FOXBOROUGH — For 70 minutes, the Revolution (5-6-5) hardly resembled their normal dominant selves at home. But a two-goal deficit was too much to overcome and the Chicago Fire walked out of Gillette Stadium with a 2-1 win.
The Revolution (5-6-5) entered the game on a 12-game home unbeaten streak dating to last season. They had beaten the Fire in their five previous contests in Foxborough.
But the Fire (9-3-4) came in riding an eight-game unbeaten streak. Despite their struggles in Gillette, the Fire stayed hot.
In the 18th minute, Nemanja Nikolic netted his MLS-leading 13th goal of the season. The New England defense pushed forward to draw Nikolic offside, but he held his line as he planned his diagonal run. Fire defender Matt Polster delivered a 40-yard strike up the sideline. Nikolic ran free for a breakaway, with the closest Revolution defender trailing about 10 yards behind.
The near-post attempt was blocked, but the ball bounced directly back to Nikolic, who cooly regathered himself and drove the ball into the left corner.
Revolution goalie Cody Cropper waved his arms in frustration.
“Unbelievable!” he shouted.
But the early alarm didn’t wake the Revolution, which struggled to string together passes and failed to tighten up their defense into the second half.
In the 61st minute, Nikolic lofted a curling pass to midfielder Michael de Leeuw, who toe-tapped the hanging ball to Luis Solignac. Here came another breakaway. He pushed the ball past Cropper to extend the Fire lead to 2-0.
Solignac smiled, glanced at the silent New England crowd, and held his right hand to his ear.
“We lacked the crispness we normally have when we play at home,” New England coach Jay Heaps said.
If there was a silver lining in the loss, it was found in the game’s final 25 minutes, when the Revolution finally started to attack.
In the 70th minute, Revolution midfielder Lee Nguyen curled a cross into a pack of red and navy jerseys. Fire goalie Matt Lampson left his line to punch out the lofting ball, but the moshpit of bodies obstructed his path.
The ball shot straight up in the air. Revolution defender Antonio Mlinar Delamea leaped and headed the ball into the net, narrowing the Fire lead to 2-1. It was the first goal Chicago allowed in the month of June.
From there on, there was a return to normalcy in Gillette Stadium, as the Revolution threatened with dangerous crosses that led to nearly point-blank shots.
In the 86th minute, Nguyen skied a gimme of a goal into the stands. Packs of fans headed for the exits, but New England wasn’t done. Minutes later, the Revolution were gifted with another golden opportunity to tie the game, when Nguyen recrossed the ball to the wide-open Gershon Koffie. He too volleyed the shot high above the goal.
The Revolution spent the four extra minutes of injury time forcing corner kicks and crossing the ball into dangerous areas. But it wasn’t their night.
“Everything we shot, they blocked,” Delamea said. “But that is [soccer]. We weren’t there for 70 minutes of the game.”
New England finished with 16 more shots than Chicago, most of which came in the final third of the game. Out of the Revolution’s 24 shots, several were missed within 10 yards of Chicago’s goal.
“I am disappointed we didn’t at least get a point in this game,” Heaps said. “I thought there was another goal in there.”
The ups and downs of the loss epitomized New England’s season. For as dominant as the Revolution have been at home, they have been equally as poor on the road, remaining winless in eight contests this season, leaving the Revolution in eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
Unless they correct their road woes, New England is likely to drop even farther, as its next two MLS matchups, against Toronto and Philadelphia, are played away from Foxborough.
“We are disappointed,” Delamea said. “We need to talk about what happened for 70 minutes. I don’t know what was wrong with us.”