What it means: Home-field advantage for the conference semifinals, as well as the Revolution's best finish since 2007. The first leg of the two-leg series is set for the weekend of Nov. 1-2, with the second leg to follow at Gillette Stadium during the weekend of Nov. 8-9. Dates and times have not been announced. The Revolution will get a better idea of whom they’ll be facing in the semifinals next weekend once the results from the Sporting-New York and Columbus-Philadelphia contests shake out. The Revolution last secured home-field advantage in 2007, when they reached the MLS Cup final, losing to the Houston Dynamo 2-1.
What’s set: The entire playoff field in the Eastern Conference was determined after sixth-place Toronto FC was eliminated following their 1-1 draw to Montreal. D.C. United and New England have locked up the first and second seeds, respectively, while New York, Sporting and Columbus have all clinched playoff berths.
What’s up in the air: The third, fourth and fifth seeds are all up for grabs between Sporting, Columbus and New York. The first tie-breaker is total wins, which currently gives 14-win Sporting the upper hand for the third seed over 13-win Columbus and 12-win New York. The fourth and fifth seeds will play a midweek wild card game during the week of Oct. 26.
Revs’ 2014 records vs. possible semifinal opponents: 3-0-0 vs. Sporting, 0-2-0 vs. New York, 1-2-0 vs. Columbus. The Revolution went a combined 3-2-0 against the aforementioned trio at home this year.
Still something to play for: Although their postseason seed has been set, the Revolution are only one win away from matching the club record of 17 set by the 2005 squad. Additionally, Lee Nguyen is one goal away from matching Raul Diaz Arce’s 18 goals in 1998, the second-highest haul in club history behind the 23 scored by Taylor Twellman in 2002.
Lineup changes for Saturday’s regular season finale? With the second seed secured, it’ll be interesting to see what, if any, changes Revolution coach Jay Heaps makes to Saturday’s lineup against Toronto FC. The most likely scenario: Giving right back Andrew Farrell an extended rest after he suffered a right ankle injury during last week’s 2-1 win over the Dynamo. While Farrell could be rested, midfielder Andy Dorman may get his first look since suffering a sprained MCL in July. Fan favorite Shalrie Joseph, who hasn’t seen the pitch since he was re-signed in April, may get the chance to play in front of the home crowd for what could be the final time in his 13-year career, the bulk of which was spent with the Revolution (2003-12).
To that end, the Revolution came out of the locker room for the second half intent to not only climb out of a deficit created by a 37th-minute Giles Barnes strike, but to overtake their orange-clad opponent. And that’s exactly what they did in the final 45 minutes to stake a 2-1 win over the Dynamo.
“It’s huge,” Revolution coach Jay Heaps told the media after the match. “We knew we were going for that. You could tell we risked a lot going for it because we knew the three points was going to put us in a position to not have a game mid-week the following week.”
The risk -- sending numbers forward, and hoping not to be hit on the counter -- surely paid off in the end. But early in the second half, the plan of attack appeared to take a significant blow when right back Andrew Farrell had his right ankle stepped on by Jermaine Taylor. The injury forced Farrell out of the match, and prompted Heaps to use one of his substitutes earlier than usual.
Kevin Alston filled in for the injured Farrell, but instead of manning the right back spot, he switched sides with left back Darrius Barnes. The idea: add firepower to the part of pitch where Lee Nguyen liked to get the ball before going at goal.
However, Alston wouldn’t be able to spear a potential comeback all by himself. After watching Ricardo Clark dominate the midfield for much of the evening, Heaps looked to Jermaine Jones, who was coming off a trying stretch where he played two full matches in a four-game span.
“I would have liked to not had to use him,” Heaps said. “But it was actually the game calling for him. In the middle, we were getting overrun a little bit. We needed a little bit with Jermaine, and in the end, he changed it.”
With Alston adding speed and tenacity on the left, and Jones using his savvy and instincts to settle down the midfield, the time had come for the Revolution’s most potent weapon to do a number on the Dynamo.
Two minutes after Jones entered, Alston found Nguyen in the box, where he uncorked a curling shot that tucked itself into the upper 90. And with that blast, the match was back on level terms.
The job wasn’t done, of course. With just under half an hour still to go, the Revolution continued their search for the goal that would guarantee they wouldn’t have to worry about a wild-card matchup.
It wouldn’t be easy. The Dynamo, who wanted nothing more than to give outgoing coach Dominic Kinnear a win in his final home game, pressed for the game-winner as well. The stakes for both sides were high, and it showed, as the game opened up wide in the waning moments.
But the defensively-suspect Dynamo left themselves vulnerable in the process. The Revolution took advantage in the 86th minute when Darrius Barnes grabbed a failed clearance from Kofi Sarkodie in front of frame. Barnes could’ve taken the shot, but ushered it instead to Nguyen, who poked it through.
“It was a tight game, so I figured I’d find the goalscorer,” Barnes quipped with the media following the match. “I think if it’s a game where we’re leading, I probably would’ve taken the shot. But I think it was the right play. We always work on making that extra pass. I think it was the right play to make.”
That decision turned out to have a profound effect on the Revolution’s fortunes, as they held on in the final minutes to clinch a top-3 finish.
“It was one of our goals and to come here and get the job done is just big-time and says a lot about this team,” said Barnes. “After we clinched a playoff spot last weekend, it would’ve been easy to kind of take our foot off the gas a little bit, but this team wants to achieve more. Tonight, we showed that.”
The team’s leading scorer tallied twice to send the New England Revolution (16-13-4, 52 points) to a 2-1 victory over the Houston Dynamo (11-16-6, 39 points) on Thursday at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston.
After Giles Barnes opened the scoring in the 37th minute, Nguyen tied it in the 65th minute on a curling shot that found the upper corner of the net. With the clock winding down, Nguyen struck again when he poked a close-range shot through in the 87th minute for the winning margin.
The victory extended the Revolution’s torrid form down stretch, as they’ve gone unbeaten in 10 of their last 11 (8-1-2). The Dynamo, who were eliminated from postseason contention last week, dropped their second straight game.
What it means: Nguyen’s heroics allowed the Revolution to clinch a top-three playoff seed, which could pair them with Sporting Kansas City in the conference semifinals for the second straight season. Last year, the third-place Revolution got the jump on second-place Sporting in the first leg, but Peter Vermes’ team was too much to handle in the second leg. No doubt the Revolution will be seeking revenge for last year’s playoff exit -- and if they manage to hold onto the second seed, they’ll have home-field advantage this time around.
Stat of the match: It wasn’t a pretty win by any means for the Revolution, whose passing accuracy dipped to 66 percent against the Dynamo. Their average accuracy rate this season is 76 percent.
Scoreboard watch: The win strengthened the Revolution’s hold on the second spot in the East, and a win next week would guarantee that spot regardless of whether third-place Sporting K.C. wins out.
Jones sees second-half action: After playing a combined 180 minutes between last weekend’s match in Montreal and Tuesday’s U.S. match against Honduras, Jermaine Jones wasn’t penciled into the lineup. However, he was called upon to spell Daigo Kobayashi in the 63rd minute, and appeared to show no signs of wear during his 27-minute cameo.
Lineup changes aplenty: Given the short week, injury concerns and the approaching postseason, Revolution coach Jay Heaps made five changes to the lineup from last weekend’s clash in Montreal. Andrew Farrell returned to his right back spot, while Darrius Barnes manned the opposite end of the backline. Steve Neumann and Scott Caldwell took spots in the central midfield, while Patrick Mullins got the nod up top. Starting left back Chris Tierney, who was listed as questionable with an ankle sprain, was given the night off, while first-team striker Charlie Davies came on in the 58th minute for Mullins.
Dorman makes the 18: Veteran midfielder Andy Dorman made the game-day roster for the first time since suffering a sprained MCL in a July 12 clash against Chicago. Prior to his injury, Dorman had started 15 games, serving as team captain in five of them.
Injury forces Farrell off: Right back Andrew Farrell was forced to exit in the 50th minute after a fierce foul from Jermaine Taylor, who appeared to step on the defender’s right ankle. Taylor was cautioned for the incident, while Kevin Alston came off the bench to fill in for Farrell, who had to be helped off the pitch.
Regular season finale on tap: The Revolution will close out their regular season when they host Toronto FC at Gillette Stadium on Oct. 25. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. Prior to the match, team awards will be announced.
The Revolution head into Houston coming off a 2-2 draw with the Impact in Montreal, where they were forced to dig themselves out of not one, but two deficits to the last-place squad. Despite the trouble that Marco Di Vaio and his Impact teammates created, the Revolution walked away happy in the knowledge that their postseason ticket had been punched.
For the first time in four years, the postseason won’t be on the agenda for the Dynamo this year after they saw their hopes of playing into November evaporate in last week’s 3-1 loss to D.C. United in Houston. In a game in which they fell into a two-goal deficit early, and witnessed designated player DaMarcus Beasley exit early with a hamstring injury, it was a disheartening scene all around for the home crowd.
With the Revolution fighting to secure the second seed in the East, and the Dynamo looking to secure a win in coach Dominic Kinnear’s final home game, here’s what to watch for on Thursday.
Improvement the name of the game. Don’t expect the Revolution to get complacent now that they've clinched a spot in the postseason. Quite the opposite, in fact. While they’ll certainly be focused on a top-2 finish in the conference, midfielder Kelyn Rowe suggested that these last two regular-season games will be used to tighten the proverbial screws before heading into the postseason.
“We’re still leaking a couple of goals that we shouldn’t,” Rowe told the media on Tuesday. “We’ve had some chances near that box that we should put away, one in which the final pass has to be a little better, and there’s going to be aspects (of improvement) all around.”
Will Jermaine Jones see the pitch? After going 90 minutes for the U.S. Men’s National Team in Tuesday’s draw to Honduras, there are questions as to whether the Revolution’s biggest star will see the pitch in Houston. While Jones said all the right things about wanting to play Thursday, the decision ultimately lies with coach Jay Heaps. Given that Jones has played a combined 180 minutes since last weekend’s game in Montreal, he almost certainly won’t start. But, if the circumstances dictate it in the latter stages, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him come on at some point in the second half.
Dynamo still dangerous. At a glance, Thursday’s game looks like a quintessential trap game for the playoff-bound Revolution. But digging a little deeper will reveal that this won’t be a contest they’ll treat lightly. Days after they fell behind twice to the last-place Impact, the Revolution know they can’t get overconfident. Plus, the Dynamo will be playing with plenty of emotion knowing this will be the final home game for Kinnear, who’ll resign at the end of the season.
“Having them out of the playoffs might not be great (for us) because now they’re playing for pride and their jobs,” Rowe said. “Contracts are coming up and it’s always a hard time to play at the end of the year. It’s going to be a hard-fought game, and that’s what we want.”
Will Andy Dorman make his return? With Jones’ status uncertain, and Thursday’s match expected to be gritty and hard-fought, it would seem that the conditions are ripe for the veteran midfielder to make his way back onto the pitch. After missing the last three months following an MCL strain, Dorman appears to be close to full health going into Thursday’s contest. With Jones unlikely to make a significant contribution given his recent schedule, Dorman would be the ideal candidate to plug into the midfield.
Avoiding a reprisal of the season-opener. Given where the Revolution and Dynamo currently are on the table, it’s hard to believe that the season started out very differently for the conference foes. In their season-opening meeting on March 8, the Dynamo scored three times inside of 23 minutes en route to a 4-0 thrashing, which left the Revolution shaking their heads in disgust. While seven months have passed since that loss -- their worst season-opening effort in club history -- Revolution keeper Bobby Shuttleworth and his teammates haven’t forgotten how that match played out.
“That (loss) does seem like a long time ago,” Shuttleworth told the media on Tuesday. “But we’ll definitely have it in the back of our minds, and know that it’s going to be a difficult battle for us.”
Not only did his squad clinch a postseason berth with the result, but it was Nguyen’s 69th-minute cheeky chip shot strike over the reach of goalkeeper Evan Bush that leveled the terms for good and allowed the Revolution to walk off the Stade Saputo pitch with smiles on their faces.
“Of course, I meant to chip him,” Nguyen told reporters with a laugh after the match. “No, I took a shot and it took a blessed little deflection. We were just happy to get the second goal there and hold on to that tie.”
Call it a lucky shot or a well-executed effort. Either way, the fact is that Nguyen’s equalizer was just another reminder of how valuable he’s been this season -- a season in which the Revolution clinched their earliest postseason berth since 2007.
With a team-high 15 goals -- seven of which were game-winners -- and four assists, there’s no doubt that the Revolution probably wouldn’t have been in a celebratory mood on Saturday without Nguyen putting together an MVP-caliber season.
Even if you take his 69th-minute goal out of the equation, the 28-year-old midfielder’s showing on Saturday was nothing short of superlative. He completed an eye-popping 92.2 percent of his passes, collected a pair of key connections and led all midfielders with 52 passes.
“Lee has been awesome, and I thought tonight he played well again,” Heaps told reporters after the match. “It’s a battle; you go down twice on the road, especially here in Montreal, which is one of the hardest venues to play in.”
Saturday’s match wasn’t easy for the Revolution, no doubt. They were victimized by a pair of Marco Di Vaio goals and seemed to struggle to find a consistent attacking rhythm during much of the first half.
The fact that Nguyen’s form didn’t dip at all was a testament to the kind of season he’s enjoying. In many respects, it was only fitting that when the going got tough, Nguyen got going, just as he has so often this season.
“It’s a goal that got us our position guaranteed in the playoffs,” Heaps said. “But now we want to concentrate on getting more points to guarantee a good spot in the playoffs.”
Getting to the playoffs has been Nguyen’s primary focus all season. Although his name wasn’t called by U.S. Men’s National Team coach Jurgen Klinsmann prior to Saturday’s contest, Nguyen seemed content in the knowledge that he and his teammates will be playing in November yet again.
“It’s good that we’re in it now,” Nguyen said. “Now we’ll fine tune the little things in these next two games and get ready for the playoffs.”
With his team down following a 40th-minute Marco Di Vaio goal, Nguyen took a short pass from Scott Caldwell and, with a defender closing on him near the edge of the box, lofted the ball over the reach of Evan Bush to level the match with just over 30 minutes left.
Di Vaio gave the Impact an early lead when he scored the first of his two goals in the 12th minute, but the advantage didn't last long because Kelyn Rowe equalized in the 16th minute.
The draw kept the Revolution (15-13-4, 49 points) unbeaten in nine of their past 10, while the Impact (6-18-8, 26 points) secured their second straight draw.
What it means: For the second straight year, the Revolution are bound for the postseason, with no small thanks to another scorching run down the stretch. But that playoff spot didn't come easy. For the third time this season, the Impact put the Revolution on the ropes early, this time with Di Vaio inflicting the damage. Rowe answered back four minutes later to get the Revolution back on level terms. However, when Di Vaio scored his second goal before the half, it appeared the Revolution would have to wait a little longer to celebrate. That was until Nguyen, who has come to his club's rescue so often this season, chipped a shot over Bush in the 69th minute. It wasn't pretty, by any means. They rarely are at this time of the season. But the Revolution will certainly take it, as they'll try to strengthen their credentials with two games left in the regular season.
Stat of the match: Although the Impact have languished in last place for much of the year, Di Vaio's 12th-minute goal marked the third time in as many games that Montreal has scored first against the Revolution.
Scoreboard watch: Saturday's draw pulled the 49-point Revolution back into second place after 49-point Sporting Kansas City temporarily took over the spot by claiming a 2-0 win over the Chicago Fire on Friday. Three points separate the Revolution from first place, which is currently inhabited by D.C. United. D.C. faces Houston on Sunday with a chance to put some distance on the Revolution.
Heaps reaches century mark: Saturday's match marked the 100th career game that Jay Heaps has coached the Revolution. Heaps, who was named head coach following the 2011 season, has a career mark of 38-41-21 following the draw in Montreal.
Jones called up for U.S. action; wait for Nguyen continues: Prior to Saturday's match, Revolution midfielder Jermaine Jones was called up by U.S. men's national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann for Tuesday's friendly against Honduras in Boca Raton, Florida. The call-up was the first for Jones since the 2014 World Cup. Meanwhile, Nguyen, who's in the midst of an MVP-caliber season, was not tabbed by Klinsmann on Saturday.
Farrell gets break; Kobayashi back in XI: Heaps made two changes to his lineup, with Kevin Alston getting the start at right back over Andrew Farrell while Daigo Kobayashi started over Scott Caldwell in the central midfield. Saturday marked the first match since the season opener that Farrell, who wasn't a part of the game-day 18, wasn't in the lineup.
Fagundez sees the field: After he was left on the bench for the past two games, Diego Fagundez entered the game in the 61st minute for Teal Bunbury and completed 71.4 percent of his passes during his 29-minute cameo. Last year's team leader in goals has started only twice in the past eight games.
On to Houston: The Revolution will close out the road portion of their regular-season schedule on Thursday when they head to BBVA Compass Stadium to face the Houston Dynamo. Kickoff is set for 8:00 p.m. ET. The two sides have split their regular-season series (1-1-0), with the Revolution getting the best of the Dynamo in a 2-0 win in their latest encounter on April 12.
The Revolution, who have won seven of their last eight, currently sit in second place in the Eastern Conference following a 2-1 win over the Columbus Crew last weekend. For the second straight week, Jermaine Jones grabbed the game-winner, while goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth made six saves to seal the win.
Speaking of goalkeepers, Evan Bush made a couple of crucial saves to help last-place Montreal claim its first road result since June in Sunday’s 0-0 draw at Chicago. Bush, who spent much of the first half as Troy Perkins’ understudy, collected eight saves in the scoreless draw, which eliminated the Fire from postseason contention.
Here’s what to watch for in a match that could send the Revolution to the playoffs for the second straight season:
Impact’s fearsome front four. Montreal’s attack, as a whole, has been a source of disappointment for coach Frank Klopas, no doubt. Injuries, national call-ups, and CONCACAF Champions League action have all conspired against Klopas, who’s forced to rearrange his lineup on a regular basis. But even though the offense has struggled, it isn’t due to lack of weapons. Marco Di Vaio and Jack McInerney have both burned the Revolution defense in the past, while Ignacio Piatti, Andres Romero, Dilly Duka and Justin Mapp all have the talent to create chances.
“They’ve got goal scorers that can beat you at any time in DiVaio or McInerney, depending upon who’s playing,” Revolution coach Jay Heaps said. “They’re dangerous there, and they have guys like Ramiro, Duka, plus a guy like Mapp coming back (from injury), and Piatti as well. They’re extremely dangerous across those 5-6 attacking positions.”
Expect the unexpected. Heaps admitted earlier this week that the biggest challenge his staff faces is putting together a game plan against the Impact, who have regularly featured a different lineup every week. While DiVaio, McInerney and Piatti are all known quantities, others have risen to the occasion in recent weeks. Midfielder Calum Mallace scored his first goal against the Revolution four weeks ago, while goalkeeper Evan Bush was sensational between the sticks last weekend. With strong performances coming from unlikely sources, the Revolution can’t afford to overlook the Impact’s lesser-known talent.
Avoiding another early deficit. It’s been a season of struggles for the Impact this year, and Klopas has made no bones about it. But when it comes to his club’s previous encounters with the Revolution, he can’t help but like what he’s seen. In both of their meetings this season, the Impact have grabbed the early lead after exploiting holes in the Revolution defense. On the first occasion, the Impact coasted to a 2-0 win, while the rematch saw a severely-depleted Montreal squad keep the Revolution on its heels despite dropping a 2-1 loss. To guard against another early deficit, especially on the road, the Revolution must be mindful of their marks, and plug the holes inside the attacking third.
“They’re an excellent team when they get you on the ropes,” Heaps said. “They’re a really good team and they’ve got some excellent players.”
Get ready for another gritty game. In their previous contest, the Impact didn't give the Revolution an inch, especially in the middle of the pitch. Mallace went toe-to-toe with Jermaine Jones, who was forced out of the game at halftime with a foot injury. Meanwhile, Krzysztof Krol didn’t let an initial caution stop him from issuing a harsh challenge to Kelyn Rowe, for which the Impact defender received a second yellow and subsequent ejection. It was a classic, late-season match that featured no fewer than 30 fouls between the conference foes. And with the last-place Impact playing for pride and paychecks, there’s little reason to believe that their final meeting with the Revolution won’t adopt a similar tenor.
Revs not looking ahead. For the first time in six years, the Revolution are in position to clinch a postseason berth before the final weekend of the regular season. Such scenarios could either be a blessing or curse, depending upon a team’s collective mindset. Some squads seize the opportunity, while others allow complacency to set in. The way midfielder Jermaine Jones sees it, the time is now, and the best way to approach Saturday’s potential clincher is to treat it as a must-win game.
“We have to play the same way we’ve played as always, have trust in each other, and keep going,” Jones said. “So I think we’ll be focused 100 percent on that game in Montreal. We know that we have the players, and that we have a good team and that we can win it.”
While the Revolution have already faced the Impact twice already this year -- including a 2-1 win just last month -- Heaps knows that planning against a squad that routinely changes its lineup week to week will be a test for him and his staff.
"That's probably the most difficult part," Heaps said. "It's hard to get a beat on exactly what they're doing week in and week out. You're not exactly sure who's going to play or how they're going to play, because each time they put a different player on, so it'll be a little bit of a different look."
The Revolution learned that the hard way in their first encounter with Montreal back in May. The Impact fielded an entirely different formation, which caught their guests off guard. Andres Romero scored inside of three minutes, while Jack McInerney added another before halftime to seal a shocking 2-0 win for the last-place XI.
Although the Revolution prevailed in their second meeting on Sept. 13, the Impact got the jump on them again when Calum Mallace scored the opening goal in the 13th minute. The strike was Mallace's first in MLS, and it served to show that Montreal was content to thrive on the element of surprise.
Granted, that approach hasn't exactly done wonders for the Impact, who've spent much of the season at the bottom of the conference. But rest assured, Heaps knows better than to overlook the struggling side.
"We don't look at records when breaking down film, because every team in this league can beat anyone on any given day," Heaps said. "So when you're looking at a team, we look at their strengths and their weaknesses, and a lot of times those don't always correlate with their record."
Payback isn't on Jones' mind
It's fair to say that Revolution newcomer Jermaine Jones wasn't all that impressed with the Impact in his first game against them three weeks ago. And few would fault him for feeling that way.
Midway through the first half of the Sept. 13 clash between the conference foes, Jones and Mallace met on a couple of sharp challenges. The second one forced Jones to exit at halftime with a leg contusion, and after the match, the Revolution midfielder ominously noted that he'd see Mallace again in the series finale.
But on Wednesday, Jones dispelled any notion that he'd step onto the pitch at Stade Saputo with revenge in mind.
"After that game, I was upset," Jones said. "Now, I'm cool with it. Anyone who knows me knows that what happens on the pitch stays on the pitch."
Heaps, for his part, doesn't anticipate his star midfielder lashing out in a match in which the Revolution can clinch their playoff berth.
"Absolutely not," Heaps said when asked whether he has any concerns about Jones retaliating. "We're playing for a game to make the playoffs. There's such a bigger picture issue, and I think anything that was made of that is in the past."
Familiar face awaits
Montreal midfielder Gorka Larrea spent only a couple of weeks with the Revolution during the 2014 preseason, but according to Heaps, it wasn't because the Spanish international wasn't a good fit.
Larrea, who signed with the Impact in June, made a positive impression with the coaching staff and players during his preseason trial with the Revolution. But with the roster nearly set, Heaps decided that the best course of action was to let Larrea pursue a better situation.
"He's a great guy," Heaps said. "We actually talked about it during the preseason when we brought him in on trial, I don't think you can get a better guy. At the time, we were considering signing Shalrie [Joseph], and it was a similar position and need, so I think you look at a guy like that, and you're happy for him [to get another opportunity]."
With torrential downpours and a potent Crew attack both conspiring against him, the Revolution goalkeeper made six saves, including a crucial stop in the 18th minute, and kept the defense organized throughout to help his squad claim a crucial 2-1 victory.
“He was huge with a couple of other saves and just his presence in the box I thought was really good,” Revolution coach Jay Heaps said. “You get into this time of year where one or two saves are the difference between three points and no points, and tonight, Bobby was in the right spot and really commanded the area.”
Shuttleworth’s keen sense of positioning may have made it look easy at times. But dealing with a slick surface and a slippery ball can make any match a nightmare for a goalkeeper, no matter his pedigree.
If Shuttleworth harbored any hopes of an uneventful night given the soaking rain that enveloped Gillette Stadium, they were immediately cast aside after the Crew forced him to the dive twice inside of six minutes on shots from Ethan Finlay and Federico Higuain.
In the 18th minute, it appeared Shuttleworth was caught in no-man’s land when Finlay flicked a Waylon Francis pass to Aaron Schoenfeld, who was staring at an open net right before he one-timed it on frame. But there was Shuttleworth, who diagnosed the play in front of him so well that all he had to do was pivot to his left to smother what should have been a sure-fire goal.
“It was just that game (where) you just had a lot of energy to it,” Heaps said, “and to make that save there, it felt like that gave us a boost and we scored right after it.”
Indeed, Shuttleworth’s denial of Schoenfeld helped set the stage for Lee Nguyen, who moments later brought down a pass from Teal Bunbury and blasted it through to give the Revolution something they’d never owned against the Crew this season -- the lead.
Although that lead didn’t last after Finlay managed to beat Shuttleworth in the 25th minute, that would mark the last time the Crew would find the back of the net. And it wasn’t for lack of trying, either.
Shuttleworth was tested on shots both near and far in the second half, as he was called upon to make five of his six saves after the break. On one of those second-half stops, Finlay was denied after Shuttleworth stood his ground near the top of the box and pushed the shot over the bar.
“I was going to come for the initial ball, but realized I wasn’t going to get there and kind of hit the brakes,” Shuttleworth said. “At that point, just stand tall and just try to react to the ball.”
With their goalkeeper in top form, the Revolution took advantage on the other end of the pitch in the 67th minute. Jermaine Jones headed a Chris Tierney free kick into the back of the net to put the Revolution ahead for good.
While a pair of late set pieces made Shuttleworth and his teammates sweat it out to the very end, the Revolution goalkeeper reflected on the challenge that he faced on Saturday.
“It was difficult for a goalkeeper. I think the field players probably prefer for it to be that way,” Shuttleworth said. “I think you’ve just got to concentrate a bit more and just make sure that even routine stuff has got to be focused on and don’t take anything for granted.”
With Saturday’s crucial late-season conference clash tied at one apiece, Jay Heaps knew it was going to take a special play to unlock it. The kind of play that his club would need in order to take three points from a conference nemesis for the first time this season.
Fortunately for Heaps and his Revolution squad, one such play arrived in the 67th minute when Jermaine Jones headed through a Kelyn Rowe free kick to secure a crucial 2-1 win over the Crew.
“He’s just got a great sense of the game and so to get that open on a free kick is really good,” Revolution coach Jay Heaps said. “He’s a danger, and you have to mark him on free kicks, and I thought he did a nice job of getting open.”
Jones’ second goal of the season couldn’t have come at a better at time, either. The Crew, who equalized through Ethan Finlay almost immediately after Lee Nguyen scored the opener in the 20th minute, spent much of the second half hunting for the go-ahead.
The Revolution came under heavy fire during the early stages of the second half. After making only one save in the first half, Bobby Shuttleworth was called upon to make five after the break, including one that kept the Revolution from starting at yet another deficit against the Crew.
In the 62nd minute, Federico Higuain played a corner kick to the top of the box for Hector Jimenez, who one-timed it for Aaron Schoenfeld. With the Crew striker ready to pounce and score, Shuttleworth darted off his line and smothered it before Schoenfeld could inflict any damage.
“He pulled one back really, let’s be honest, Schoenfeld was inside the six, and Bobby saves it,” Heaps said. “It was just that game you have a lot of energy to it and to make that save there, I felt like that gave us a boost, and we scored right after it.”
It was a boost the Revolution certainly took full advantage of five minutes later. After Jimenez was called for a handball, Rowe readied himself to take the subsequent free kick. But he wasn’t just going to hit it and hope for the best.
With the Crew playing a high line, and the Revolution working on set pieces in such a scenario during training leading up to Saturday’s game, Rowe lofted the ball over to the far post, where he expected Jones to make a late run to get it -- which he did. The rest was elementary, as the unmarked midfielder nodded it past a helpless Steve Clark to reclaim the lead that briefly belonged to the Revolution earlier in the match.
“I saw the ball coming in the back and I tried to head it,” Jones said. “I am happy that I scored the second goal.”
The second goal surely put the wind back in the sails of the Revolution, no question. And navigating their way to a win over the plucky Crew seemed to pave the way to three points after Waylon Francis was ejected after he received his second caution in the 70th minute.
Naturally, the final 20 minutes didn’t go as smoothly as expected. The Crew earned a handful of dangerous free kicks late -- something that had doomed the Revolution in their previous losses to Columbus -- and seemed intent on leveling the match again.
But with Shuttleworth staying strong and the backline showing its resilience, the Revolution grinded out a classic late-season victory that had plenty of grittiness to go around.
“It sure wasn’t pretty,” Heaps said. “But I thought it was a hard-fought game and you’re going to see these types of games as everything gets tighter and so much is at stake and playoffs implications.”
Jones tallied his second goal of the season in the 67th minute, allowing the Revolution to reclaim the lead after Ethan Finlay and Lee Nguyen traded goals in the 25th and 20th minutes, respectively. Bobby Shuttleworth made six saves to thwart an enterprising Crew squad that came close to finding the back of the net during the second half.
Waylon Francis was issued a second caution in the 70th minute, forcing the Crew to finish the match shorthanded.
With the win, the Revolution have now claimed victories in seven of their last eight, while the Crew’s four-game unbeaten streak (3-0-1) came to an end.
What it means: Leave it to Jermaine Jones to rescue the day -- again. For the second straight week, Jones rose to the occasion when he pounced on a Kelyn Rowe free kick it to secure another important set of three points down the stretch. It wasn’t a pretty victory, by any stretch. Much like last week’s win in Kansas City, the Revolution absorbed plenty of pressure from a hungry attack, forcing Bobby Shuttleworth to make a slew of heady saves. But at this juncture of the season, capitalizing on chances is the name of the game, and that’s precisely what the Revolution did again on Saturday, taking one step closer to clinching a postseason berth.
Stat of the match: Nguyen’s 20th-minute strike was the first time the Revolution held a lead against the Crew since a 1-0 win in last year’s season finale in Columbus.
Scoreboard watch: The 2-1 win allowed the 48-point Revolution to reclaim second place after Sporting Kansas City inched a point above them in Friday’s 0-0 draw to D.C. United. The victory also allowed the Revolution to pull within four points of 52-point D.C. for the top spot in the conference with three games to go.
Soares returns, Caldwell back in lineup: After missing last week’s match due to a calf injury, center back A.J. Soares returned to the lineup. With Soares back, Andrew Farrell returned to his right back spot, while Kevin Alston was back on among the substitutes. In the midfield, Scott Caldwell returned to the six spot, while veteran Daigo Kobayashi, who started last week’s match, joined Alston on the bench. Incidentally, Alston and Kobayashi both saw the field as second-half substitutes.
Three to go: With 31 games behind them, the Revolution’s remaining schedule includes stops at Montreal (Oct. 11) and Houston (Oct. 16) before they return home to close out the regular season against Toronto (Oct. 25). The Revolution’s combined record against their remaining opponents is 4-2-0.
Back on the road: The Revolution head to Stade Saputo next week for their third and final match against the Montreal Impact on Saturday. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. The Revolution and Impact have split their season series 1-1-0 so far.
Saturday’s contest comes exactly two weeks after the Crew claimed their second straight win over the Revolution, a 1-0 victory spearheaded by Federico Higuain. Weeks earlier, the Crew pocketed their first three points from the Revolution this year in a 2-1 win at Gillette Stadium on July 26.
For the locals, the storyline surrounding Saturday’s match isn’t just avoiding a series sweep. After they overtook the second spot in the Eastern Conference last week with a 3-2 win at Sporting Park, the second-place Revolution are looking to punch their ticket to the postseason with only four games remaining in the regular season.
While the Crew may have had the Revolution’s number so far this season, they’ll need to play some of their best soccer to date to stay above the red playoff line in the waning weeks. Last week’s 2-0 home win over the hapless Impact strengthened their case, but with three of their last four on the road, the postseason is far from guaranteed for the fourth-place side.
Here’s what to watch for during a late-season contest that’s sure to be packed with drama:
• Raising their game this time around. Earlier this week, Revolution coach Jay Heaps admitted that the way his squad played two weeks ago in Columbus wasn’t great. True, the Revolution knew what to expect from a spirited Crew side that was starting to come alive down the stretch. They prepared to absorb the expected pressure, and knew they couldn’t foul around the 18, lest Federico Higuain punish them. But that’s exactly what happened, as the Argentine slammed the game-winner through just after the break, much to the chagrin of Heaps.
“We really didn’t have our best game down there,” Heaps said. “It’s important that we bring our best and prepare ourselves for a really good team.”
• What will the Revolution backline look like? Last week, Heaps was forced to employ the ninth different starting defensive corps this season after a calf injury kept center back A.J. Soares out of action. While there were certainly some nervy moments in the back last week, Heaps singled out Andrew Farrell for praise after the sophomore defender adroitly filled Soares’ spot. Even so, expect Soares, who’s name wasn’t on the injury report this week, to return to the lineup, and Farrell to slide back to his usual spot out on the right.
• Keeping Finlay in front of them. There’s no doubt that the Revolution will have to keep a watchful eye on Higuain on Saturday, but they’d be wise not to forget about another recent nemesis: Ethan Finlay. One of the Crew’s rising stars has had a hand in each of the three goals the Crew have scored against the Revolution this season. Not only did he score the game-winner back in July, but he earned both of the free kicks that led to Higuian’s blasts against the Revolution this year.
“(He) fits perfectly into that system,” Heaps said. “He reads the game well, and he’s got exceptional pace, and you have to deal with that. He’s not just fast, he’s quick, so that’s a concern as well.”
• Will Jermaine Jones be targeted again? Following the loss in Columbus two weeks ago, Heaps told the press that he believed the Crew targeted Jermaine Jones for abuse. Jones, who was coming off a foot injury, may have found himself the recipient of some sharp challenges, but whether it was done to hurt the star midfielder is unclear. Whatever their intentions were, don’t expect the Crew to deviate from that approach, which kept Jones -- and by extension, the Revolution -- in check for much of the second half.
• Be smart in and around the box. This point cannot be stressed enough. After watching Higuain drive two bullets into the back of the net, and nearly add a third from the spot two weeks ago, the Revolution cannot afford to be sloppy in their challenges so close to goal. That’s easier said than done, of course, when the likes of Higuain, Finlay, and Justin Meram are all anxious to get forward. But if the Revolution want to prove that they have the mental strength necessary to navigate a postseason run, they’ll have to kick it up a notch in the defensive discipline department against the Crew.
“I know we preach it all the time, but we just have to limit those fouls,” Revolution defender Andrew Farrell said. “No fouls near the box (and) no set pieces, because they’re a good team. They might be one of the hardest teams to face because they pride themselves on hard work, so we have to be ready for that.”
The international partnership is the first of its kind in Revolution history and is expected to result in shared expertise and promotion for both clubs.
"We're very excited to partner with a club with such history and prestige as Sporting Clube De Portugal," Revolution president Brian Bilello said in a team release on Wednesday. "The opportunity to not only partner on activities to improve our first team, but also to work with their prestigious academy on youth development, will benefit our club for many years. We will also assist Sporting in their efforts to explore opportunities to increase Sporting's reach within the United States, both on and off the field."
The partnership will allow the Revolution to bring in players from Sporting on loan, as well as giving both sides the opportunity to share scouting resources. According to the Revolution, the primary focus of the partnership is to promote collaboration on training and development methods for both clubs' first teams and youth squads.
The potential benefits for the Revolution are clear. The Portuguese club's academy has fostered the development of such stars as Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Figo and Nani. The partnership should enhance the Revolution's own youth academy, which has already received its fair share of national accolades in recent years.
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In the 56th minute of a game in which the Revolution held a precarious one-goal lead, the veteran midfielder watched as Graham Zusi of Sporting K.C. flew past him to set up the sequence in which Dom Dwyer scored the equalizer.
But Jones was determined to make amends, which is exactly what he did nearly 30 minutes later by banging home a long-distance winner to give the Revolution a thrilling 3-2 victory on Friday.
“Jermaine had to gut it out,” Revolution coach Jay Heaps told the media following the match. “He doesn’t fully have the fitness, but I thought his performance was spot on and his goal was much deserved.”
Fitness was certainly a concern for Jones going into Friday’s contest. Thirteen days earlier, he suffered a left leg contusion that forced him to make an early exit from the Revolution’s 2-1 win over Montreal.
The injury forced Jones to miss training sessions, and it also limited him to 45 minutes in last week’s 1-0 loss in Columbus. In many respects, the idea of Jones going beyond the hour mark on Friday would be a big thing to ask for from a two-way player.
But Jones has never been one to take the easy way out. And that was especially evident on Friday, with Jones knowing his failure to disrupt Zusi on the goal sequence may have cost the Revolution a pair of crucial points.
“I was a little bit upset,” Jones told the media after the match. “I think it was my mistake. After that goal, I said I have to step up and help the team come back and take a point or maybe a win.”
It was clear that Jones wouldn’t be content with simply securing the draw. In the 85th minute, Lee Nguyen advanced it toward the final third. To his right, Jones gingerly kept pace and received a pass from Nguyen.
With no one contesting him for the ball, a visibly tired Jones took two touches and hit it with all he could. It was a hopeful shot by any standard. And it just so happened to squeeze between the reach of Eric Kronberg and the right post. Redemption.
“I scored at the World Cup a similar goal so I try to shoot when I have the chance,” Jones said, referring to the long-distance blast he scored against Portugal in the group stages. “I saw that the corner was free, so I tried it.”
Of course, no one was surprised to see the star midfielder give it a go in such a crucial spot. If anything, the only startling aspect of Jones’ game-winner was that the Sporting Kansas City defense gave him so much room to take it.
“I’ve seen him shoot those before,” Heaps said. “If you give him a little bit of space, he’s going to rocket it. I was just happy he got his first goal here, a game winner, in a tight game with huge playoff implications. It’s huge.”
Jones, who scored his first MLS goal in the 85th minute on a low drive from 30 yards, tipped the scales back in the Revolution's favor after Sporting Kansas City secured a pair of unanswered goals from Paolo Nagamura and Dom Dwyer in the 54th and 56th minute, respectively. The Revolution built a two-goal lead at the break after Kelyn Rowe opened the scoring in the 22nd minute, and Jose Goncalves added another in the 35th minute.
With the win, the Revolution overtook Sporting Kansas City for second place in the conference by holding the tiebreaker (total wins). The loss marked Sporting's third straight loss at home in league play.
What it means: It might have been a wild and at times sloppy affair for the Revolution, but nevertheless, they did what good teams do: capitalize on their chances and overcome their mistakes. First-half goals from Rowe and Goncalves showed that the Revolution weren't about to be gun-shy at a place where they hadn't yet tasted victory. But even after their defense was riddled for two goals in quick succession and looked vulnerable for stretches during the second half, the guests refused to back down. As a result, Jones was able to take center stage and score the decider late to give the Revs a bona fide statement victory at a place they'd never won, at a crucial point down the stretch.
Stat of the match: Rowe's goal was the first Revolution goal at Sporting Park in regular-season play since Rajko Lekic scored in the 38th minute of a 1-1 draw back on July 30, 2011.
Bunbury's back: Midfielder Teal Bunbury was back on the field after sitting out last week's match due to suspension. For the fifth-year veteran, Saturday's match had special meaning, as it marked his first game at Sporting Park since he was traded from Sporting Kansas City to the Revolution back in March. Bunbury spent the first four years of his career with Sporting, where he played in 89 games and scored 19 goals from 2010 to 2013.
Soares' absence forces defensive overhaul: With center back AJ Soares out due to a calf injury, Revolution coach Jay Heaps had no choice but to employ a revamped backline. While Goncalves remained as the left side center back, right back Andrew Farrell took over Soares' spot, while Kevin Alston assumed Farrell's role on the right. Out on the left, Chris Tierney earned his first start since late July, taking over for Darrius Barnes, who entered the game late for Rowe.
Sporting Park jinx no more: Friday's win snapped a five-game winless streak (0-3-2), including the postseason, for the Revolution at Sporting Park. In fact, the last time the locals beat Kansas City on the road was back on April 9, 2008.
Back to Foxborough: The Revolution will return to Gillette Stadium on Oct. 4 to host the Columbus Crew. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. The conference clash comes only two weeks after the Crew claimed a 1-0 win over the Revolution, who saw their six-game unbeaten streak snapped in the process.