FOXBOROUGH — Things appeared to be going swimmingly for the Revolution after they took a 1-0 lead in Wednesday night’s matchup against Real Salt Lake at Gillette Stadium. It appeared the Revolution had seized control of a slugfest with their MLS Western Conference visitors when Ryan Guy broke a scoreless stalemate in the 51st minute by converting a crisply executed cross from Kelyn Rowe.
But it was far from the knockout punch the Revolution were looking for in a gut-wrenching 2-1 setback.
“It’s a tough one to take,’’ said Revolution coach Jay Heaps, whose team (2-3-3) must quickly regroup before hosting the New York Red Bulls Saturday night.
The Revolution squandered their one-goal lead when Real Salt Lake rallied for a pair of goals against goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth (five saves) in the 77th and 89th minutes. Real Salt Lake got a huge stop in the 90th minute from their 34-year-old netminder, Nick Rimando, who smothered Saer Sene’s penalty kick, extending his all-time MLS record to 19 penalty kick saves.
Sene, a late-game substitute, was called upon to take the kick after Lee Nguyen, who would have likely taken the PK, was relieved by Juan Toja in the 74th minute.
“Saer was [a] taker last year,’’ Heaps said, explaining the decision to have the left-footed Sene attempt a kick that appeared to get Rimando leaning to the left, leaving the right side of the net exposed. Sene, however, went left with the ball and wound up having it rejected.
“He is coming back to form and he has taken a few, obviously, in training,’’ Heaps said. “That’s a bad one. Not a bad penalty kick, it’s a bad spot to be in the 90th minute. It would have been good to have Lee in that spot.’’
Nguyen, however, found himself out of the game after picking up a yellow card in the 59th minute.
“I thought our game plan was really good to start the game,’’ said Heaps, whose team appeared on the verge of recording its third consecutive shutout, and sixth overall this season, when Guy’s first goal of the season gave New England a 1-0 lead.
“Unfortunately, after we scored, we dropped off a little bit too much, gave a little bit too much space in the midfield,’’ Heaps said. “You score a goal, you make subs to help a team and, unfortunately, it didn’t bring our level up, it brought our level down.’’
Salt Lake’s substitutions proved more productive when Sebastian Velasquez entered in the 59th minute for Luis Gil, who had an aching left ankle. Velasquez immediately put a shot on goal off Ned Grabavoy’s corner kick. Shuttleworth made the save, but the ball ricocheted away, allowing Devon Sandoval to mop up the juicy rebound for his first career MLS goal, tying it, 1-1, in the 77th minute.
“I think we possess the ball well at times and then give it away too easily at times,’’ Shuttleworth said. “That starts with me at the back sometimes playing long too often. I just think that once we score a goal we cannot take our foot off the pedal. We have to try to put teams away — especially at home.’’
Salt Lake struck for the go-ahead goal in the 89th minute on a similar situation when Olmes Garcia, who entered the game in the 68th minute for Joao Plata, knocked in a rebound of Shuttleworth’s initial stop on Kyle Beckerman’s shot from the top of the box off Javier Morales’s corner kick.
The Revolution kept pressing the issue until the 90th minute when 19-year-old rookie Carlos Salcedo, making his first MLS start, drew an ill-timed red card which put Sene on the line for a penalty kick. As Sene backed up four paces to take measure of his options, Rimando took full measure of Sene’s movement, which enabled him to make the stop.
“That’s always a heartbreaker,’’ Guy said. “A penalty is a penalty and all the pressure is definitely on the taker. We all feel for Saer. It’s a difficult position. He stepped up and he was confident about it. I think if you give him another nine of those, I think he’d put them all away. But soccer is like that sometimes. You take it on the chin, but we don’t have to wait long to turn this thing around.’’
Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.