By Danny Picard
FOXBORO Saturdays 2-0 loss to Real Salt Lake was bad enough. What made it even worse was that the New England Revolution left Gillette Stadium that night, knowing two of their biggest leaders would be unavailable for their next game Sunday night in Houston, against the Dynamo.
The reason? Captain Shalrie Joseph and midfielder Pat Phelan both received second-half straight red cards in Saturdays loss. For those unfamiliar with the sport, a straight red card causes an ejection from the current game, followed by a one-game suspension in the next match.
So while the Revolution find themselves in third place in the Eastern Conference, with just one loss in five games, they also find themselves trying to prepare for the Easts fourth-place team, without Joseph and Phelan in the equation.
We have to obviously make changes there, said Revolution coach Steve Nicol after Wednesdays practice. And the changes we make, were going to have to make sure we solve it. Were away from home, so were going to have to be solid.
Nicol was handling the questions like any coach should. He wasnt trying to come off as if he was in panic mode. And in April, nor should he actually feel that way.
But clearly, the loss of Joseph and Phelan doesnt benefit them in any way, and the lineup that Nicol comes up with for Sunday, wont be the teams best lineup because that lineup would include both Joseph and Phelan.
Still, Nicol doesnt believe hanging their heads over it is the right strategy to have.
Its just one of those things, its about being a good pro, and things happen, Nicol said. But its how you react, that matters most. Obviously were disappointed that we dont have them, but the thing is, we dont. Well move on and organize without them.
Its about professionalism, added Nicol. Things happen over the course of the season, and its really about how you deal with it. We can complain about it, and cry about it all week, and carry that into the game, or we can accept it, and move forward and do something about it.
Houston is just one point behind New England in the standings, and the Dynamo will certainly be licking their chops with the unavailability of Joseph and Phelan.
But the Revolution will see the return of two other players in the process, in A.J. Soares and goalkeeper Matt Reis.
Soares will be available for Sundays game after serving a one-game suspension on Saturday for picking up a red card last Wednesday night in Vancouver.
Reis, on the other hand, has missed the last couple games with a groin injury, and while the goalkeeper hasnt been 100-percent involved this past week at practice, Nicol said on Wednesday that hes hopeful Reis will be 100-percent and playing on Sunday.
Also seeing some action on Sunday will be newly acquired Danish striker Rajko Lekic. The forward signed with the Revs on April 8, and joined the team for training for the first time on Tuesday.
Nicol said he expects the striker to hit the pitch on Sunday.
Im sure hell see the field at some point, said the Revs coach. Were working on some things, so it will depend on a few days to sort things out.
He looks great. Hes a good player, no doubt about that, so we just have to try and make the best use of what he has, and we have to get the ball in the penalty box, so that he can do his stuff.
Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard. You can listen to Danny on his streaming radio show I'm Just Sayin' Monday-Friday from 9-10 a.m. on CSNNE.com.