The Crew eased past the New England Revolution, 3-1, on Wednesday.
Courtesy of New England Revolution

New England stumble in loss to Columbus

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KENNESAW, Ga. – New England Revolution coach Steve Nicol struggled to find silver linings in the wake of a comprehensive 3-1 defeat to Columbus in the first game of the Atlanta Pro Soccer Challenge on Wednesday night.

With few positive moments to highlight as the Revs fell to their first defeat in five preseason matches against a side they defeated 1-0 in Chattanooga, Tenn., on Sunday, Nicol decided to profess his gratitude about the timing of this disappointing display.

“If we're going to do the things we did, we're better off doing it now rather than waiting until the start of the season,” Nicol told after the match at KSU Soccer Stadium.

Most of the consternation stemmed from a two-minute spell of madness that ultimately decided the game inside the first 20 minutes.

After securing a tenuous foothold in the match despite failing to obtain and retain possession, New England chucked it away after 16 minutes by dropping a mark on a free kick to permit Bernardo Anor to ghost free and head home the opener.

Revolution defender AJ Soares compounded the misery one minute later as his flubbed back pass allowed Tom Heinemann to chip Matt Reis for the killer second one minute later.

“I actually thought we started decently in the first 10 or 15 minutes,” Revolution midfielder Chris Tierney said as he reflected upon the game-changing spell. “We passed the ball pretty well and we were on the offensive. Then we just let in a couple of soft goals and things kind of went south from there.

Columbus grasped complete control of the contest after the pair of goals as New England struggled to construct an organized rearguard and form coherent moves going forward. Heineman placed the result beyond doubt by securing his brace eight minutes after halftime to cap off a trio of fairly soft goals allowed by the previously stingy Revolution defense.

“What could go wrong, went wrong tonight,” Nicol said. “The goals we lost were nothing. Nobody picked up on the set piece, and AJ, it's one of those things that happens. He made a mistake and we got punished by it. The third goal was two deflections. … It was a comedy of errors that kind of summed up the game.”

One moment of bright attacking play – a quick combination play between Zack Schilawski and Ilija Stolica freed the Serbian target man to fire home on 62 minutes – reduced the deficit, but it did not erase the bitter taste of this particular performance by a mixture of projected starters and likely reserves.

In a preseason slate pocked with few black marks up until this point, this performance appeared more likely than not at some point. With Houston set to provide the opposition for Sunday's preseason finale, the Revs must heed the lessons of this defeat without sagging under their weight in the days ahead.

“That's what preseason is for,” Tierney said. “We're still getting the kinks out and I think there are a few positives we can take – we got after them a little bit in the second half. We just have to put it behind us and move on.”