FOXBOROUGH — The Revolution could not dig themselves out of a hole that grew deeper by the minute Saturday night against the Houston Dynamo, finally falling, 2-1.
After a lethargic and uninspiring first half at Gillette Stadium, New England allowed a 49th-minute goal by Houston midfielder Adam Moffat, who brilliantly struck a left-footed volley from 30 yards out to give Houston a 1-0 lead.
New England woke up for 30-minute spell. Six minutes after Moffat’s strike, Revolution forward Saer Sene pounced on a loose ball in the penalty box after midfielder Diego Fagundez whipped in a cross. Sene side-footed the ball into Houston’s net, tying the game, 1-1.
New England looked more energetic as the second half went on but couldn’t break through.
Revolution coach Jay Heaps seemed frustrated with the officiating after the Dynamo (8-6-5, 29 points) tried to lure his team into a physical battle, instead of a technical game. But he wasn’t happy with the Revolution’s reaction to the visitors’ game plan, either.
“We have to be a little bit better in the reaction,” said Heaps. “Overall we didn’t play well enough when we had the chance. It was really physical really early.
“Lee Nguyen got whacked a couple of times early on by [Houston midfielder] Ricardo Clark. You need a little help once in a while. You need the man in the middle to say, ‘OK, guys. We’re going to play today.’ When that doesn’t happen, we need a reaction from ourselves and we didn’t get it.”
The winning goal was scored in the 79th minute. Moffat drove a shot low from about 20 yards that rebounded off the post, before ricocheting off New England goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth and rolling into the net, putting the Dynamo up, 2-1.
A night of frustration for New England (6-6-6, 24 points) went from bad to worse as it struggled to get the equalizer.
In the 82d minute, Revolution substitute Dimitry Imbongo threw an elbow at a Dynamo defender who was tangled up with the forward. Referee Armando Villarreal saw enough intent in Imbongo’s elbow to give him a straight red card, forcing the Revolution to play the last 10 minutes a man down.
The Revolution failed to take a point in a home game that was arguably their biggest of the season to date. A win would have seen the Revolution jump the Dynamo in MLS’ Eastern Conference into fifth place — the final playoff spot.
Heaps said his team needed to bounce back from when the night wasn’t going well.
“The referee is just in a whole other world, missing penalty kick calls, not giving out yellow cards when he should, and letting the game be physical,” said Heaps.
“But then it’s on us to fix it. It’s on us to make the reaction in the right direction, and we didn’t do that tonight.”
Shuttleworth acknowledged Moffat’s two goals, in a game that the goalkeeper described as “huge.”
“You’re not going to see a ball struck like that too often,” said Shuttleworth said of Moffat’s volley. “Both goals are good strikes, credit to him. It’s not good enough from anyone, myself included. This was a huge game for us. We were trying to jump them in the table so this one stings for sure.”
The Revolution will be on the road against the Colorado Rapids on Wednesday night, the beginning of a three-game road stint, which includes games against conference foes Columbus and D.C. United.
Shuttleworth said the team can’t dwell on the loss to Houston and needs to focus on its upcoming trip.
“We’ve got to get on to the next one,” he said. “This is a huge trip for us — we have to go on the road and try to get points. We have to let it sting for the rest of the night and push onwards.”