FOXBORO, Mass. - The New England Revolution and Seattle Sounders F.C. had a huge match with major playoff implications on Saturday night at Gillette Stadium. In what would prove to be a tight match throughout, the home team claimed all three points with a 2-1 victory thanks to a brace from midfield ace Shalrie Joseph.
Both teams came in with a full complement of players as Seattle made their first-ever visit to New England. The Revs opted to start with Steve Ralston on the the front line alongside Edgaras Jankauskas with Wells Thompson getting the nod on the left flank.
For Sigi Schmid the lineup was a very offensive one that included Fredy Montero, Freddie Ljungberg, Nate Jaqua, Steve Zakuani and Brad Evans.
Though Seattle would take an early lead, a strong second half from New England was capped off when Joseph nodded home his second tally of the night in the 87th to cap a come-from-behind win for the home side.
It didn't take Fredy Montero long to flash his brilliance to the New England crowd. The young striker opened the scoring in just the 6th minute and did it in style. After ghosting past Thompson on the right flank near midfield, Montero had the audacity to try a shot from 40 yards out. And what a shot it proved to be, dipping in behind Revolution 'keeper Matt Reis, who seemed convinced that the ball was heading high of the mark. It wasn't, and the visitors had an early 1-0 advantage.
In the 20th minute things looked to only be getting worse for New England when their captain Steve Ralston suffered a knee injury while trying to win a header. Ralston would not return to the match and had to be helped from the field. That figured to be a major blow to New England's chances going forward.
However, the entrance of striker Kheli Dube to the match seemed to spark the Revolution in some manner, as the home team that had been largely dominated for the opening 20 minutes suddenly found some life.
Just one minute after entering the game, Dube fired off a speculative effort from long range that sailed well wide of the mark, but it was a positive sign for New England. For the next quarter of an hour the home side battled back into the match and slowly began to carve out some good spells of possession, but it wasn't until Sainey Nyassi's cross found the head of Jankauskas in the 37th that New England had a solid look at goal.
As the half neared its conclusion Jankauskas would make a costly error. Midfielder Jeff Larentowicz found the big striker in behind Seattle's back line, with right back James Riley clearly playing him in an onside position. However, Jankauskas seemed to think the flag was up, and though he was in on goal with only Sounders 'keeper Kasey Keller to beat, the striker stopped and allowed the ball to be taken from him.
It was an odd moment that would keep the home side behind heading into the break.
Much like the first half, it took very little time for the first goal to come. Dube's cross attempt struck the arm of Seattle defender Leo Gonzalez, and though the Sounders felt it was a harsh call, referee Steven DePiero pointed to the spot. With Ralston, who normally does the job for New England from the spot already gone from the game, the penalty was taken by Joseph. He emphatically put it away to level the match.
From there on the match was relatively even, with neither side doing much to test the other's 'keeper. In the 61st Thompson dragged down Montero just outside the box, giving Ljungberg a chance to hit a set piece from a good position, but Jhon Kennedy Hurtado could not put his header on frame.
Eight minutes later two Revolution defenders combined for a nice chance, with Jay Heaps send Kevin Alston through on goal, but the angle was tough and the rookie sent his shot well over the bar.
The action heated up with the match winding down and both sides searching for a winner. Montero nearly pulled off another bit of magic in the 86th. A set piece was again floated into Hurtado's head. The big defender couldn't do much with it, but the ball set up nicely for Montero to try a bicycle that narrowly missed the corner.
The Revs rushed back to the other end and in the 87th found their winner. Larentowicz hit a wel- weighted cross to Joseph at the back post. Despite winning almost every battle in the air throughout the night the Seattle defense was finally beaten and Joseph powered a header past Keller.
The goal was not without controversy, as Joseph looked to be very close to an offside position, but the flag stayed down, and New England had a vital three points in their attempt to claim one of the wildcard playoff spots.
Allen Ramsey, Goal.com
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