Well, that felt far too familiar. This year losing by one goal is something New England Revolution has done more often than not. This week against the Philadelphia Union we lost by a single goal again with the added bonus of a retro temper tantrum from Benny Feilhaber.
Last season our Revs offensive futility was a horrendous trainwreck of missed shots and blunted build-ups. Injuries and a pervasive lack of confidence (in teammates, in our ability to compete for 90 minutes, etc.) saw our defense evolve from vulnerable, through fragile, to brittle. Just to be clear, that last sentence was intended to describe the Revs’ 2011 season, though it could just as easily be used to describe this game against Philadelphia.
This season, our 2012 Revs have competed deeper into 90 minutes and generated more shots and goals. Jerry Bengston, after a great demonstration of following a play through from Diego Fagundez, pulled the ball away from Philly’s defenders and goal keeper, MacMath. Drifting wide and setting himself up for a shot, it looked like Jerry was going to give us the lead in the 29th minute. His shot caromed off the near post and just like that our best chance of the game was a miss.
So, with that miss as the “offensive futility” set-up, Philadelphia added some pressure with a goal of their own in the 73rd minute. They earned a free kick that was essentially a short corner. Keon Daniel knocked it across the box where it eluded Bobby Shuttlesworth and dropped behind Ryan Guy right onto the head of Jack McInerney. Losing a game on is type of play is also a familiar 2012 sight. The defending on the free kick or the decision that cost us a free kick, neither is more or less culpable but both certainly expose our defending as vulnerable if not fragile.
So the pressure was amped up through our shots not going in, theirs finally breaking through, and the fouls stacking up, too. The only yellow shown to the Union, out of five total, was for time wasting. Frustration was seeping into the physicality of this game and Benny had picked up one of those yellows for fouls. The 2007 Gold Cup taught us what we could hope for from Benny Feilhaber – a creative force who amplified chances if he didn’t make goals outright. Since his arrival in 2011, Benny’s time in New England has taught us about not just how Mr. Feilhaber handles frustration but how he expresses escalated frustration. Benny has consistently shown us that he will blow his top. After getting knocked down, knocking some Union players down, and maybe getting knocked down and then having the call go against him, Benny was primed and when I saw him start to yell at the referee I knew his fuse was lit. Boom. Benny gets next week off.
I can admit that my interest has waned as teams like New York, Chicago, and Houston fight for playoff position while we trudge through the remaining games. This, however, and not necessarily the loss, but a frustrating and raw display of things going wrong, again – this certainly plants a flag on my 2012 calendar. There is still time to learn about the Revs roster, their belief in the coaching staff and their commitment to competing throughout each game for every single moment. I hope to see a sense of what we might expect next season. I do appreciate Benny’s passion. I would like to have him fighting for New England, and I can even understand the rare experience that is so frustrating he might earn a red card essentially for dissent. I also want to have a leader on the field and Benny Feilhaber has proven that he will likely not be that leader.
(image courtesy of revolutionsoccer.net)