FOXBOROUGH — The Revolution lost a frustrating battle against Toronto FC on Sunday night, enjoying the majority of goal-scoring chances but lacking an all-important finish in a 1-0 loss.
Toronto’s bend-but-don’t-break defensive attitude was successful against a New England team that started slowly at Gillette Stadium. The goal occurred on a counterattack after a rare loss of focus from New England captain Jose Goncalves.
Goncalves was dribbling near midfield when Toronto’s Matias Laba stuck a foot out and took the ball from the Revolution defender. After a neat bit of dribbling at the heart of the New England defense, Laba finished off an excellent individual effort.
Revolution coach Jay Heaps deflected blame on Goncalves for the loss.
“We had plenty of chances to rally and fix the mistake,” said Heaps. “It’s a tough one, because we haven’t given away a lot of goals this year, and when we do it hurts. We had opportunities to make the play and we didn’t.”
Toronto will credit its goalkeeper, Joe Bendik, who made a number of stunning saves to preserve the lead for the better part of 88 minutes.
“I thought he was great,” Heaps said. “[Bendik] made a lot of great saves, managed the game well . . . stopped some crosses.”
Heaps’s team will rue its missed opportunities. Midfielder Diego Fagundez, the Revolution’s leading scorer, had two chances cleared off the line in the first half, and another shot parried away by Bendik. Fagundez took six shots, but didn’t produce the moment of magic Revolution supporters are used to seeing from the 18-year-old.
Left back Chris Tierney said the second-minute goal from Laba was a dagger, after the team had focused on bettering its poor starts. (The Revolution went down a goal early in their last game, July 27 against D.C. United, before rallying for a 2-1 win.)
Sunday night, Tierney and his teammates couldn’t find that resurgence.
“The goal just killed us,” he said. “Giving away an early goal, we’ve been talking about starts and how we need to improve them. Same thing tonight, we just didn’t start well.
“I don’t know what the issue is. It was such a poor goal for us to concede, especially because we knew they were going to try and nip one on the counter, which is exactly what they did.”
The Revolution became progressively stronger as the first half went on, and started creating more opportunities against a team that stuck its players behind the ball. Toronto’s record improved to 4-10-8.
Heaps said the Revolution made few changes to the game plan at halftime, instead focusing on what the players would do in different scenarios.
“We were still creating chances, but it was more about where we were trying to win the ball back, and where we were possessing the ball,” said Heaps. “We made a few [positional] changes — we pushed Saer [Sene] up a little higher . . . and then as the half went on, we talked about what we would need to do if we went to a 3-5-2 — it was more like a 3-4-3 — but to try and get more guys around the box for opportunities.”
But a seemingly inevitable breakthrough from New England never came in a first half when the hosts accounted for 10 attempts on goal and held 63 percent of the possession. The Revolution finished the second half with similar statistics — seven attempts on goal with 65 percent possession.
The one number that mattered wasn’t there, though, as the attempts never crossed Bendik’s line.
As the chances continued to go begging, the frustration grew for New England.
The Revolution (8-8-6) did everything to try and scrounge up some points. Heaps even substituted out center back Stephen McCarthy, throwing forward Chad Barrett into the mix in the 74th minute and shifting to a 3-4-3 for the final 25 minutes.
The substitutions and change of tactics were to no avail. Revolution midfielder Lee Nguyen described the feeling of frustration bluntly.
“It sucks,” he said. “We gave them a gift in the first two minutes, and it’s always tough to climb back like that. It was a frustrating night, but now we’ve got to focus on next week. We’ve just got to get together and refocus. We started slow in D.C., we started slow today . . . we can’t afford to start slow [at Sporting KC on Saturday].”
And Heaps knows his team can’t afford to do what happened in the first 120 seconds on Sunday night.
“You can’t give a goal away in the first two minutes of the game,” he said.