In part to compensate for missing midfielders and forwards, New England coach Steve Nicol used a four-man back line, gave Shalrie Joseph the brunt of playmaking duties, and relied on the leadership of Joseph and Michael Parkhurst, and the goalkeeping of Matt Reis, to beat an FC Dallas team that four days earlier had thumped Chivas USA, 2-0, at Home Depot Center.
Nicol's moves, though, and Khano Smith's excellent goal, wouldn't have produced three points without strong showings from central midfielder Gary Flood, outside back Amaechi Igwe, and first-time starter Chase Hilgenbrink as well as regulars Parkhurst, Reis, Smith and Jay Heaps.
Balls played down the flanks offered FCD plenty of possession, but when one of the defenders wasn't carving the ball away from Kenny Cooper or Arturo Alvarez, Flood or Joseph were stepping in to dispossess Juan Toja or charge down a Dax McCarty cross.
Of FCD's 16 shots, only two caused Reis any real concern. He stabbed a close-range Toja volley to safety with a right-hand parry and deflected an Andre Rocha header in the final minutes. Several shots from distance missed the target by a yard or so but on this night, the failure of Dallas to penetrate a patchwork back line nullified its advantage in healthy personnel.
New England threatened more often, with Joseph testing Dallas keeper Dario Sala from distance, Adam Cristman driving a chested ball from Heaps narrowly wide, Heaps first-timing a great chance well over the bar, and Wells Thompsondrilling a deflected shot that Sala covered.
Smith scored in the 72nd minute after Revs had twice overpowered FCD Dallas players in one-v-one confrontations.
Drew Moor and Kenny Mansally, combatants in a first-half incident during which Mansally undercut Moor and sent him awkwardly to the ground, went up for a Reis goal kick at midfield. Mansally won the duel, and flicked the ball to substitute Kheli Dube, who quickly played it wide to Smith. McCarty overcommitted, allowing the powerful Smith to barrel inside him toward goal and shoot low as Moor, who had recovered quickly, came over to challenge. Sala couldn't reach the low shot and it nestled inside the far post.
In the first half, Smith had leaped to nod a partial clearance back into the goalmouth, where Heaps chested it for Cristman to shoot wide. FCD seldom aimed crosses and dead balls at the 6-foot-3 Cooper, preferring to use him as a decoy, and both Moor and Duilio Davino missed the target with headers from good positions.
Neither Toja, who lasted 71 minutes, and Pablo Ricchetti, a sub in the 64th minute, produced their top form as they recover from injuries, yet Dallas last Sunday had beaten Chivas USA without either of them. The Revs had one more day of rest, but had played the second half on Saturday a man down while tying Red Bull, 1-1.
This might have been the ultimate test of the Revs' depth and for a win on the road against an unbeaten team they earn A-plus, which might be the reason Nicol, to whom euphoria is anathema, beamed broadly as he and his team left the field.
April 24 in Frisco, Texas
FC Dallas 0 New England 1. Goal: Smith 72.
FC Dallas - Sala, Moor, Davino, Serioux, McCarty, Rocha, Saragosa (Ricchetti, 64), Toja (Ricardinho, 71), Wagner (Oduro, 79), Alvarez, Cooper.
New England - Reis, Heaps, Parkhurst, Igwe, Thompson, Flood, Joseph, Smith, Hilgenbrinck, Cristman (Dube, 59), Mansally.
Yellow Cards: FC Dallas - Alvarez 85; New England - Thompson 59, Smith 90, Igwe 93.