An imperative 1-0 victory over the Montreal Impact helped keep the New England Revolution in the hunt for an Eastern Conference playoff spot. Captain Jose Goncalves played hero on Saturday afternoon as his 31st minute goal was enough for the Revs to seize three points.
The Revs looked dangerous in the opening minutes with Lee Nguyen and Saer Sene threatening Troy Perkins’ net with long-range shots in the 10th and 12th minutes. The first opportunity came when Kelyn Rowe and Chris Tierney completed a series of passes after a short corner to set-up Nguyen’s shot from outside the penalty box. Sene created a moment of déjà vu two minutes later when he hit the ball from an identical spot after dribbling towards the left flank from the center of the field.
“We played really well in the first half,” Tierney remembered. “We put some good pressure on and kept the ball well on their end.”
Disaster struck in the 18th minute when Sene sustained a broken leg after a Davy Arnaud challenge. The injury was devastating for New England since Sene, who ended his 2012 campaign early to undergo ACL surgery, was on a good run of form with two goals and three assists in his last six outings. Dimitry Imbongo replaced the Frenchman and the Revs were forced to reconfigure their game plan.
“It’s very hard,” Goncalves remarked. “When we lose Saer, we lose a key player who can go wide and come inside. He has a great shot. We had to find another solution and we did. Dimitry comes in and he helps a lot. He’s strong.”
The emotional Revs found the back of the net in the 31st minute after the Impact failed to properly deal with Tierney’s free kick. The initial chance was headed away by Juan Agudelo but AJ Soares was there to keep the play alive. Soares found Diego Fagundez who played the ball across the goalmouth where it was misplayed by Agudelo and two Impact defenders. Goncalves, patiently waiting at the far post, scored his second goal in Revolution colors with a left-footed blast.
“Diego crossed it and Juan was there and they missed the ball and I was right behind them,” Goncalves said. “I had a great chance so it was not an option to miss it.”
The Impact had an opportunity to equalize in the 41st minute when Matteo Ferrari stripped Scott Caldwell of the ball. The Italian marched forward before playing the ball to his compatriot Marco Di Vaio. Di Vaio’s point-blank shot from inside the penalty box was saved by Matt Reis.
“We are missing a little bit in the final 20 metres,” head coach Marco Schällibaum explained. “We couldn’t penetrate the box. We didn’t make it tough on their defenders.”
The Revs stayed firm in the second half and limited their opponents to three shots, none on frame. Offensively, the Revs had two splendid chances to double the lead. The first came in the 49th minute when Goncalves took a long-range shot after a recycled corner kick. While Goncalves’ shot was stopped by the goalkeeper, Tierney’s free kick in the 69th minute would be denied by the crossbar.
The Revs held on to the lead despite witnessing another injury, this time to Imbongo. The win improved their point total to 45, the highest since 2007 when the team collected 50 en route to making the MLS Cup. With two games left, the Revs are currently in 7th place in the Eastern Conference with Montreal, Chicago and Philadelphia holding a one point advantage.
“I think these three points were the most important to get so far because the Impact is a point away, so now it’s anyone’s ball game for the last two spots,” Heaps reflected.
3 Observations and Revelations
1.The Revs are getting creative with dead ball situations. It’s no secret that the Revs are one of the worst teams in the league when it comes to set pieces. This is especially troubling because opponents often resort to fouling as a way of countering the dynamic play of Rowe, Fagundez and Nguyen. The Revs have recently tried to improve their ineptness by employing new personnel and strategies. Sene has been seen taking free kicks while Rowe has tried his luck from the corner. Corner kicks in general have taken on a new look with short options being explored more often. Hopefully the team’s experimentation with set pieces will lead to success.
2.The captain is the MVP. It might be the boring choice but there is no question that Goncalves is the team’s most important player. He’s solidified the backline, scored crucial goals and guided the team during hard times. More than anything else, consistency is what makes Goncalves the clear choice for MVP. While he’s certainly worthy of league-wide recognition, it’s important that we show our local appreciation by naming him the club’s MVP.
3.The Revs must do the expected after accomplishing the unexpected. Tying the Red Bulls and beating the Impact were important outcomes that weren’t predicted by many fans. While the results were well-deserved, the team must now post consecutive wins against the Crew. The Crew, who are all but eliminated from the postseason, is far from a pushover but the Revs need to collect full points against them if they are going to stay competitive in the Eastern Conference. The Revs have shown great improvement this year, but, as Heaps has said many times, the team will only make a statement if they earn a playoff spot.
(image courtesy of Kari Heistad)