By IAN HOLLIDAY
FOXBORO, Mass. - In the brief history of SuperLiga, MLS has acquitted itself well against what is generally considered superior Mexican competition. Unfortunately for the league, solid performances in the early rounds haven’t translated to success in the tournament’s final, which no MLS team has ever won by beating Mexican opposition.
The 2010 SuperLiga final was no exception, as the New England Revolution fell to Monarcas Morelia 2-1 at Gillette Stadium Wednesday night.
Two second-half goals from Miguel Sabah gave the visitors the advantage before New England pulled one back through Kevin Alston. It was too little, too late for the Revs, who lost their fourth straight match across all competitions and failed in their attempt to win a second straight SuperLiga title.
After the match, Morelia coach Tomas Boy said he was proud of his team for winning a trophy.
"This group for me, is a very good group," he said. "We’ve been coming together over a long period of time. So for me, it is extra special to win a championship with this group. We have almost 12 guys who are under 22, and with the collective personality that we’ve developed it makes me very happy and is a good sign of things to come."
Sabah's first goal came on a penalty kick in the 65th minute. Revolution defender Darrius Barnes couldn't control a cross in the box and was muscled out of the way by Morelia striker Luis Gabriel Rey. Barnes fell down and fouled Rey while trying to get back into the play. The defender received a yellow card for his effort.
"[Rey] was pulled down," said Revolution coach Steve Nicol. "Had it been in the other penalty box, we would have been rooting for it, as well. Sometimes you get them, sometimes you don’t get them. On this occasion, they got it."
Sabah struck again in the 75th minute, pouncing on a weak clearance by Barnes and volleying a venomous 25-yard shot past Reis. The forward was looking for a hat trick in the first minute of stoppage time when and Reis charged a loose ball in the box. Reis got there first, and Sabah went to ground looking to draw the penalty. Instead, he was booked for diving and sent off (he had already received a yellow card in the 39th minute).
After the first goal, Nicol made three attack-minded substitutions, bringing on wingers Khano Smith and Roberto Linck and forward Zack Schilawski. And after the second goal the change in tactics began to pay dividends. The Revs were able to sustain pressure for most of the game's final 15 minutes, and they got one back in the 79th minute when Kevin Alston ran onto a pass from Schilawski and put a low shot past Morelia goalkeeper Federico Vilar. The goal was Alston’s first as a professional.
The Revolution’s best chance to equalize came in the final minute of stoppage time, when Cory Gibbs ran onto a bouncing cross in the Morelia box. He did well to drive the ball on the ground, but his shot was right at Vilar, who made the save.
Morelia controlled possession for most of the game, and the number of scoring chances they created reflected that fact. They hit the crossbar twice in the first half and looked dangerous in the final third, getting behind the Revolution defense several times before halftime.
Despite being outplayed for most of the game, the Revolution had a great chance to take the lead in the 57th minute, when Kheli Dube collected a pass behind the Morelia defense. His shot ricocheted off keeper Federico Vilar to Ilija Stolica, but the Serbian’s shot went wide.
The Revs won't have much time to dwell on their SuperLiga defeat as they host the Seattle Sounders on Saturday.
"Saturday, we’ve just got to worry about creating more chances and trying to be smarter and getting back into the MLS season," said Revolution captain Shalrie Joseph. "We did our best in SuperLiga, and we’ve just got to look forward to the MLS."