By Danny Picard
FOXBORO -- The return from a two-week World Cup break was supposed to be an opportunity for the New England Revolution to start anew, after beginning the year with a 3-7-2 record. Instead, the same issues plagued the Revs on Sunday night in a 1-0 loss to the Chicago Fire at Gillette Stadium.
The Revolution took nine more shots (22) and had one more shot on goal (six) than the Fire on Sunday night, but failed to finish offensively a problem New England has faced all season long.
"In the final third, we just don't have the quality required," said Revolution coach Steve Nicol after Sunday's loss. "Tonight it's just staring you in the face. In the final third, whether it's the final ball, whether it's the finish, we had some chances.
"You can't fault the effort or the commitment. It's just the quality, the end of it, it's not there."
Chicago needed only one goal on a night in which Revs goalkeeper Matt Reis made his MLS season debut, after missing the entire first half of the year recovering from offseason shoulder and knee surgeries.
Marco Pappa's goal in the 30th minute went into the net after hitting Reis in the hand, but it was a scoring chance that could have been avoided had it not been the result of a New England communication breakdown on the defensive end.
"The goal was a classic case of what some of our problems are at the moment," said Nicol. "That goal was so avoidable, it's frightening. All it takes is better communication.
"The goal tonight, all it takes is for somebody to open their mouth. All these things are preventable, and we're trying to do something about it."
There was nothing Reis could do with Pappa's rocket from 30 yards out, as he stepped up uncontested and let a hard shot go up the middle, hitting Reis' hand as he dove to his right, and finding the back of the net to give Chicago a 1-0 lead.
But even with Pappa's goal, the Revolution had chances to finish, and continued to put the pressure on late in the second half. Unfortunately for the Revs, Chicago had stacked all 10 players into the box, forcing New England to perfect their service in the box.
That perfection was not there, and the Revolution begin the second half of the season with a hard-fought loss.
"We work hard in practice all week to gain, and then it just feels demoralizing and really bad that we just can't put it together when game night comes," said Revs captain Shalrie Joseph.
Midfielder Pat Phelan added that this type of defeat is tougher to swallow because they didn't necessarily get outplayed by Chicago.
"If we don't put chances away early, and stuff like that happens, we make it awful difficult for ourselves," said Phelan after the loss. "It's our job to come out and establish a game plan and go at them, especially at home, and put them on their heels, and we didn't do that.
"If a team passes the ball around us and beats us 8-0, I don't think that would feel as bad as it does when you shoot yourself in the foot consistently from game to game," he added. "So it's really frustrating."
Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard