The Revolution extended their winless streak to five games, but they seemed satisfied after playing to a 0-0 road tie with the Columbus Crew Saturday night.
The Revolution (6-7-8, 26 points) stifled the Crew attack but could not get untracked offensively with Jozy Altidore as a lone striker, or with newcomer Giacomo Vrioni in a two-forward setup. But the Revolution were able to stop Cucho Hernandez, who had scored four goals in his first three MLS starts, as the Crew (7-5-9, 30 points) improved their unbeaten streak to nine games (4-0-5).
The last time the Revolution visited Lower.com Field in Columbus, they spoiled the Crew’s stadium opening with a 2-2 tie last season. The Revolution have compiled an 0-2-3 mark in their last five games but improved their unbeaten streak against the Crew to five games (1-0-4).
Both teams had difficulty creating chances as playmakers Carles Gil (New England) and Lucas Zelarayan (Columbus) were limited by physical defending.
The Revolution, who play host to Toronto FC next Saturday, struggled in the first half as referee Silviu Petrescu cautioned three players: Tommy McNamara (23rd), DeJuan Jones (35th), and Brandon Bye (39th). Bye was yellow-carded for protesting, and coach Bruce Arena complained when the Crew’s Marlon Hairston was not carded after taking down McNamara from behind in the second minute of first half added time.
Vrioni, playing in his first match since May 29 when he was with WSG Tirol in Austria, joined Altidore up front in the 67th minute, displaying hold-up ability and precise touches but failing to get off a shot.
“We played a good, hard game,” Arena said. “We certainly didn’t play a perfect game, but we played a game that was tactically correct. If we played like this in many games this year, we’d have 10 more points and would probably be closer to the first place than where we are now. So, all in all, a good point on the road and we did what we had to do to close out the game and get a point.”
Observations from Saturday’s game:
- ⋅The Revolution squandered their best chance in the 66th minute, Sebastian Lletget’s attempt from the penalty arc easily grabbed by Crew keeper Eloy Room. Bye fed Lletget from the right wing and Lletget failed to notice Altidore open on the left side of the penalty area. One more pass might have set up Altidore to go in alone on Room. Lack of communication contributed to the missed opportunity, and Altidore reacted by pounding the turf in frustration.
- Defensively, the Revolution showed improvement after surrendering eight goals in their previous three games. This was the Revolution’s second shutout with Djordje Petrovic in goal, and they mostly kept the pressure off the back line thanks to midfield defending, led by Tommy McNamara and Matt Polster. Petrovic stopped the Crew’s best threat by punching out a Pedro Santos half volley, followed by Henry Kessler heading Zelarayan’s rebound header out in the 24th minute. The Crew went to a three-forward setup in the 76th minute, adding Kevin Molino, but failed to threaten.
- The Revolution committed 13 fouls – one less than the Crew – and had three yellow cards to zero for the Crew. Arena protested as Gil was fouled from behind in the center circle by Mensah in the second half. “I mean, that’s the strategy of most teams, and when he plays and gets fouled, it gives opponents the liberty to really make it even harder on him,” Arena said. “Tonight, he didn’t get the benefit of maybe a card being awarded to one of his opponents like we had in the first half, so he was fair game most of the time. Give Columbus credit, they really went after him and did a good job.”
- Polster on the Revolution’s strategy against Zelarayan: “We were trying to make it more difficult for him. Obviously, he’s going to have moments during the game to create something, but we tried to keep him from the center of the field and he was picking up most of the balls on the wing, on the sides. So he couldn’t be as creative and play as many 1-2′s around us.”
- Revolution leading scorer Gustavo Bou missed the trip with an undisclosed injury. Arena will likely go to a two-forward alignment with Bou and Vrioni in upcoming matches. “We didn’t expect to get a whole lot out of him,” Arena said of Vrioni. “Putting him in with Jozy, we thought having two strikers up there could help create a chance to maybe get us a goal and be in a position to win the game, but I thought once Jozy went out, he did a good job holding up balls and competing. So, he did his job, but he is weeks away from being fully fit and to be able to do what he did tonight with just a couple days of training is pretty good.”
- After road losses to New York City FC (4-2) and the Philadelphia Union (2-1), this was a re-set game for the Revolution. Seven of the Revolution’s final 13 matches are scheduled at Gillette Stadium, where they have a 4-2-4 record and are unbeaten (3-0-3) since April. “I think early in the season, this is a game that we lose,” Revolution defender Andrew Farrell said. “I think mentally, Bruce has talked to us over the weeks, we have got to be more disciplined and better throughout the games and certain periods in the game. I think our communication was a lot better and guys stepped up and made plays. It was important to get the shutout, important to get the point on the road against a good Columbus team. But now, we’ve got to come back next Saturday against Toronto and we’ve got to win now. We have to win to make these road points count.”
Frank Dell'Apa can be reached at email@example.com.