FOXBORO Rookie forward Zack Schilawski scored the match's only goal with a clever finish in the 18th minute and the New England Revolution kicked off its SuperLiga 2010 campaign in ideal fashion by earning a hard-fought 1-0 win over Mexican Primera Divisin club Pumas UNAM on Wednesday night at Gillette Stadium.
Marko Perovic provided the service for Schilawskis goal from a corner kick, marking the second time in five days the Serbian midfielder contributed to a Revolution goal via set piece.
Second-year goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth made six saves and got a little help from the crossbar in the 89th minute to record his first professional shutout and secure the win.
Revs head coach Steve Nicol indicated early in the week hed likely shuffle his lineup for SuperLiga and he did just that, as four players who started on the bench in last weekends 2-0 win over the LA Galaxy found themselves in the starting 11 on Wednesday night. Shuttleworth took over between the pipes, while Joseph Niouky, Kenny Mansally and Kheli Dube were all handed starts.
Almost the entire first half was bogged down in midfield, not unsurprisingly considering the slick surface afternoon rain drenched much of the Northeast and the unfamiliarity between the two sides from neighboring domestic leagues. The Revs outshot their Mexican guests by a margin of 5-2 in the opening 45 minutes, but each side managed to direct just two efforts on target.
Although scoring chances were at a premium in the first half, one moment of quality from Schilawski provided a breakthrough as the Revs grabbed a 1-0 lead in the 18th minute. Perovic delivered an in-swinging corner kick from the right and Schilawski broke free of his marker at the back post before acrobatically rising to poke the ball just inside the post.
Both teams responded to the sluggish pace of the first half by making an attack-minded substitution at the break. The Revs introduced speedy winger Sainey Nyassi in place of Mansally, while Pumas brought on Martin Bravo to replace Jehu Chiapas.
The changes appeared to provide the necessary spark for both sides as the second half began at a breakneck pace. Perovic forced Pumas goalkeeper Sergio Benal into a smart save with a long-range drive in the 46th minute, while Shalrie Joseph (53rd minute) and Niouky (55th minute) both went close with similar long-distance shots.
Pumas began to push the tempo in the attacking third as well, and the Mexicans appeared to level the score in the 52nd minute. Just seven minutes after entering the game, Bravo buried a back-post header only to see the goal ruled out for offside, although replays indicated he mightve been level with the last defender.
The visitors continued to threaten as they pressed for an equalizer and twice came close in the 71st and 73rd minutes. First, defender Marco Palacios was left open in the box for a free header but looped his effort over the bar, while Bravo followed that chance up two minutes later with a low shot which skidded just past the post.
Pumas had one final chance to pull level and the Mexican side came so close to doing so in the 89th minute. Israel Castros 25-yard shot clipped Joseph and the new trajectory wrong-footed Shuttleworth, but the ball struck the underside of the crossbar and bounced away before the Revs goalkeeper corralled the ball to end the threat.
The group stage of SuperLiga 2010 will continue this weekend when the Revs visit MLS rival Chicago Fire on Saturday, July 17. Kickoff from Toyota Park is set for 7 p.m. ET.