FOXBOROUGH– Fighting to retain first place in the Eastern Conference, the ambitious New England Revolution captured their fifth straight win in a 2-1 result over D.C. United at Gillette Stadium.
The Revs welcomed back captain Jose Goncalves, as he last started on April 12 in a 2-0 victory over the Houston Dynamo.
Even though the Revolution couldn’t manage to keep their home shutout streak alive, Jay Heaps’ young guns continued their spectacular run of offensive form, as 19-year-old Diego Fagundez notched a goal in his fourth consecutive game.
“I tell everyone, after you get the first goal, it all comes after that,’’ Fagundez said. “After I scored that first goal this season it opened up a lot for me – I think a lot of other players will tell you the same thing.’’
Maryland alum Patrick Mullins, drafted by New England with the 11th pick in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft, has buried four goals since starting against Toronto FC three weeks ago.
“As an attacking player, I think I have some skills to where I can find the back of the net,’’ Mullins said.
The opening stages of the match displayed few convincing scoring opportunities, while both teams battled for control in the midfield.
In the 8th minute, Andrew Farrell lobbed a cross towards net that D.C. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid easily caught for the save. United forward Collin Martin zipped a long-range shot that sizzled wide of the right post seven minutes later.
The most notable scoring opportunity of the first half materialized in the 19th minute. Daigo Kobayashi poked a deft chip into the penalty area for Mullins, whose speeding left-footer caused a rebound for Teal Bunbury to backheel high above the crossbar.
Eddie Johnson, in the 28th minute, whipped a dangerous header that compelled Revolution goalie Bobby into a diving stop, and shortly after that, Chris Tierney jabbed a pass through host of players to put Mullins 1-one-1 with Hamid, but the stout U.S. netminder punched away the tough-angled strike.
The muted attacking action from the first half didn’t predict the entertainment in the remaining 45 minutes.
Following another solid Eddie Johnson headed effort, Fagundez conducted a wonderful slicing run in the 55th minute before he was tackled by several United defenders near the five-yard box. Mullins trailed Fagundez and stood in perfect position to tap home the first goal of the night.
“Diego (Fagundez), with the prototypical mazy run from him, he’s got great feet and the defense opened up for him. I thought he was going to take it all the way, but as a forward you have to be alert and ready for any kind of rebounds,’’ Mullins said.
In the 73rd minute, Fabian Espindola knotted the score at 1-1. Cristian Fernandez collected a long ball from Lewis Neal, and the defender sent a lobbed pass that bounced multiple times prior to landing on the feet of Espindola. The veteran then calmly tucked the shot into the back of the net.
The Revolution answered in five minutes, and it was Fagundez who was credited with the goal. Andrew Farrell’s pass shepherded Bunbury out wide to skid a low cross aimed for no particular player, and Hamid failed to safely deflect the clearance, as the Revolution’s youth product smacked the ball into an empty goal.
“I thought I did well on both sides of the field,’’ Fagundez said of his performance. “I worked hard defensively, and if you do that, offensively everything else just comes. Teal (Bunbury) played a ball across and it got flicked off and I just saw an open net.’’
Eddie Johnson was issued a red card in the 82nd minute, pushing Kelyn Rowe to the ground and then lightly kicking him in the leg. It was unclear whether or not the the skilled forward intentionally behaved this way.
The remainder of the match showed the D.C. United push forward in man-down desperation, hoping for any spark to salvage a point on the road. The Revolution, though, remained firm across all positions, making certain that mistakes weren’t gathered in the rainy conditions.
In the end, seizing yet another three points is an excellent outcome for the Revs, exhibiting their ability to win in any fashion.
“We grinded it,’’ Heaps said. “There are going to be games where you’ve got to find a way and fortunately for us, those last two games things went our way, bounces went our way, and tonight it just felt like we were going to have to make it happen. I credit our guys, I credit our leadership.’’