|Dube does the dirty work in clinching win
||By Jeff Lemieux, Staff Writer & Online Host
Second-half substitute Kheli Dube’s relentless pursuit forced the turnover which led to Marko Perovic’s game-winning goal against the Fire
|Marko Perovic celebrates the game-winning goal which clinched a spot in the SuperLiga 2010 semifinals|
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – It won’t show up in the box score, but Kheli Dube was the catalyst behind Marko Perovic’s game-winning goal as the Revolution clinched a spot in the SuperLiga 2010 semifinals with a 1-0 win over the Chicago Fire on Saturday night at Toyota Park.
Dube – who entered the game in the 65th minute – harassed Chicago defender Kwame Watson-Siriboe as he looked to dribble out of his defensive third of the field in the 76th minute. A little pressure applied from behind and Dube forced Watson-Siriboe to bundle the ball away, right into the path of Perovic. The Serbian marksman made no mistake with his shot, placing a left-footed strike inside the right post to register the only goal the Revs would need en route to their third straight win in all competitions.
The win put the Revs (2-0-0, 6 pts.) in pole position for a spot in the SuperLiga semifinals for the third straight year, and the 2-2 draw between Monarcas Morelia and Pumas UNAM in the second half of the evening’s doubleheader confirmed the Revolution will indeed advance.
It’s fitting that the game-winning goal was created by Dube, one of the few remaining Revs who was with the club when it lifted the SuperLiga trophy in 2008.
“As soon as you lose the ball, you try to get the ball back,” said Dube of the hustle play. “It’s what you want to do. It could have been anyone else just trying to win the ball back. It just happened to be that I won the ball back and we got a goal.”
What’s perhaps most remarkable about Dube’s unselfish, hard-working effort is that the decisive play occurred just one minute after the third-year forward had missed a fantastic chance of his own. A perfectly-placed long ball from Chris Tierney released Dube into the box, but he didn’t properly connect with his shot and the ball sailed over the top of the net.
“I had a great first touch, but as soon as I tried to hit it, I hit it with my shin-pad,” Dube said with a chuckle after the game. “That’s why it just went wayward.”
It was another missed opportunity for a goal-scoring forward who is currently struggling to score goals. Dube totaled four goals his rookie year and then doubled that tally to eight goals in 2009, so the Zimbabwean had high hopes entering this season. While he’s racked up a team-high four assists, he’s yet to score a goal in 16 games in all competitions this year.
So it stands to reason that when Dube flashed his 75th-minute effort over the bar, he could’ve dropped his head and shown his frustration. Instead, he put his head down and got to work, helping his team to an important victory in the process.
“It’s frustrating as a forward (not to score goals), but you have to do other stuff, too,” he said.
One of the reasons Dube was able to work so tirelessly was because he had fresh legs after being brought on as a second-half substitute. The temperature at kickoff was 90 degrees and head coach Steve Nicol told his players in his pregame speech to be smart about how they expended their energy.
In addition to the advice given to his starters, Nicol said the conditions made it vital to use the substitutions available. The Revs’ boss brought on three players in quick succession early in the second half, as Khano Smith (62nd minute), Dube (65th minute) and Pat Phelan (69th minute) all entered in a seven-minute span. As for Chicago, head coach Carlos de los Cobos used three of his four available substitutions at halftime.
“It was roasting out there,” said Nicol. “We were sweating just sitting on the bench, so who knows what it was like for [the players] running about. We were always going to make changes, and obviously the fresh legs helped.”
The Revs will need their legs to be as fresh as possible in the coming weeks, having now added another match to their fixture list in the form of a SuperLiga semifinal. Should the Revolution continue to perform at the level the club’s shown in the last eight days, perhaps a second SuperLiga title in three years is on the horizon.
“We’re definitely on the right track,” said Tierney. “We won two in a row at home, but it was always going to be a great test coming here. I think (tonight) we implemented all the stuff we did at home. If we keep playing this way, we should start turning things around and getting better results.”