New England can credit their 1-0 victory over D.C. United to a few things – United's wastefulness in the final third chief among them – but the difference between winning and losing came down to resolve.
“It was a gut check for this team, a really gutsy performance,” Revolution captain Shalrie Joseph told MLSsoccer.com after the match. “We didn't play our best soccer out there, but we worked hard for each other.”
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While the Revs battled the fatigue of playing three matches in eight days, coped without the injured Kevin Alston and Marko Perovic and suffered the corresponding dip in quality, they managed to conjure up the one goal required to escape with all three points.
The difference between the two sides arrived from a set piece three minutes before halftime. Chris Tierney provided the delivery from a free kick out near the halfway line and served a curling ball into the United penalty area.
“I always figure that we have some big, physical guys like Shalrie and Pat [Phelan] and they're always going to be trying to get across the goalkeeper,” Tierney said. “I figure that if I make the goalkeeper make a decision about whether he wants to come off his line or stay, you do that by putting the ball in with pace and trying to get it over the first defender. It causes problems every time.”
The problems subsequently arrived for the visitors as Phelan eluded Branko Boskovic at the back post and nodded home Tierney's free kick for his first MLS goal. Phelan credited Tierney's feed for doing most of the work and said all he needed to do was steer the ball in the right direction.
“I started in an offside position and came back onside,” Phelan said. “My man just didn't follow me. I knew I was in the middle of the goal and just had to deflect it one way or the other. I was able to get a good read on it.”
After Phelan's tally staked the Revolution to the lead, United pressed forward in search of the equalizer. D.C. carved out several gilt-edged chances in the second half, but they spurned all of them to allow the Revolution to extend their unbeaten run to seven matches in all competitions.
New England boss Steve Nicol admitted his side didn't pass the ball well or perform up to their usual standards, but noted that those considerations pale in importance to securing the desired result.
“We kept them out,” Nicol said. “We did OK. They were sharper than us, but they didn't play a semifinal on Wednesday night. We did what we had to do. It wasn't pretty, but we got three points. We'll take three points every week, regardless.”