Wizards goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen fell to his knees and buried his head in his hands as New England Revolution midfielder Shalrie Joseph — the one player they couldn’t let beat them — celebrated a goal.
The game was far from over — heck, there were still 60 minutes left to play on Saturday night — but it might as well have been. Not only were the Wizards 1-12-2 when allowing the first goal entering the game, they also needed a victory — and nothing less — to keep their playoff hopes alive.
And based on their past results when allowing the first goal, it’s safe to say the final score — a 1-0 New England victory that eliminated the Wizards from playoff contention once and for all — wasn’t necessarily a surprise.
“The goal is straight up our fault,” said Wizards coach Peter Vermes, whose team dropped to 10-13-6 on the season. “The guy was running from 20 yards away, right up the pike. We’ve got to see him.”
The sequence started simple enough, as New England defender Chris Tierney booted the ball over the top. Joseph made a run from midfield — no one tracked him — got a touch with his head, sped past Nielsen (who had run out to catch it) and finished in the 31st minute.
“It was a mental lapse on our part,” Vermes said.
And just like that, the Wizards — who controlled the play over the first 20 minutes — were playing catchup against a team that entered with a 8-15-5 record and had nothing to play for, besides pride.
Out of desperation, the Wizards outshot New England by an astounding 18-4 from that point on. However, they came up empty each time, sometimes because of hard New England play in a game that was often physical.
“For the amount of times we were in front of their net tonight, we’ve got to put something away,” said Vermes, who was also frustrated by a couple of no-calls. “That’s the difference in the game, for sure. We had too many chances to not come out with (a better result).”
With the loss, the Wizards will have nothing at stake entering their final game of the season, a home tilt against San Jose on Saturday. Vermes, however, says the Wizards will play as hard as they always do, despite the disappointment of knowing they fell short of their goal of making the playoffs.
“We’re at home, last game at CommunityAmerica,” Vermes said. “ We’ve got to finish strong.”