A slew of Revolution players proved their right to earn starts in last Saturday's 2-0 victory away at the Houston Dynamo. The result, which was only Houston's second home loss in 38 games, occurred through the combination of the Revolution's best offensive and defensive efforts of the season.
Getting the Revolution to play a two-way, brick-wall defense and spear-headed offense has been like pulling teeth in the first third of the season. While their back line has consistently converged for one of the league's best defensive records, the Revolution attack has been half asleep, scoring just once through the first six games (not counting an own goal in a 4-1 loss to New York on April 20).
Last Saturday, with the help of some new and old faces, offense and defense went hand-in-hand to deliver Houston a crushing blow and keep the Revolution in the hunt for the fifth and final playoff spot with mid-season fast approaching.
Diego Fagundez and Juan Agudelo asserted themselves as the Revolution's best options for both scoring goals and creating chances. Fagundez opened up the scoring in the 51st minute for his third goal of the season, slipping past Houston's back line and into the penalty area where he finished easily past Tally Hall.
Fagundez' development has gone smoothly and his confidence is high as he now leads his team with three goals, though his recent form is a direct result of his motivation to be on the field and help the team succeed.
Agudelo is motivated too, but for different reasons. The freshly signed striker entered the game ready to make his first appearance for the Revolution and distinguish himself among a group of strikers that has been gun-shy through the first three months of the season.
What's more, Agudelo was left off of US national team Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann's latest roster for a series of friendlies and World Cup qualifiers. Though young, Agudelo is establishing himself as a regular with the national team. However, a hamstring injury has prevented him from playing recently, and he's been temporarily taken off of Klinsmann's radar.
He'll grab Klinsmann's attention again if continues to play the way he did last Saturday night against Houston.
He came on as a substitute in the 35th minute for Ryan Guy (calf) and immediately began setting up chances, making passes and creating space for other players to shoot. In the 84th minute, Agudelo almost single-handedly launched a passing and shooting sequence which led to an own goal by Houston's Ricardo Clark, doubling the lead and ensuring a Revolution win.
“I think this is huge for a new player to come in and get a win like this and be a part of it,” Agudelo told revolutionsoccer.net. “Today I feel so much closer to the guys. We fought together as a team and as a unit and we came out with a win here, which is not easy.”
Defensively, the team remained very true to form. Darrius Barnes started at left back in place of Chris Tierney for the second time this season and was solid throughout the game. Minutes have been hard to come by for Barnes in recent years, who has had to switch from his natural role as a central defender to playing on the left due to roster congestion and competition. But his contributions on Saturday to help preserve the Revolution's sixth cleansheet of the season is evidence Heaps can use when deciding if he can rely on Barnes.
Meanwhile, Bobby Shuttleworth, who appears to have taken the reigns from Matt Reis as starting goalkeeper, earned his fourth shutout and made his eighth straight start. He stopped three shots, including a point-blank effort by Houston's Brian Ching late in the game on Saturday.
The road to becoming a starter has been bumpy for Shuttleworth, being sidelined behind Reis since he joined the Revolution in 2009. Many supporters and pundits are loyal to Reis for his eleven years of service to the Revolution, in which he achieved many personal milestones and team accolades. This has caused Shuttleworth to be thought of as less capable than Reis, though his form this season has been spectacular.
Shuttleworth has been driven to help his team win and be consistent in between the pipes, communicating better with his back line and establishing himself as one of the league's best young shot stoppers.
Though the Revolution played well last Saturday on both sides of the ball, it was, in truth, an unorthodox game. Both teams had players sent off in the first half when Houston's Bobby Boswell and New England's Dimitry Imbongo got red carded for a fight that broke out between the two in the 40th minute following a freekick.
The ejection forced Houston to change their shape, which had already been compromised when Eric Brunner had to be substituted for the injured Jermaine Taylor in central midfield.
The Revolution took advantage of Houston's situation and capitalized twice in the second half. And while it took them a while to put the ball in the back of the net, they were rarely second best as they pinged the ball around Houston's penalty area and created chance after chance.
This Saturday's game against Toronto FC, who continue to skid, likely won't be as easy to control. But the Revolution have momentum for the first time this season as they enter a three-game home stand. They are clicking both offensively and defensively and Heaps knows he has many options at his disposal to fight for results.
“It’s a lot of momentum right now,” finished Agudelo. “We’re getting toward the middle of the season and the playoffs are getting closer and closer. It’s huge to win this away game. We have [three] home games coming up and hopefully we can make a push to be on the top of the league.”
The author is solely responsible for the content.
Translate this page
To our readers,
We've added a translation feature to the Corner Kicks blog to assist readers who may be more comfortable reading another language.
Google Translate is not perfect -- we're aware of that -- but it is quite good at getting the main points of the story across. We've successfully used it on The Big Picture, Boston.com's extremely popular world photography site. I'd be eager to hear your feedback on its use in Corner Kicks, in whatever language.
David Beard, Editor, Boston.com