As New England’s Steve Ralston leaned over his boots in the locker room, just minutes after scoring the game-winning goal on a penalty kick in a 2-1 win Saturday night against D.C. United, he turned to teammate Shalrie Joseph.
“‘What’d I tell ya Shalrie?” Ralston said. “These are my lucky boots. Cowboy Up!”
The Revolution certainly seemed to be taking a page from the book of the 2003 Red Sox, a team that coined the phrase “Cowboy Up!” during its tumultuous playoff run. Ralston’s penalty kick in the 90th minute of play against rival D.C. United broke a 1-1 tie and a six-game losing streak for the Revs.
The biggest move of the game came in the 25th minute when forward Taylor Twellman entered the game to a roaring standing ovation, making the 15,142 filling Gillette sound like they were watching a playoff Patriots game instead of a midseason Revs match. Twellman had not played for the Revs since last October 25, missing the MLS Cup Playoffs and the first nine games of the season after suffering from severe whiplash symptoms dating back to August 30 when he was hit in the head by former LA Galaxy goalkeeper Steve Cronin.
“This team needed a pick-me-up, and that’s been the hardest part — watching them,” Twellman said. “Whether it’s just being a nuisance in the box running into people or helping the team when I came on. I think it helped Shalrie play his natural position and he scored a great goal. I think it just helps everybody do their own job and they haven’t been able to do that with me out so its fun.”
Twellman demonstrated his importance to the team on the first goal for the Revs by occupying two United defenders opening the middle for Shalrie Joseph to score.
“He puts the ball in the net for starters and takes pressure off other players as well,” head coach Steve Nicol said of Twellman. “If you’re playing against Taylor you have to make sure you know where you’re at, even if he doesn’t touch, he’s a benefit because he opens holes for other people.”
Twellman said he felt awkward on the field for the first time in seven months yet his awkwardness played to the Revs advantage on the last play of the game. With his back to the D.C. net, Twellman was pulled down by United defender Bryan Namoff resulting in the penalty kick for Ralston.
“We’re a different team obviously,” Ralston said. “A little bit of that is we changed the way we were playing at half time, we can’t just keep hitting long balls; we want to try to pass the ball more. Obviously when Shalrie goes back he changes the midfield for us.”
The win for the Revs and the three points pushes their season record to 3-3-4, 13 points just three points behind D.C. United (3-2-7, 16 points) in the Eastern Conference.
“It’s kind of emotional because it’s been a long haul,” Twellman said. “It’s been eight months of trying to guess what’s going on and I thank God I figured it out. I didn’t expect to play seventy minutes tonight and then get punched in the face right away so it’s obviously a good test. We’ll see how I feel tomorrow and Monday.”
Twellman’s wake up call came on a shot to the face by a D.C. defender minutes after he entered the game momentarily scaring the crowd as the shocked forward fell to the ground.
With ten games in the record books, the Revs are one third of the way through the 30-game season. Before Saturday’s match they had scored a league-low eight goals and had not won since its home opener against FC Dallas on April 4.
Yet Twellman’s return Saturday night seemed to spark something in the Revs that they had not seen in a while. New England snapped D.C.’s seven-game win streak and won the season series 1-0-1. The 1-1 tie matchup up at RFK Stadium in D.C. on April 17 was the only other meeting for the two rivals in the 2009 season.
“We came out like the old Revolution, pressing them,” Twellman said. “Hopefully we can continue this run.”
With Twellman back, the Revs cannot be anything but hopeful.