A familiar and unwanted feeling settled over the New England Revolution on Saturday night during the team's contest against the Colorado Rapids.
After gaining an early advantage on the road just as head coach Steve Nicol wanted, the Revs saw momentum swing back in favor of their opponent at an inopportune time. As Rapids' forward Sanna Nyassi lined up a shot inside the box in the 63rd minute, Revolution midfielder Chris Tierney slid to take him down before he could get off a shot. The referee issued a red card to Tierney and Nyassi buried the ensuing penalty kick at the 65th minute.
Suddenly, New England went from being comfortably ahead to being tied and forced to play the remainder of the match man down. For Nicol and company it seemed to be the latest chapter in a season dictated by Murphy's Law.
"To go down to 10 men, we're thinking we don't deserve this," Nicol told Revolutionsoccer.net following the game.
Sure enough, matters only got worse in the 82nd minute. Rapids defender Kosuke Kimura booted a ball from inside his team's own end up the field, hoping to catch a teammate streaking toward net on a run. New England goalkeeper Matt Reis charged out from his net to play the ball, but misjudged it badly as the ball bounced 10 feet in front of him and then over his head and into the net to give Colorado a 2-1 lead in the waning moments of the contest.
"The second goal only happens here," Nicol said, referring to the high altitude in Commerce City, Colo. "The ball that we use is impossible for the players to play properly. It's moving everywhere. Even the simplest things become difficult."
Bad luck or bad judgment aside, the Revolution were now trailing in a game they had otherwise had control of for the majority of the contest, and it appeared that once again the club was headed for defeat.
Instead of accepting their doom and gloom fate, the Revs fought back and broke through with the equalizer in the 90th minute. After New England midfielder Kenny Mansally was taken down inside the Colorado box, Revolution captain Shalrie Joseph drilled the penalty kick to even the score at 2-2, which the Revolution held on to for a hard-earned 2-2 draw.
As Nicol mentioned after the game, the point earned by the team seemed to be poetic justice for his crew.
"You see the character of those players," Nicol said. "We didn't stop pushing and we got some free kicks, rightly so. To be honest, I think we deserved to get the point at the end of the day."
With the point the Revolution inched up the Eastern Conference standings after being stuck in the basement for much of the season. The team now sits at 4-9-8 overall with 20 points, good for seventh in the east. New England is now three points behind D.C. United — whom the Revs defeated 1-0 on Wednesday — and four points behind the Houston Dynamo.
"The D.C. game was positive and just putting two consistent performances together and getting points out of two consistent games is huge for us," said central midfielder Pat Phelan. "We need to get points in pretty much every game but two more wins and we're up to like fourth place (in the Eastern Conference)."
The team gets a break this week while the MLS All-Star Game is played on Wednesday. The players will return to action Saturday night when the Revs travel to Kansas City to take on Sporting KC.
While a lot of work remains to get back into the race for the playoffs, Nicol believes the character displayed in Saturday night's 2-2 draw is indicative of a team that can never be counted out.
"This is our fourth game in 10 days," Nicol said. "The heat that we've been playing in recently, for them to come back as I said for the fourth game in 10 days, to go down to 10 men and come back the way they did I think tells you everything you need to know about our players."
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