Missed opportunities and careless mistakes cost Revs SuperLiga crown


Missed opportunities and careless mistakes cost Revs SuperLiga crown

By Danny Picard

FOXBORO -- It's rare that the difference in a one-goal match is everything that happened before the second and game-winning goal. But on Wednesday night at Gillette Stadium, New England Revolution coach Steve Nicol blamed his team's 2-1 loss to Monarcas Morelia in the SuperLiga Finals on everything but Miguel Sabah's second goal of the evening.

As Morelia celebrated their SuperLiga championship on New England's confetti-filled field, Nicol addressed the media in a quite somber mood, pointing out that the difference in Wednesday's loss came down to two things: a missed opportunity on the offensive attack, and a careless mistake in their own end.

After a scoreless first half in which there was only one total shot on goal, midfielder Kheli Dube nearly gave the Revs a 1-0 lead in the 57th minute, as he stepped in the box all alone with the ball at his feet. Morelia goalkeeper Federico Vilar ran out and dove at the ball, causing Dube to kick it right into his chest.

That was the missed opportunity.

The careless mistake came six minutes later, when Revs defender Darrius Barnes was given a yellow card inside his own box for pulling down Sabah as he had the ball, ready to fire away at Revs goalkeeper Matt Reis.

Sabah was rewarded with a penalty kick, which he shot right into the middle of the net, past a diving Reis, who guessed to his left.

Instead of a 1-0 Revolution lead on a Dube goal in the 57th minute, Morelia took a 1-0 lead off their own in the 63rd minute, thanks to the missed opportunity, and the careless defensive mistake.

"Those two things are huge, in the outcome of the game," said Nicol after the loss. "If we can get a nose ahead, it's a different ballgame. Then obviously we make a mistake, and we get a penalty. It changed the whole game."

As for the penalty call, Nicol said he couldn't see it as well as he would have liked, but him and his goalkeeper both agreed. If the shoe was on the other foot, they would have wanted the call.

"Had it been in the other penalty box, we'd have been looking for it as well," said Nicol. "Sometimes you get them, sometimes you don't get them. On this occasion, they got it."

"It's a penalty, that if, if it happens to us, you're calling for a penalty, but if it happens against you, you're not," said Reis. "Darrius fell down, and the guy just kind of fell into him and fell over. It's unfortunate, but that's the way it goes."

The penalty call doesn't mean a goal is automatic. Sabah still had to put it past Reis. But as the Revs goalkeeper pointed out after the game, the only strategy involved in saving a penalty kick is to read and react before the ball is even kicked.

"It's tough because guys at this level, they can kind of go anywhere," said Reis. "They can read to see where you're going, so you try to stay as long as possible and get a read on it. And he went right up the middle."

Sabah gave Morelia a 2-0 lead in the 75th minute when he rocketed a ball, out of mid-air, into the top left corner of the Revolution net. A 50-50 header at the top of New England's box resulted in a loose ball from 25 yards out, which Sabah didn't even let hit the ground, booting it past Reis for the 2-0 lead.

The Revs added some drama late in the second half, and cut Morelia's lead to 2-1 in the 79th minute, after defender Kevin Alston scored his first-career professional goal. Alston and rookie Zack Schilawski played a nice little game of give-and-go, and Schilawski found Alston streaking into the right side of the box, where the Revs defender then finished with a low kick into the left corner of the net.

"The whole thing happens because he makes a great run," said Schilawski. "You know he's going to be aggressive getting out of the back, and he finished it well.

"It looked like we were a little bit more energized after that," he said. "I thought we were going to get the second one in. To be fair, we had some chances. They just didn't fall for us."

And as a result, Morelia walks away as SuperLiga champions.

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard

Jurgen Klinsmann fired as coach of United States soccer team


Jurgen Klinsmann fired as coach of United States soccer team

NEW YORK - Jurgen Klinsmann was fired as coach of the U.S. soccer team Monday, six days after a 4-0 loss at Costa Rica dropped the Americans to 0-2 in the final round of World Cup qualifying.

Los Angeles Galaxy coach Bruce Arena is the favorite to succeed Klinsmann, and his hiring could be announced as early as Tuesday. Arena coached the national team from 1998 to 2006.

Qualifying resumes when the U.S. hosts Honduras on March 24 and plays four days later at Panama.

"While we remain confident that we have quality players to help us advance to Russia 2018, the form and growth of the team up to this point left us convinced that we need to go in a different direction," U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati said in a statement. "With the next qualifying match in late March, we have several months to refocus the group and determine the best way forward to ensure a successful journey to qualify for our eighth consecutive World Cup."

A former German star forward who has lived mostly in Southern California since retiring as a player in 1998, Klinsmann replaced Bob Bradley in July 2011 and led the team to the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup title and the second round of the 2014 World Cup, where the Americans lost to Belgium in extra time.

The USSF announced in December 2013 a four-year contract extension through 2018, but the successful World Cup was followed by poor performances. The U.S. was knocked out by Jamaica in last year's Gold Cup semifinals and lost to Mexico in a playoff for a Confederations Cup berth. The team rebounded to reach this year's Copa America semifinals before losing to Argentina 4-0. But this month Mexico beat the Americans 2-1 at Columbus, Ohio, in the first home qualifying loss for the U.S. since 2001.

And last week, the Americans were routed in Costa Rica, their largest margin of defeat in qualifying since 1980. They dropped to 0-2 for the first time in the hexagonal, as the final round of World Cup qualifying in North and Central America and the Caribbean is known.

While there is time to recover, given the top three teams qualify for the 2018 tournament in Russia and the fourth-place finisher advances to a playoff against Asia's No. 5 team, players seemed confused by Klinsmann's tactics, such as a 3-4-1-2 formation used at the start against the Mexicans.

"Today we made the difficult decision of parting ways with Jurgen Klinsmann," Gulati said. "There were considerable achievements along the way ... but there were also lesser publicized efforts behind the scenes. He challenged everyone in the U.S. Soccer community to think about things in new ways, and thanks to his efforts we have grown as an organization and expect there will be benefits from his work for years to come."

The U.S. had not changed coaches in the middle of qualifying since the USSF made the position a full-time job and hired Bob Gansler in 1989 to replace Lothar Osiander, who also at the time was a waiter at a San Francisco restaurant.

Klinsmann made controversial decisions, such as dropping Landon Donovan from the 2014 World Cup roster while taking along relatively inexperienced players such as John Brooks, Julian Green and DeAndre Yedlin. Brooks and Green were among five German-Americans on the 23-man U.S. World Cup roster, which drew criticism from some in the American soccer community.

He coached the team to a 55-27-16 record, including a U.S.-record 12-game winning streak and victories in exhibitions at Italy, Germany and the Netherlands. He has worked in the past year to integrate more young players into the lineup, such as teen midfield sensation Christian Pulisic, Bobby Wood and Jordan Morris.

Arena, a 65-year-old wisecracking Brooklynite known for blunt talk, was inducted into the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2010. He coached the University of Virginia from 1978-95, then coached D.C. United to titles in Major League Soccer's first two seasons before losing in the 1998 final. As U.S. coach, he led the Americans to the 2002 World Cup quarterfinals in the team's best finish since 1930.

He was let go after the team's first-round elimination in 2006. Gulati unsuccessfully courted Klinsmann, who won the 1990 World Cup with West Germany and the 1996 European Championship with Germany, then coached his nation to the 2006 World Cup semifinals.

When Gulati and Klinsmann couldn't reach an agreement, the USSF hired Bradley, who coached the team to the second round of the 2010 World Cup. A year later, the Americans stumbled in the Gold Cup, and Klinsmann replaced Bradley.

Arena coached the New York Red Bulls of MLS from July 2006 to November 2007, then was hired the following August by the Galaxy. He led the team to MLS titles in 2011, '12 and '14.