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Posted Feb 24, 2013, 9:12 am
The New England Revolution faced off with their I-95 rivals New York Red Bulls at Kino Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The Revs won the match 2-0, capturing third place in this year's Desert Diamond Cup.
The Revolution gained the lead early when New York's Jamison Olave took down Lee Nguyen just inside the penalty area. Nguyen's penalty kick easily arrived at the back of the net, putting his team up in the fourth minute.
Even with the lead, New York soon had the lion's share of offense. The first half hour included several chances on goal. A shot from Thierry Henry nearly got in after an outstretched Matt Reis palmed the ball. It nearly went in as it traveled across the face of the goal to the opposite crossbar, but it bounced out to safety. Reis also saved a subsequent shot by Tim Cahill.
New York's threats on goal became the story for most of the rest of the half. Their attackers found themselves constantly stymied by the New England defense, most notably the yellow shirted wall with the letters "Reis" scrawled on the back.
Despite having the lead, the Revs had few chances from the run of play until the 36th minute. Nguyen dribbled the ball, but was dispossessed by the New York defense. The back line didn't clear the ball and Jerry Bengtson shot the ball past New York keeper to extend the Rev's lead.
The half ended with cautions to both Red Bull Roy Miller and Rev Juan Toja after the two of them had words following Miller tripping the Colombian midfielder.
In the second half, New York continued to have the run of play, but once again couldn't score. New York kept winning corners as their shots were batted over the endline by Reis, but each set play ended up broken up by the New England defense.
New York's final chance to end the game with a point on the all-too-tiny Kino scoreboard came in the 88th minute by new Red Bull Fabian Espindola. It became a scene too familiar to New York's offense: Reis tipped the ball over the crossbar and secured his clean sheet for the day.
The Revs open their regular season on March 9 against long time rivals Chicago Fire. New York will travel to Portland to open against the Timbers on March 3.
"It wasn't our best stuff," admitted Jay Heaps after the match. "But I was happy what we did pressure-wise defensively."
That defense was the story of the match for the Revs. They held on to that lead even while being outshot 13-3.
"The game never got settled down," Heaps said of his team's inability to exert more offensive pressure. "We want to better than that."
Even with the offensive problems, Heaps and the Revs defense did its job and held the lead. It was something they weren't able to do on Wednesday night when the team dropped two goals in the last moments of the match. For that, he credits Matt Reis and the center back combo of José Gonçalves and Stephen McCarthy.
"Matt feels comfortable with the center backs we put in front of him," Heaps said. "There is good communication so he feels comfortable playing the ball in the back so that helps us."
Reis is the most senior member of the Revolution, having joined the team in 2003. The defense in front of him, however, included two players new to the team: Gonçalves and second half substitute Bilal Duckett. Duckett replaced Stephen McCarthy, and helped marshal a back line that was responsible for making sure eight New York corner kicks resulted in disappointment for the Red Bulls. Even with that, Reis knows that there is work to be done.
"We are still getting to know each other," Reis admitted.
Still, it seemed to work out okay.