tempo by making crisp, intermediate passes in order open up the field for their speedy wingers.
3. Find Zack Schilawski. The sophomore striker has been a bit of a revelation thus far. After finding himself as the lone striker in manager Steve Nicol's 4-5-1 formation, Schilawski has answered the bell with a goal and a collection of shots (7 so far). More importantly, it's Schilawski's finishing ability that makes him dangerous inside the box. If he can find the service, there's little doubt that the former Demon Deacon will factor into the final score.
Wednesday's match will be a good test for a young club like the Revs. It'll be the first opportunity to find out how sharp, both mentally and physically, they are. Sure, the desire to rebound was certainly present following Saturday's draw, but to do it on short rest after a cross-continent flight is another thing entirely. If anything, the Whitecaps match will show whether the Revs can fulfill that desire.
-- Wednesday's match will be New England's first against Vancouver, and the second against an expansion team in five days after the Revs faced Portland on April 2nd.
-- After Saturday's 1-1 draw to the Timbers, the Revs remain unbeaten in first encounters with expansion sides since 2000.
-- The last time a New England-based first division club faced the Vancouver Whitecaps, whose roots can be traced back to the original North American Soccer League, was back in 1978. The New England Tea Men, who played in the NASL from 1978-80, defeated the Whitecaps 2-0 at Foxboro Stadium.
Look for the Revolution to unleash the following starting XI against the Whitecaps on Wednesday:
GK: Bobby Shuttleworth
D: Didier Domi
D: A.J. Soares
D: Ryan Cochrane
D: Kevin Alston
M: Sainey Nyassi
M: Stephen McCarthy
M: Shalrie Joseph
M: Pat Phelan
M: Zak Boggs
F: Zack Schilawski
REVOLUTION INJURY REPORT:
Probable: Kevin Alson (left hamstring strain), Didier Domi (right knee swelling), Matt Reis (right adductor strain)
Doubtful: Franco Coria (left hamstring strain), Ousmane Dabo (right quadriceps strain), Marko Perovic (left hamstring strain), Andrew Sousa (right quadriceps strain)
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.