Two weeks ago, when the New England Revolution downed an at times resurgent D.C. United club, 2-1, it gave the Revs a solid grip on first place in Major League Soccer‘s Eastern Conference, four points clear of Sporting Kansas City and five ahead of United. It appeared like New England would be in command of the East heading into the upcoming World Cup Break, when the league goes quiet for 17 days during the event in Brazil.
But back-to-back losses have changed that view of the Revs and now could make some wonder if their earlier success was a mirage. Since the win over United, the Revs have fallen by 2-0 scores to both the Montreal Impact and the New York Red Bulls. Any two-game skid can be troubling, but considering the facts about the opponents, there’s cause for concern for New England backers.
Neither Montreal nor New York were in playoff position in the East before their wins over New England. Montreal was dead last in the league on just seven points, but won for only the second time in 12 games this season on goals by Andres Romero and Jack McInerney. It was an away match for the Revolution, but anything short of at least a draw on the road to the worst team in the league is a major disappointment.
New York is more formidable in name, but the Red Bulls weren’t much of a name Sunday. With players such as Tim Cahill and Roy Miller gone to international duty, Thierry Henry and Dax McCarty unavailable, much of the New York lineup was unrecognizable beyond Lloyd Sam and Bradley Wright-Phillips. It marked the perfect occasion for the Revs to bounce back, especially against a New York team that hadn’t won a league match (regular season or playoff) in New England since 2002 — a span of 19 matches (0-13-6).
Yet, goals by Eric Alexander and Peguy Luyindula were enough for the Red Bulls to end their 12-year run of futility at New England, and now the Revolution (7-5-2, 23 points) have just a one-point lead in the East over both Sporting Kansas City and D.C. United. Untied has one more match before the World Cup Break, against Montreal on June 10, so there’s a possibility that the Revs will be dethroned from first place before the break even goes into full effect for the league.
When the break ends, the Revolution will need to re-find their offense, one that scored 21 goals in the first 12 matches of the season, but none in the last two. There were plenty of chances Sunday vs. the Red Bulls, including nine shots on goal, but none found the back of the net. New England had the advantage in possession in both matches.
If New England is going to be a title contender in the East, the Revolution will have to hit the ground running when the unofficial second half of the MLS season begins.