By Nick Ironside
FOXBOROUGH — The Revolution doubled their season’s goal tally on Saturday night, as New England dazzled the Philadelphia Union defense in a 2-0 win at Gillette Stadium in front of 18,383.
Manager Jay Heaps used the word “clinical” in past weeks to describe what the Revolution have lacked in their attack. But Diego Fagundez and Lee Nguyen’s two goals epitomized the word Heaps had used in a frustrated manner.
“Those are the things you work on,” Heaps said. “The first goal I think was really a nice goal. It was a nice one-two play . . . Kelyn [Rowe] runs to the baseline and finds Diego, and Diego finishes it one-time.”
After a strong start to the game for the Revolution, they went into the interval scoreless. But Heaps said he knew that a breakthrough was imminent after the constant attacks at Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath’s net. The Revolution took 19 shots, 11 in the first half.
“At halftime I looked into the guys’ eyes and thought we were going to have a good [second] half,” Heaps said.
The Revolution’s breakthrough came in the 61st minute. It was New England’s first goal in 539 minutes of play.
“It felt great,” said Fagundez about scoring the team’s first home goal of the season. “We’ve been waiting for something like that for a while. We all wanted it, and it was up for someone to make a play.”
And once the first goal went in, Fagundez had a feeling a second one was forthcoming. Nguyen struck just 10 minutes later.
“We knew as soon as we got the first one that we were going to break this team down,” said Fagundez. “We just had to go for the attack, and as soon as we got that first one the game opened up, and Lee got the second.”
Nguyen picked up a loose ball and drove at the Union defense, before slipping a pass through to Saer Sene’s darting run across goal. Sene’s shot was deflected, and fell right into the path of Nguyen who cleaned up the attack.
Midfielder Ryan Guy was relieved that the Revolution scored, crediting Heaps’s new tactical formation.
“It was huge for us,” said Guy. “We needed some goals from the run of play, and the lineup that Jay went with tonight was very much focused on getting into their half of the field, getting in behind them and being able to play in behind them.”
Heaps started the game by putting Jerry Bengtson alone at forward, but took Nguyen and Rowe — both of whom played wide in the Revolution’s 4-1 loss at New York — into the central midfield area, right ahead of defensive midfielder Kalifa Cisse.
The Revolution played with an inverted triangle in central midfield. Fagundez and Guy would then tuck inside and have fullbacks Chris Tierney and Will Farrell sending in crosses to at least three bodies in the penalty box. Fagundez enjoyed playing in the new formation.
“That worked out very well,” Fagundez said. “You could see Lee and Kelyn making plays and attacking with Jerry. All five of us were attacking at once so it kind of helps Jerry and I to go forward and try and score.”
Heaps explained his thinking behind bringing Nguyen and Rowe to more of a central attacking position.
“I thought we put a lot of confidence in Kelyn and Lee to be two playmakers, with Kelyn trying to penetrate and pick up loose balls, and Lee more of the playmaker with the ball at his feet,’’ Heaps said. “The two of them have a nice style, and I think they did a nice one-two tonight.”
Guy thinks the team might wave goodbye to their attacking woes after Saturday night’s performance.
“It was a positive sign for us, because we’re not only getting the chances, but we’re also scoring as well,” he said.