By KEVIN KOCZWARA
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Revolution’s scoreless streak to start their 2014 season continues after a draw Saturday against the Vancouver Whitecaps in the only regular season meeting between the two clubs.
“In the end, I was really happy how we played defensively,” Revolution head coach Jay Heaps said after the game. “But in the end we have to be better offensively.”
The Revolution (0-2-1, 1 pts.) have looked more comfortable in possession this season so far, but are still struggling to find the groove that made it one of the most potent and dynamic attacking teams in Major League Soccer last year. The Whitecaps (1-0-2, 5 pts.) did well to contain the Revs as they work on creating chances.
“I thought it was a really good game. It was obviously a hard fought match. Difficult to get a ton going on both sides,” Heaps said.
Vancouver knew they would have to hold out for an early surge from a New England team playing at home for the first time and looking to recover after tough losses to start the season. But a chance for Revs’ midfielder Andy Dorman in the 5th minute almost ruined those plans.
Dorman ran to the near post and flicked Chris Tierney’s in-swinging corner kick towards the Vancouver goal, but Whitecaps’ goalkeeper David Ousted was there to tip the ball over the bar and deny New England their first goal of the season.
“We knew [we had to hold on for] the first 20 minutes,” Vancouver coach Carl Robinson said after the game. “It is the first [home] game and they have come off two defeats, or whatever, and Jay will have them fired up, we knew that. It was important we weathered the storm and we did that very well.”
New England continued to press for the rest of the first half, trying to force Vancouver into costly turnovers in the midfield. Saer Sene was almost rewarded in the 19th minute for the pressure New England was putting on the Whitecaps when he found space at the edge of the penalty area to curl a shot on net, but Ousted was able to get down and hold on to the shot.
Vancouver finally broke out in the 32nd minute when Darren Mattocks found space in behind the Revolution defense and sent a shot on the ground across the six-yard box, only to see no one there and the chance go out for a throw-in across the field.
New England came down immediately and nearly reaped the benefit of pressing high when Teal Bunbury blocked a Whitecaps’ clearance and the ball fell to Diego Fagundez, but the 19-year-old scuffed his shot and didn’t trouble Ousted.
Revolution goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth saw his first action in first half stoppage time when Whitecaps’ forward Kenny Miller forced him to make a diving save to his left with a shot from just outside the penalty area.
To try and change things up, Robinson brought on midfielder Pedro Morales for Sebastian Fernandez at half-time. The change almost paid off immediately.
In the 51st minute Morales put Miller through on goal with a flick over the top of the New England defense. Miller saw Shuttleworth off his line and tried to flick the chance off the half-volley past the New England goalkeeper, but Shuttleworth was able to get a finger on the chance and push it wide for a corner.
“We tried to nick it. I tried to be positive with substitutions,” Robinson said. “We had Darren (Mattocks), Kenny (Miller), Kekuta (Manneh) on the field in the end with Pedro (Morales). I wanted to make sure I’d win the game. Obviously, I didn’t want to be naïve and lose the game, which was important, but we did try to be proactive in the substitution; and I was.”
While Robinson tried to nick the game, New England kept probing to find a way to open the deadlock, firing 17 shots at the Vancouver goal.
The Revs had their best chance of the game in the 79th minute after working the ball down the right side to defender Andrew Farrell on the overlap, the defender then hit a low cross towards Fagundez in the penalty area, but the 19-year-old whiffed on the chance. Luckily for New England Daigo Kobayashi was lurking in the area and time to try and curl the shot towards the near post, but Whitecap’s defender Andy O’Brien was there to block the chance and keep the game level.
The positive signs are there for New England as they try to find their their rhythm. They’re creating the chances, now it’s just about finding a way to finish them.
“I think we worked hard and played well at times, I’m just a little disappointed we couldn’t get the win,” Dorman said after the game. “But it’s the first point on board and we have to kick on from here.”
Next up for Vancouver is the Houston Dynamo at home on Saturday, March 29. The Revolution will head to San Jose to take on the Earthquakes next Saturday.
One the plus side for New England, this is the team’s first clean-sheet of the season after two tough road losses where they allowed five goals and saw two different defensive units struggle.
Here are the match highlights: