Following Wednesday’s 3-2 loss to Real Salt Lake -- a loss that saw the tying and deciding goals leak through the Revs' defense in the dying minutes -- head coach Jay Heaps knew that his team had to adopt a more disciplined approach for Saturday’s game against the Red Bulls.
They did that, and also managed to score a pair of first-half goals, in a 2-0 win to conclude their preseason schedule on a positive note.
“It wasn’t our best stuff,” Heaps told the media following the match. “I don’t think we moved the ball like we wanted to offensively, but I was really happy with what we did pressure-wise and defensively in the first half.”
No doubt, the Revs' offense wasn’t at its strongest on Saturday. Nevertheless, they wasted no time putting the Red Bulls on notice only four minutes into the match. Lee Nguyen crashed the area and earned a penalty in the fourth minute, then converted it moments later to give New England a 1-0 lead.
Despite the early tally, the offensive momentum quickly swung in favor of the Red Bulls, who routinely tested the Revolution's defense.
New York’s next serious bid arrived in the 28th minute when Tim Cahill came within inches of equalizing. But Nguyen volleyed Cahill’s shot right off the line, leaving the Red Bulls empty handed once again.
“We were all over them and it was just one of those ‘Life is cruel sometimes' moments,” Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke told the media after the game. "We pressed well, we created so many chances, (and) we played some great football.”
Jerry Bengtson’s 36th-minute goal was a testament to Petke’s sentiment about cruelty. The Red Bulls had dominated the first half, yet had nothing to show for it. Worse, they found themselves stuck in a two-goal deficit.
Even though the Revs held the lead, Heaps wanted to see his team find a stronger attacking rhythm in the second half. Short of that, the Revolution had to keep closing in on the ball, applying pressure and clogging up the passing lanes.
While team defense kept the scoreline intact, Reis came to the rescue when the Red Bulls approached the area. In the 66th minute, the veteran goalkeeper boldly came off his line to snuff out a dangerous chance created by Fabian Espindola. In the 83rd minute, he denied a heat-seeking Juninho free kick.
“We got a little bit tired,” Heaps said. “They broke through us, but that’s why you have a goalkeeper that makes saves and Matt Reis made a couple of big saves.”
Reis’ efforts helped earn the Revolution their second shutout of the preseason. More importantly, Saturday’s win hinted that Heaps’ team may have exorcised the defensive demons that doomed it against Real Salt Lake last week.
“Those can be situations that can haunt you,” Heaps said. “Our guys stepped up and played well and finished up the defensive side of it and didn’t give up anything.”