Monday, April 09, 2007

Game 1: Boy(s) Meet World

So much for adding to that 500 franchise goal mark the Revolution has so prominently featured on its official website.

The Revs, who mere months ago sent Chicago packing after eliminating them for the Eastern Conference semi-finals last October, were shut out by a Fire club that pocketed an early goal in the 4th minute and never looked back, taking the 1-0 result from the boys in blue.

New England amazingly started three rookies (Adam Cristman, Gary Flood and Wells Thompson) to kick off the 2007 season, due in large part to injuries to Shalrie Joseph and Michael Parkhurst. Minutes into the game, they already had their backs to the wall early on after Fire defender Logan Pause Swiss-cheesed the New England defenders and found himself in the right place at the right time by shimmying a weak shot just out of the reach of Revs ‘keeper Matt Reis.

From there on out, it was a parade of missed chances for the Revs, who came oh-so tantalizingly close to equalizing on ensuing occasions.

Minutes after the Pause goal, Andy Dorman would send in a cross from the right wing that Taylor Twellman, normally exceptional on headers, uncharacteristically ricocheted just wide of the net. Later in the first half, Dorman would again send in a bouncing cross that missed not one, but two Revs players, as Cristman and Twellman, as if choreographed, both simultaneuously missed getting a heel on.

In the 2nd half, Twellman rocketed a shot that just pounded off the crossbar and high into cold Chicago air. Later, it would be Fire keeper Matt Pickens who withstood a couple of shots from Dorman. Twellman would be robbed by Pickens after making a smothering save on TnT’s free kick in the 81st minute.

The Revs, seemingly snake-bitten after coming up short more times than Susan Lucci at the Daytime Emmys, lowered their heads in defeat, and conceded their first match of the season to their bitter Eastern Conference rivals.

*Steve Nicol threw his young charges to the Fire without hesitation, by starting Cristman up front with Twellman, Flood at right back, and Thompson at midfield. After Pause’s early goal, a sequence in which Flood looked somewhat tentative, all three rooks held themselves fairly well. Cristman seemed to find himself in the mix on a handful of scoring opportunities, while Thompson admirably flowed through midfield traffic to find open space, as well as locating goal-crashing teammates.

*Although the rookies played well, the game itself reeked of 2006. Missed chances, early holes, and the accompanying goose egg must have given Revs fans flashbacks of many of last year’s matches. However, to Nicol’s credit, the substitution of Flood, a defender, for Arsene Oka, a midfielder who also moonlights as a forward on occasion, may have raised a few eyebrows – in a good way. Obviously, Nicol was playing for the equalizer – duh – but did so in a refreshingly unconventional way by threw an untested, but exciting, rookie into a pressure situation, instead of going the safe route by inserting a veteran sub.

*Call it Year One of a Youth Revolution. Despite the 0-1 ending, the fact that four Revolution rookies all made their MLS debuts was exciting. Cristman, Thompson and Oka all had impressive preseasons, and it was fantastic to see each get their chance in a heated (figuratively), early-season match in frosty Chicago. Flood, called into a starting gig with Michael Parkhurst injured, did a good job to bottle up the Fire attack after the Pause goal, and dispersed some very fancy feeds. Although much too early to cast judgment, the supplemental pick could very well be a fine defender in this league before long. Don’t let the score distract you; this was a very encouraging preview of coming attractions.

*Somebody must have dropped the ball on the regional TV coverage because Revs fans in RI faced the same result as the Revs Saturday night: they were shut out. With TV38 - a station unavailable to Cox subscribers in RI – now carrying Revs games this season, the expectation was that there would be an arrangement made between the club, TV38, and Cox to ensure that the game would be available in Little Rhody. Oh, it was – some 21 hours after the final whistle. Cox showed the game on Cox Channel 3 on Sunday night at 7pm, which technically, did illustrate that Cox3 was indeed able to work out an arrangement with TV38. Unfortunately, the caveat that the game be broadcast live was apparently overlooked.

*They say that the best-officiated games are the ones in which you don’t notice the arbiters. This truism was certainly applicable to Saturday night’s match, as referee Baldomero Toledo oversaw a well-officiated match despite the tenacious air between the two teams. Credit is especially due for calling the dodo bird six-second rule on the Fire after Pickens held onto the ball well beyond the allotted six seconds a keeper can seize the ball for. The call gave the Revs a free kick in the 81st minute at a very opportune time.

*The question begs to be asked: When will the Revs get a home date for the season opener? A trend that is quickly becoming steeped in tradition, the Revs have now opened the season on the road every year since their inception. One has to wonder what the motives are behind this rather alarming statistic that keeps the Revs on the road once the season commences. Surely, this can only reinforce the theory that the Revolution has indeed become the unofficial stepchild of MLS.

*The Revs outshot the Fire 18 to 11, but were outdone by one in terms on shots on goal, 6 to 5. Nevertheless, this was a game that the Revs could have not only easily tied, but won, had they capitalized on just a couple of their numerous chances. Overall, the game was encouraging on many different fronts (tactics, rookies, solid chances), and should be no cause for any Revs player or fan to hang his or her head on.

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