In the run-up to Thursday night's D.C. United-New England tussle, Revs coach Steve Nicol said whether or not it was a great match, it would be passionate and fierce and rugged. Was it? As Nicol might have replied if asked, "Aye." Scuffles, hard tackles, aerial duels, a controversial penalty, a hotly disputed ejection, and an ESPN2 audience fueled a intense if inelegant 1-1 tie. The Revs struck just seconds into the second half when Andy Dorman slotted the rebound of a Taylor Twellman shot, and D.C. equalized five minutes later with a Jaime Moreno penalty kick.
In the frantic final new minutes, United attacked relentlessly against the Revs' 10 men, butBen Olsen hit the crossbar with a header - how many times have you seen that happen? - and keeper Matt Reis saved his team with a stunning one-handed stab of a Luciano Emilio header. Final score: 1-1.
Style it lacked but it bubbled with drama. The trade-off of a national TV audience on a Thursday night is that only 12,908 fans attended, which is rather good for an MLS midweek game yet hardly the crowd a ferocious rivalry deserves. This was bruising, full-blooded stuff.
United pressed the pace from the first kick and zipped the ball around in a first half devoid of the benched Moreno, and New England rolled out its typically cagey road show, probing cautiously through Twellman, Steve Ralston and Andy Dorman while relying on Shalrie Joseph and Jeff Larentowicz to buttress the middle.
Fred, Christian Gomez, and young Nicholas Addlery - starting his first MLS game in place of Moreno - interchanged attacking positions and also used Olsen to attack the Revs, who surrendered a few first-half chances and needed Reis to save smartly from Fred and Gomez.
Revs left midfielder Khano Smith carefully picked his spots to come forward in the first half, as both Olsen and Fred slid behind him to take runs at James Riley. Dorman, too, mostly held the middle, though he did drift right late in the first half to hit a sweet left-footed chip that Twellman, in very deep at the far post, nodded to United keeper Troy Perkins.
The Revs had seldom played long-ball in the first 45 minutes, but as soon as he got the ball following the second-half kickoff, Joseph lofted it high and deep for Twellman, who forced his way pastFacundo Erpen to shoot hard and low. Perkins saved superbly but could only watch as Dorman tapped in the rebound for his third goal of the season.
Moreno had come on at halftime and four minutes after Dorman's goal he crashed to the ground while running side-by-side with Riley, who had inside position as he banged Moreno off the ball. Referee Terry Vaughn sparked a furious protest by pointing to the penalty spot, and Moreno sent Reis the wrong way to tie the game.
D.C. kept pressuring and dishing out crunching tackles. It got another break in the 59th minute when Joseph cut in front of Olsen with a robust slide tackle that barely touched the ball, if at all. Joseph didn't go over the ball nor show his studs, yet Vaughn raced up to the scene - he'd been at least 25 yards away - and took the red card out of his back pocket.
New England dropped outside mids Smith and Ralston to form a five-man back line and kept everyone but Twellman behind the ball when D.C. had possession. Emilio set up Gomez for a great chance that Jay Heaps repelled with a heroic sprawling block, and another youngster, Guy Roland-Kpene, came on for Fred to give Moreno additional support up front.
Olsen lobbed a couple of long-distance efforts that Reis handled easily but in the final minutes space opened up as the tiring Revs simply couldn't cover the penalty area despite a surplus of bodies. A sublime Moreno chip provided Olsen with the header that hit the bar and Namoff lofted another ball that if not for the brilliance of Reis Emilio would have nailed into the net for a dramatic gamewinner.
Both teams go back to work Sunday and both trainers will be working full-time to patch up the participants of this one.
May 3 in Washington, D.C.
D.C. United 1 New England 1. Goals: Moreno pen. 50; Dorman 46.
D.C. United -Perkins, Erpen, Boswell, Namoff, Fred (Kpene, 79), Gomez, Olsen, Simms (Carroll, 54), Gros, Addlery (Moreno, 46), Emilio.
New England - Reis, Heaps, Larentowicz, Parkhurst, Riley, Ralston, Dorman, Joseph, Smith, Noonan (Cristman, 58; Franchino, 87), Twellman.
Yellow Cards: D.C. United - Boswell 24, Gomez 44, Emilio 76, Kpene 94+; New England - Larentowicz 47.
Red Card: New England - Joseph 59.
Referee: Terry Vaughn.