Photo by Andrew Katsampes/ISIphotos.com
By THOMAS FLOYD
For 45 minutes Wednesday, the New England Revolution held its own against one of the top clubs the world has to offer.
Manchester United couldn't break through against the Revolution defense in a friendly before 51,523 at Gillette Stadium, and the two teams went into the break locked in a scoreless draw. For a New England side sitting at the bottom of the Eastern Conference with a 3-8-7 mark, it was a strong half of soccer to potentially build on going forward.
The second half, however, was a different story. After making wholesale defensive changes, the Revolution back line was picked apart by the Red Devils, who used a Federico Macheda brace along with tallies from Michael Owen and Ji-Sung Park to roll to a 4-1 win.
"You're playing against one of the best teams in the world, so it's good just to be out there and challenge yourself against that kind of competition," Revolution midfielder Benny Feilhaber said. "I thought we did really well in the first half. I didn't think they dominated the game in the first half. We had our chances, we had some possession — overall it was good. Then, obviously, they turned it up a notch in the second."
Here is some more news from around the Eastern Conference:
As the Fire has continued to rack up the ties and consequently slip further down the Eastern Conference standings, it has become apparent the club needs another difference-maker or two to help turn those draws into wins. After searching through the international transfer market, Chicago found someone it hopes can be that player: Argentine midfielder Sebastian Grazzini.
"He's one we looked at that really stuck out," coach Frank Klopas said to the Chicago Tribune. "He's going to need some time to adjust, but he can step in and contribute. We also talked to different people about his attitude, personality and character."
While the still-young Home Grown player program evolves across the league, the young signings are going about some different paths to pursuing education. Columbus' first Home Grown player, striker Aaron Horton, is currently taking a class at Columbus State and will enroll at Ohio State in the fall as he continues working toward his degree after playing one year at Louisville.
"When I left school, that was my main goal, to still get my degree," Horton said to MLSsoccer.com. "I talked to my parents about it. They didn't want me to leave [Louisville] if I didn't get my degree."
United has suffered from a particularly bad case of the concussion bug in recent years. Josh Gros, Alecko Eskandarian and Bryan Namoff had to stop their playing careers because of complications from concussions they suffered with D.C. After experiencing one during Saturday's 1-0 win over New York, rookie forward Blake Brettschneider joined Devon McTavish, Santino Quaranta and Brandon Barklage as current United players sidelined by concussions.
"He got whacked pretty good. He didn't remember much after the game. I told him [Tuesday] morning he scored three goals. He didn't think that was very funny," United coach Ben Olsen joked before adding, "You know how these things go. We'll make sure we're smart with him."
At 1-0-2 since the oft-injured Brian Ching returned to the starting lineup, Houston is proving itself to be a team that, when at full strength, can surely compete in a wide open Eastern Conference. To coach Dominic Kinnear, making sure his veteran striker stays healthy will be a clear priority.
"With his experience and his quality, he's a very important player for us," Kinnear said to the Houston Chronicle. "The big question has been his health. Whenever you have him healthy, it's always better for you."
NEW YORK RED BULLS
As both Greg Sutton and Bouna Coundoul committed gaffes that repeatedly cost the Red Bulls points, it became apparent that the team's most pressing need was a goalkeeper. That problem was seemingly solved Tuesday with the signing of German goalkeeper Frank Rost as a Designated Player. In a press release, General Manager Erik Soler discussed what the 38-year-old will bring to the table for New York.
"Frank is a very experienced goalkeeper who will provide a strong presence in between the posts for our club during our quest for an MLS title," Soler said in a press release. "We are thrilled that he has decided to join us in the middle of our campaign and look forward to his contributions for the remainder of the season."
Philadelphia's surprising trade last week that saw left back Jordan Harvey, who had only missed one game in club history, shipped to Vancouver, created a notable defensive void for Philadelphia. After filling in at left back when Harvey was suspended earlier in the season, rookie Gabriel Farfan did so again during a scoreless draw against San Jose.
"I've played left back before and I understand the position quite well," Farfan told PhiladelphiaUnion.com. "It’s not like I haven't been back there before. When the staff approached me, I was ready. I thought it was fun. I like being on the field and helping my club. We kept a clean sheet, and that was a great feeling.”
SPORTING KANSAS CITY
Defender Matt Besler is hoping his unlikely All-Star selection via the text message vote won't just allow him to represent MLS against Manchester United — he would like to see the exposure possibly catch the attention of U.S. national team coach Bob Bradley as well.
"I try and stay as humble as much as possible," Besler said to MLSsoccer.com. "But, selfishly, I hope that this kind of puts my name on the map nationally. I know Kansas City sometimes gets overlooked, but hopefully I can make a name for myself and get on the national team radar. That has always been one of my goals and something I’m going to work toward over the next year or two."
Back to back losses have dropped Toronto to 3-9-9 with a minus-19 goal differential that is by far the worst in MLS. Even with the impending arrivals of Torsten Frings and Danny Koevermans, the team may have dug itself too deep a hole to get out of. As coach Aron Winter put it, "We've got a lot of lack of quality."
"We can play 20 to 25 minutes, maybe a half-game well," Winter said to MLSsoccer.com. "But after that we don't do the things anymore that we expect."