Revs' 1-1 draw with Fire feels like a win

April, 19, 2014
Apr 19
Somehow, the New England Revolution escaped Toyota Park on Saturday with a point. A point that nearly slipped through their grasp.

Goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth made a game-saving stop on Juan Luis Anangono's stoppage-time penalty try to preserve a 1-1 draw against the Chicago Fire.

Jhon Kennedy Hurtado
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesJhon Kennedy Hurtado of the Chicago Fire and Jerry Bengtson of the Revolution battle for the ball during Saturday's match at Toyota Park.

The Fire were awarded the penalty in the 90th minute after Kevin Alston was whistled for handling on the goal line, leading to what should have been the go-ahead goal for the Fire. But Shuttleworth guessed correctly on Anangono’s undercooked shot to smother it well before the line.

Fire forward Quincy Amerikwa opened the scoring in the 16th minute after he received a defense-splitting pass from Harry Shipp and slipped it past Bobby Shuttleworth. Lee Nguyen brought it back to level terms in the 31st minute when he converted from the penalty spot after Alston was fouled by Patrick Nyarko inside the box.

Chicago was forced to play shorthanded for the final 17 minutes after Amerikwa was red-carded in the 73rd minute after he was awarded a second yellow card for a studs-up challenge on Andy Dorman. Amerikwa was issued his first yellow for simulation in the 34th minute.

With the draw, the Revolution record goes to 2-3-2 (8 points) while the Fire’s sixth straight draw gives them a share of the MLS record for consecutive ties with the 2011 Chivas USA.

What it means: At a venue where the Revolution have historically encountered struggles (2-7-2), it wasn’t surprising to see them come out flat. With the Fire bossing possession and completing their passes, Amerikwa put the Fire on top inside of 16 minutes in a game that had all the hallmarks of a Chicago win. While Nguyen was able to level it from the spot following the foul on Alston, the Revolution’s struggles in possession continued, and the execution in the final third was non-existent. Amerikwa’s second yellow and subsequent ejection essentially handed the Revolution a lifeline, but they’d have to sweat it out after referee Sorin Stoica awarded a penalty to the Fire in stoppage time.

After all that transpired, it’s safe to say that Saturday’s draw will feel like a win for the Revolution.

Stat of the match: Unable to assert themselves for extended stretches, the Revolution collected a season-low three total shots on Saturday.

Heaps back on the bench: Revolution coach Jay Heaps returned to the technical area after serving a one-game suspension for his ejection during the Revolution’s 2-0 loss at D.C. on April 5. Assistant coach Tom Soehn guided the Revolution in last week’s 2-0 win over the Dynamo.

Goncalves out: Reigning MLS Defender of the Year Jose Goncalves missed Saturday’s match due to the right quad injury he suffered in the 41st minute of last week’s contest against Houston. Goncalves’ absence from the lineup marked the first time the Portuguese international was forced to miss a MLS match due to injury.

Dorman dons the armband: With Goncalves unable to go, and left back Chris Tierney nursing a hip injury, Revolution holding midfielder Andy Dorman was appointed captain for the first time in his MLS career. Dorman has spent a total of six seasons between two stints (2004-07, 2013-present) with the Revolution.

Fagundez comes off at the half: Revolution midfielder Diego Fagundez, who had a lackluster first half, was substituted for Chris Tierney at the start of the second half. In 45 minutes, the teenage midfielder collected only 14 touches and did not record a shot on goal.

Next up: The Revolution return home next Saturday to host last year’s playoff foe, Sporting Kansas City. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. Last year, the Revolution went 0-1-1 against Kansas City, who went on to knock New England out of the conference semifinals.

W2W4: Revs at Fire, Sat., 4 p.m. ET

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
A classic conference rivalry will be re-ignited when the New England Revolution (2-3-1, 7 points) face the Chicago Fire (0-1-5, 5 points) at Toyota Park on Saturday. Kickoff is set for 4pm ET.

Saturday’s clash will be the first of three regular season meetings between the longtime rivals. Last year, the Revolution got the best of the Fire by going 2-1-0 during the season series.

The Revolution enter the match fresh off a 2-0 win over the Houston Dynamo last weekend, while the Fire are coming off a 1-1 draw against the Montreal Impact.

Here are a few things to watch for once the Revolution and Fire formally renew their acquaintances:

-- Does a depleted defending corps spell doom for the Revolution? Given the way the Revolution defense performed during last week’s 2-0 win, it’s easy to forget that the back four did it largely without the aid of two starters. A left hip injury kept Chris Tierney out, while Jose Goncalves was felled by a right quad injury just before halftime. Kevin Alston assumed Tierney’s duties, while Andrew Farrell slid into Goncalves spot as Darrius Barnes took over on the right. It was a seamless transition by any measure, but whether they’ll achieve similar success against the likes of 2013 MVP Mike Magee and hot hand Quincy Amerikwa remains to be seen.

“I expect the guys coming on to do their roles,” Revolution center back A.J. Soares told the media earlier this week. “I'm just one-fourth of the backline unit, and we have Andy Dorman (at holding midfielder) who's defending a lot. But really, it's all about team defending. The reason why we didn't give up a shot on goal is because guys up the field defended well.”

-- More needed from the offense. Far be it for anyone to fault the Revolution for enjoying the fruits of their 2-0 win against Houston last week. Not only did they avenge their 4-0 season-opening loss in Houston, but the attack looked considerably sharper than it has for much of the season. Even so, there’s still cause for concern about the offense. Diego Fagundez, Teal Bunbury and Saer Sene are still in search of their first goals six games into the season, while the Revolution are still averaging less than a goal per game. If the Revolution harbor any ambitions of returning to the postseason, the offense needs to find its scoring form sooner rather than later.

-- Bengtson in line for more minutes? Last week, Revolution forward Jerry Bengtson came off the bench to score his first goal in over a year against the Dynamo. Knowing what a goal can do for a striker’s confidence -- especially after a lengthy scoring slump -- it will be interesting to see if the Honduran gets more minutes this weekend. While Revolution coach Jay Heaps wouldn’t publicly commit to the idea earlier this week, he did say that he was impressed with Bengton’s work ethic in training.

“You get your opportunity in the game by how you train and what you do within the game is what expands your role,” Heaps told the media earlier this week. “For me, that's the most important thing -when the lights are on, how you play. Where we are (right now) is we need goals. Jerry found one, and I think that's an important step forward. "

-- Watch the wings. While the first year of Frank Yallop’s tenure at the helm has seen the Fire employ a new approach to tactics, one that that hasn’t changed is the squad’s effectiveness on the flanks. The pace of Patrick Nyarko still creates nightmares for opposing fullbacks, while the emergence of rookie Harry Shipp has only made the Fire deadlier along the edges. Not only will Barnes and Alston will have to be on guard, but Fagundez and Saer Sene will have to commit themselves on defense, as well.

-- Beware the king of the draws. After settling for a point in five of their first six, the Fire have earned the reputation of a side that can’t get out of its own way. Early goals have been cancelled by late mistakes, and late strikes have made up for early errors. But even though inconsistency has undermined the Fire in the early going, Soares isn’t about to call Saturday’s clash a walk in the park.

“I expect a tough game,” Soares said. “We kind of battled with them last year a lot, jostling for position going up the table. Anytime we play them, it's a tough game.”

Fire equal record with 6th draw

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- New England Revolution goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth stopped Juan Luis Anangono's penalty in the first minute of stoppage time Saturday to preserve a 1-1 draw with the Chicago Fire, who matched a Major League Soccer record with their sixth straight draw.

The Fire have tied each match since losing their opener. The six straight draws equaled an MLS mark last set by the Colorado Rapids in 2011.

Shuttleworth made five of his six saves in the second half and Chicago forward Mike Magee hit the post on a breakaway with 25 seconds left in regulation.

New England (2-3-2) tied it on a penalty kick in the 31st minute when Chicago defender Patrick Nyarko pulled down Revolution defender Kevin Alston in the penalty area. Lee Nguyen's right-footed shot just eluded Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson's dive to the left.

(Read full post)

Barnes delivers in pinch

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- It is one of the toughest scenarios a substitute can confront: getting the hasty call to come into a game to replace an injured teammate. Not only does he have to get the blood pumping and the muscles moving, but he must sharpen his mental focus at a moment’s notice.

But that’s the situation that Revolution defender Darrius Barnes encountered in last weekend’s clash with the Dynamo after center back Jose Goncalves picked up a right quad injury late in the first half following a sharp challenge from Ricardo Clark.

“It's always difficult when you're coming off the bench like that, especially unexpectedly,” Barnes said. “I mean, anything can happen in a game, but you don't expect Jose to get injured like that.”

Even so, it was clear that Barnes was up to the challenge. Though he was assigned to the right back’s spot, with Andrew Farrell sliding over to Goncalves’ center back spot, the sixth-year defender helped keep the lid on a Dynamo side that failed to register a single shot on target all evening.

But even though it wasn’t the ideal entrance -- especially for a defender, who’s forced to mark players whose engines are already warmed -- Barnes said it was all in a day’s work.

“We're expected to go in when we're called upon,” Barnes said. “Jose went down and the coach called my number to go in, so I just had to go in and do my job.”

New turf gets rave review

In between the Revolution’s home opener on March 23 vs. Vancouver and last weekend’s clash vs. Houston, a new synthetic surface was installed at Gillette Stadium. Not surprisingly, the new carpet drew rave reviews from the players.

“It’s unbelievable,” Revolution fullback Kevin Alston said. “It’s way better; it’s fresh. More cushion and the ball rolls a lot smoother. It doesn’t bounce as much.”

The previous surface was installed prior to the 2010 MLS season and endured four seasons’ worth of professional soccer, pro and college football, in addition to concerts and other high-profile sporting events.

By the time the Revolution’s season opener arrived, it was clear a new surface was needed after a number of odd bounces and unusual rolls were witnessed in the 0-0 draw against the Whitecaps.

“Anytime you replace turf with new turf, it’s going to feel a lot better,” Alston said, “and it definitely showed (on Saturday).”

Barnes happy for friend, teammate Alston

Aside from Alston himself, perhaps no one was more excited to see the sixth-year fullback score his first MLS goal last weekend than Barnes.

Alston and Barnes were both drafted by the Revolution in 2009, and since then, they have become close friends. That friendship became stronger after Alston was diagnosed with leukemia last year -- a year that saw Alston miss four months of action while he underwent treatment.

So when Alston’s 68th-minute shot found the back of the net, it wasn’t a surprise that Barnes was one of the first to join in the goal celebration.

"It was great,” Barnes said. “I was ecstatic for him to get his first goal in a game like this (because) I feel like it was a big game at this point in the season. And just after all he's been through - I thought it was great for him to step back on the field and get his first 90 (minutes).”

Revs deeply impacted by marathon bombings

April, 15, 2014
Apr 15
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Monday, April 15, 2013 was supposed to be just another routine off day for the New England Revolution. Like many a Monday during the regular season, it was a day the coaching staff gave the players to recover from the wear and tear endured during the previous weekend’s match.

For the players, it was the perfect occasion -- a picturesque clear and comfortable early-spring day -- to head up to Boston. It was Patriots Day -- a state holiday. So naturally, there was plenty to do in and around city, especially with the running of the 119th Boston Marathon on tap.

What should have been just an ordinary day away from the office turned into a scene of terror and chaos when two bombs exploded near the Marathon’s finish line, killing three and injuring over 260. With a number of Revolution players within earshot of the explosions, the attacks had a profound effect on the entire team.

"It was emotional (day),” Revolution midfielder Lee Nguyen said. “It was intense. So many things were going on, and I had a lot of friends and people that I know who were there.”

One such friend Nguyen had in the immediate vicinity of the bombings was teammate Matt Reis. Minutes before the bombs exploded, Reis and his family stood watch near the finish line ready to cheer on his wife, Nicole, who was running in the historic race.

But the smiles and applause that awaited Nicole never came. The first bomb exploded within yards of where Reis was standing. He and his children escaped unharmed, but his father-in-law, John Odom, suffered serious injuries to his leg. Injuries that could have killed him had Reis not acted quickly to save his life.

Amid the shockwaves and chaos that followed the echoes of the explosions, the Revolution goalkeeper raced over to the scene knowing Odom was likely in danger. He found Odom on the ground. Assessing the situation quickly, Reis removed his jacket and used it as a tourniquet to stem the bleeding in Odom’s leg.

“It was all a complete reaction," Reis told the media days after the bombings. "I handed (my son, Jacob) off to my brother-in-law. I knew that (the blast) was right back where we (just) were, so I wanted to try and get back in there and help."

Odom was rushed to the hospital, spent weeks in the intensive care unit, and would eventually endure months of rehab before he was allowed to return to his home in California. But Reis, one of the most popular players in franchise history, would be one of many at the scene who’d have to live with the emotional scars that came from it.

"He's family,” Nguyen said. “And his family is (our) family, and the whole organization and the whole city of Boston, we were all behind him and behind his whole family. We knew how hard it was for him, and we were just trying to support him as much as we could."

Reis would go on to play again in 2013, and helped lead the Revolution to their first postseason appearance in four years by posting a 6-0-3 record down the stretch. He retired at the end of the season to return to California and serve as goalkeeper coach for the Los Angeles Galaxy.

The Revolution -- like Boston's other professional teams -- did their part to try to help ease the pain of the city’s devoted sports fanbase.

In their first home game following the bombings, Revolution coach Jay Heaps donned an official blue-and-gold Boston Marathon jacket, while players wore black memorial armbands. A “Boston Strong 617” Revolution jersey hung from the Fort, as well. A 2-0 win over the Union served as a much-needed antidote for many, including Reis, who felt the painful effects of the bombings.

“We had players who were literally affected by it, and players that were around it,” Heaps said. “So I think it was an emotional time, and something that we don't take for granted.”

“It was a tragic day,” Nguyen said. “But I think the city came together really well last year. The whole city, the whole team, we came together and played really well and pushed on through the end of the season.”

Heaps knows the events -- both tragic and heroic -- of that day will never be forgotten by his squad. It was a squad that not only rallied around one of its own, but rallied for an entire city.

"It's something that will always be a part of our club,” Heaps said. “It's something that we talked about as a group, and we continue to pray for all the people that were truly affected by it."

Bengtson hopes goal is first of many

April, 14, 2014
Apr 14
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- More than a full calendar year had passed since Jerry Bengtson scored a goal in league play entering Saturday’s match. But when he stepped onto the pitch in the 78th minute, he had to like his chances.

With the Revolution up a goal, and the Dynamo pressing for the equalizer, the Honduran forward witnessed what turned out to be the perfect opportunity to put his goal drought to bed.

As the match marched into stoppage time, A.J. Soares lofted a long ball ahead that Bengtson chased down. With Dynamo keeper Tally Hall well off his line, Bengtson dribbled around him and slotted his shot between the near post and A.J. Cochran to cap a 2-0 Revolution win.

Jerry Bengtson
David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports"(The goal) gives me a lot of confidence -- for me, as well as the team," said Honduran forward Jerry Bengtson.

“I knew that (Houston) was losing and they were pushing up their lines,” Bengston said through a translator. “When I looked, I knew that was the opportunity and I looked over the shoulder, just took the space and scored.”

Two summers ago, the Revolution signed Bengtson to a designated player deal in the hopes that his presence on the pitch would lead to points in the standings. Initially, there was no reason to believe otherwise. In his MLS debut, Bengtson came off the bench to score an 84th-minute goal en route a 2-0 victory for the hosts. At the time, it appeared that the club’s newest designated player would be worth every penny of the heady investment made by the front office.

But the sheen on Bengston’s signing dulled quickly. He scored only once more in the remaining 12 games of the 2012 season, and his second season in New England proved to be a disaster. In 16 games, he scored only once, and was little more than an afterthought during the Revolution’s first postseason run in four years.

Earlier this year, Bengtson did little to change the perception that he was a striker whose confidence at the club level was shot. Sure, he’d scored important goals for Honduras at the international level. But it just wasn’t happening for him when he donned a Revolution jersey.
That is, until Saturday arrived.

Although his late appearance may have raised a few eyebrows -- especially with a recently-dangerous Charlie Davies available -- Bengtson would reward the faith placed in him by the coaching staff.

“We were looking to expose them for pace a little bit,” Revolution assistant coach Tom Soehn said. “We knew that they were going to press, so there’s going to be opportunities in behind. He did a good job when he came in.”

Bengston’s 91st-minute goal may have put the match out of reach for the Dynamo. But for Bengtson, it was more than just an insurance goal in an early-season game.

“(The goal) gives me a lot of confidence -- for me, as well as the team,” Bengtson said. “Hopefully, it’s just the first one. Yes, lots of confidence. Hopefully I can do more for the club.”

Alston makes first career goal count

April, 13, 2014
Apr 13
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- It only stood to reason that Kevin Alston's first career goal in MLS could hardly be called scripted.

Alston, who entered Saturday's contest goal-less during his six-year career, ostensibly scored off a broken play that certainly didn't materialize the way it should have to steer the Revolution to a 2-0 win over the Dynamo.

Kevin Alston
David Butler II/USA TODAY SportsKevin Alston celebrates his first career MLS goal, the game winner to ultimately beat Houston.

Looking to break the 0-0 deadlock in the 68th minute, the speedy fullback tried to play a give-and-go with Daigo Kobayashi yards before the box. But the return pass caromed off Kofi Sarkodie before it fell back to Kobayashi, who nudged it forward to Teal Bunbury. With Alston still in the area, Bunbury pushed it ahead, where Alston unleashed a furious shot that lodged itself under the bar.

"It's just one of those things where it didn't happen [the way it was supposed to]," Alston said. "I just tried to stay in a good spot and stay onside and stay in the play. I was fortunate to just get that bounce that came right to me and [thought] 'Let me just take this shot.'"

Alston, who'd seen so many of his shots soar high or wide over the course of his six-year career, finally pulled the goal-scoring gremlin off his back on Saturday. What's more, the elusive goal came in a match that he probably wouldn't have started.

After starting left back Chris Tierney was ruled out of Saturday's match with a hip injury, the six-year veteran Alston was called upon to fill Tierney's spot. Even more improbable: Not only was Alston coming off an injured hamstring suffered in the season opener, but it was his first start at home in more than a year after he was diagnosed with a rare but treatable form of leukemia.

Nevertheless, the match started off especially promising for Alston. The 25-year-old fullback found plenty of space to roam out wide in the early going. Of course, it may have helped that an injury to Brad Davis forced Dynamo coach Dominic Kinnear to change tactics on Saturday.

But what Alston did with the opportunities to catalyze the attack was an effort that belonged to him, and him alone. And while he may have nearly put the ball into his own net early in the first half, Alston had the full support of Revolution assistant coach Tom Soehn to press the issue whenever possible.

"We talked at halftime," Soehn said. "[Houston] left a lot of space for Kevin to attack, and I think Kevin just needed the confidence to really take those spaces."

As the game progressed, that's exactly what Alston did. When Houston started to hem in the Revolution around the right flank, the ball was often switched over to the left, where Alston was waiting with plenty of green around him.

After shots from Bunbury, Diego Fagundez, and Saer Sene each failed to find the back of the net, Alston, who hadn't scored in 122 MLS matches prior to Saturday's game, found himself taking the biggest one of his career in the 68th minute.

With the encouragement of Soehn surely in the back of his of his mind, Alston found Kobayashi central and used his trademark speed to race toward the spot where he anticipated the ball to be. Though it was temporarily held up, the ball eventually found him. With the kind of shot that would make a fullback salivate in front of him, Alston, for the first time in his career, would not be denied.

And the sensation of seeing the ball finally reach the back of the net could be seen in the way he celebrated by racing to the corner flag with newfound spring in his step. As he waved his teammates over to join him in the moment, he let out a primal, jubilant yell.

"[It was] amazing," Alston said. "To finally break the seal -- it's six years later, and I'm just glad it's finally here, and I can say I at least scored one in my career."

Not too far away from the sea of navy blue jerseys that converged upon Alston was Soehn, who looked on with pride for the speedy fullback he knew could very well change the game.

"I was real happy for him that it came because he's got a lot of tools," Soehn said. "The guy's fast, and just [having] the confidence to beat guys, and him scoring is going to help that confidence."

Rapid Reaction: Revolution 2, Dynamo 0

April, 12, 2014
Apr 12
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- It wasn't exactly ice cold, but the dish the Revolution served to the Dynamo still must have tasted a lot like revenge.

Six weeks after the Dynamo handed New England its worst loss in nearly four years, the Revolution grabbed goals from Kevin Alston and Jerry Bengtson and held on to secure a 2-0 win on Saturday at Gillette Stadium.

Alston, who was penciled in at left back after a hip injury kept starter Chris Tierney out of the lineup, scored in the 68th minute. Bengtson, who hadn't scored since the 2013 season opener, came off the bench to score in the 91st minute.

Bobby Shuttleworth, who was rarely tested, collected his second clean sheet of the season in the process.

The late goals from Alston and Bengtson helped give the Revolution their first home victory of the season, while the Dynamo dropped their third straight game.

What it means: It wasn't a pretty game by any stretch, but then again, it never is when the Dynamo come to town. Even so, the local XI found a way to win in the most unlikely of fashions. Alston, who entered the game scoreless during his six year MLS career, grabbed a pass from Teal Bunbury and fired a shot that lodged itself into the twine. The questions surrounding the Revolution offense will likely live on for another week, but the fact that they managed to secure three points is nevertheless a promising development.

Stat of the match: The Revolution collected a season-high six shots on target on Saturday. Entering their contest with the Dynamo, the Revolution had collected a league-worst 2.8 shots on target per game.

Heaps banned: Revolution coach Jay Heaps was forced to watch Saturday's match from afar after he was ejected in the 90th minute of last week's clash against D.C. United. Assistant Tom Soehn took the reins in Heaps' place.

Skipper suffers knock: Revolution captain Jose Goncalves was forced out of the match in the 41st minute due to a quad injury he suffered following a hard challenge from Ricardo Clark. The reigning Defender of the Year, who had not missed a single minute due to injury during his MLS career, was subbed out for Darrius Barnes.

Holes in Houston's lineup: Dynamo coach Dominic Kinnear was forced to undertake some lineup shuffling with center back David Horst (red card suspension) and midfielder Brad Davis (sprained ankle) unavailable. Rookie AJ Cochran slid into Horst's spot, while former University of Connecticut star Tony Cascio filled in for Davis in the midfield.

Next up: The Revolution will hit the road next week to face the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park on Saturday, April 19. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. ET. Last year, the Revolution went 2-1-0 against the Fire.

W2W4: Revs-Dynamo, Sat., 5 p.m. ET

April, 11, 2014
Apr 11
Six weeks after the Houston Dynamo handed them their worst defeat in nearly four years, the New England Revolution will get the chance to avenge their season-opening 4-0 loss on Saturday at Gillette Stadium. Kickoff is set for 5 p.m. ET.

Both sides are coming off of disappointing defeats last weekend. The Revolution (1-3-1, 4 points) fell 2-0 to D.C. United at RFK Stadium, while the Dynamo (2-2-0, 6 points) fell 4-1 to FC Dallas at BBVA Compass Stadium.

With the Revolution and Dynamo both looking to bounce back after last weekend’s woes, here’s what to watch for on Saturday:

-- Carrying on without their coach. The Revolution will be without coach Jay Heaps on Saturday after he was ejected from last weekend’s match at D.C. Heaps, who was issued a one-game suspension and fined an undisclosed amount by Commissioner Don Garber, will hand the reins over to assistant Tom Soehn, who has four years’ worth of MLS head coaching experience. But even though Heaps won’t enjoy having to watch from a distance, he isn’t concerned about how his players will perform without him in the technical area.

“We'll go over every substitution pattern, myself and the staff, and the staff will go into that game ready because we go over most of our substitution patterns and scenarios and situations (in advance),” Heaps said. “So, we're always on the same page, but we'll just have to be a little bit more prepared Friday afternoon."

-- Questions concerning the Dynamo. There’s never an ideal time to lose starters, but heading into the first game of a three-game road trip is, perhaps, one of the worst occasions for it happen. Not only will center back David Horst (red card suspension) be absent, but so will his back up, Eric Brunner, who had surgery on his injured ankle this week. Making matters worse, Dynamo skipper Brad Davis was forced out of last weekend’s clash against Dallas after Je-Vaughn Watson stepped on his foot in the first half. With uncertainty in the rear and the possible loss of one of the league’s best set piece specialists, Dynamo coach Dominic Kinnear will have his work cut out for him on Saturday.

-- Figuring out a way to fix their aim. No one could accuse the Revolution of being gun shy in their first five games. To date, they’ve collected a total 52 shots, the sixth highest number in the league. But as good as they’ve been at taking their opportunities, they’ve struggled finishing them. With only one goal to their credit, and an abysmal 2.8 shots on target per game stat going in Saturday’s game, the Revolution have got to sharpen their aim against the Dynamo.

“When we get those chances, we have to be composed,” Revolution midfielder Lee Nguyen said. “We have to be confident to take them, and I think right now, we're rushing it a little bit and we're just trying to get it off our feet too quickly.”

-- Keeping the lid on the Dynamo. No one will debate that the Revolution struggled in the first 23 minutes of their season opener in Houston. Not only did the Dynamo score three times, but the Revolution looked, by and large, like a listless bunch. This time around, though, there is reason to believe that the Revolution will rise to the occasion -- literally. Two weeks ago, they were able to win the aerial war against Earthquakes, a side that, like the Dynamo, feasts off of 50/50 balls and set pieces. While it may have taken an own goal and a stoppage time strike to beat them, the Revolution played some of its finest soccer of the season in San Jose -- a development that bodes well for Saturday’s contest.

-- Staying creative and inventive. On paper, the Revolution may have been felled by an own goal and a backbreaking stoppage time strike last week in D.C. But ask Heaps or any of the players why they weren’t able to come away with something at RFK Stadium, and they’ll tell you it had more do with the response to the own goal. Instead of staying true to themselves -- i.e. playing short, quick passes and getting underneath the defense -- the Revolution veered off course by going direct time and time again. As a result, all D.C. had to do was sit back and clear each ambitious long ball away. With that lesson learned, expect the Revolution to work harder at what they do well this weekend.

“We have to be more clinical,” Revolution forward Teal Bunbury said. “We have to have a killer instinct in the final third, and I think it's just about patience, and knowing what the game brings us, and being able to exploit that."

Red Bulls still winless after D.C. loss

April, 11, 2014
Apr 11

WASHINGTON -- Davy Arnaud scored on a diving header in the fourth minute in D.C. United's 1-0 victory over the New York Red Bulls on Saturday night.

Fabian Espindola, who played for the Red Bulls last season and was selected by United in the re-entry draft, sent in a corner kick that defender Bobby Boswell flicked toward the back post, where Arnaud finished it for his first goal for D.C. The goal was the fastest for United since Chris Pontius scored in the first minute against New York on June 24, 2012, in a 3-2 loss.

After snapping a club-record 15-game winless streak last week, United (2-2-1) have won consecutive games for the first time since the end of the 2012 season.

The Red Bulls (0-2-4) had their string of four consecutive draws broken with the loss. New York, last season's Supporters' Shield winner, also was winless after six games in 2005 (0-1-5).

(Read full post)

Revolution avenge Houston loss

April, 11, 2014
Apr 11

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Kevin Alston and Jerry Bengtson scored second-half goals to lead the New England Revolution to a 2-0 victory over the Houston Dynamo on Saturday night.

Alston, a defender who missed the last four games because of a pulled hamstring, scored his first goal of the season in the 68th minute. Bengtson added a goal in stoppage time.

New England (2-3-1) won for the second time its last three games and avenged a 4-0 loss at Houston in the opener. Houston (2-3-0) has lost three straight, allowed seven goals in that span.

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DC United's Lewis Neal suspended

April, 10, 2014
Apr 10

NEW YORK -- D.C. United midfielder Lewis Neal has been suspended for a game by Major League Soccer for dangerous play against the Revolution's Andrew Farrell.

Neal slid into Farrell spikes-first in the fourth minute of United's 2-0 win against New England on April 5, sending the defender to the ground. He received a yellow card. Neal was also fined and will miss Saturday's game against New York Red Bulls.

In addition, Revolution manager Jay Heaps, who was sent off in the 89th minute after disputing a referee's call, was fined and will miss Saturday's game against the Houston Dynamo.

(Read full post)

Revs notebook: Heaps takes a seat

April, 10, 2014
Apr 10
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- For the first time in his three seasons as Revolution head coach, Jay Heaps won’t be calling the shots from the sidelines on Saturday.

Jay Heaps
AP Photo/Darryl DyckRevs coach Jay Heaps was ejected from last week's match in D.C. and will be serving a one-game suspension on Saturday.

Heaps, who was ejected in the 90th minute of last week’s match against D.C. United, will be serving a one-game suspension this week. And, to no one’s surprise, the fiery head coach is not happy about it.

"It's not going to be good,” Heaps said. “Taking your medicine is never a good thing, and I think it's one of those situations where it is what it is, and I felt like there was a statement to be made.”

While Heaps wasn’t specific about what kind of statement he was referring to, he admitted that he got the league's message “loud and clear." With Heaps suspended, assistant Tom Soehn will serve as head coach on Saturday.

Revolution forward Teal Bunbury isn’t expecting any major issues come game day.

“I don't think it'll be too different,” Bunbury said. “Our assistants are going to do a great job and it's just up to us on the field to be able to execute the plan that we're putting into work all week during training.”

AP Photo/Matt RourkeSteve Neumann, who was selected by the Revs during the 2014 MLS SuperDraft in January, described his debut last Saturday as "beyond a dream for me."

Hello, Neumann: Though the Revolution may have suffered a 2-0 loss and saw its coach ejected during last Saturday’s game at RFK Stadium, one bright spot was the MLS debut of first-round pick Steve Neumann. The 22-year-old midfielder/forward came on in the 84th minute to spell Daigo Kobayashi, and while he may not have looked the part of a wild-eyed, energetic rookie, the moment was certainly not lost on him.

“It's always been my goal in life to play professional soccer,” Neumann said, “and to finally get that first appearance in the regular season was beyond a dream for me.”

Making the occasion even more poignant was the fact that he attended Georgetown University, less than 10 miles away from the scene of his debut, from 2010 to 2013. With friends, family and former college teammates in attendance, Neumann’s late-game cameo was greeted with plenty of applause from the stands.

“They were all ecstatic that I got into the game,” Neumann said. “I definitely heard a loud cheer when I entered the game, which put a smile on my face. Now I just want to keep building off that and put that behind me and continue on with the season."

Patience, patience, patience: After watching film of last week’s game in D.C., Bunbury knows that he and his teammates have to develop a more patient approach going forward -- especially if they find themselves down a goal early again.

But even though he acknowledged that going direct right out of the gate wasn’t the best decision, the Revolution striker still can’t put his finger on what prompted him and his teammates to press so soon.

"I don't know exactly what it was,” Bunbury said. “We were down a goal, and we all thought 'let's go after it.' I think we kind of played right into their hands doing that, but it's just something that we have to work through.”

Revs can't dig out of hole

April, 7, 2014
Apr 7
It wasn’t the own goal that killed the Revolution’s chances from getting a win against D.C. United on Saturday. Rather, it was the response that came from it.

Following the moment of misfortune that saw Jose Goncalves put a Cristian Fernandez cross into the New England net, the Revolution showed initiative, but ultimately became all too predictable in the second half of their 2-0 loss at RFK Stadium.

“The own goal hurts, but I think everyone understood it happens in the game,” Heaps told the media after the match. “That said, I thought we rallied well, but maybe too well.”

In many respects, the Revolution could hardly be blamed for playing with a sense of urgency at the start of the second half. After all, they were down a goal to a club that hadn’t won since the previous summer. And the fact that the deficit was self-inflicted likely made the situation seem more than dire than it actually was.

So the Revolution, sensing the need to get one back, went to work to the find the equalizer. The sooner, the better. And that’s exactly how they played -- for better or worse.

“We started to look for ways to win the game in the first five (to) 10 minutes in the second half,” Heaps said, “rather than realizing that any goal would get us back in it whether it came in the 60th minute or the 80th minute. I think we pushed a little hard a little too soon.”

That clear sense of urgency only made a tough situation even tougher. By launching long ball after long ball toward striker Teal Bunbury, pushing for the equalizer in the most direct fashion, the Revolution became predictable.

Not surprisingly, D.C.’s center backs -- Jeff Parke and Bobby Boswell -- picked up on the Revolution’s plan of attack and stationed themselves perfectly in order to win a slew of aerial duels.

But instead of changing their approach, the Revolution continued to play it direct to Bunbury, or anyone else lurking in the final third. Meanwhile, creative players like Diego Fagundez, Daigo Kobayashi and Lee Nguyen found themselves starved of chances.

“I think we could have been a little better trying to probe,” Heaps said. “I think we risked it a little too early when we went after it right at the start of the second half. And, I think they did a good job defending, but we weren’t creative enough.”

The Revolution may have lacked inventiveness in the second half, but a couple of chances managed to fall their way. Not surprisingly, neither came from a sequence involving a long ball.

In the 50th minute, Bunbury grabbed a poor back pass from Fernandez and fired a shot that curled over the bar. Then, in the 73rd minute, Diego Fagundez nearly bicycle kicked a Chris Tierney pass through before it strayed wide of the far post.

To be fair, Heaps, who was ejected from the contest in the 90th minute, doesn’t discount the effort shown out on the pitch on Saturday. His players never backed down in their efforts to bring the match back to level terms.

But the own goal did more than just dig the Revolution into a deficit. It altered their mindset -- as well intentioned as it may have been -- in a way that made the rest of game harder than it had to be.

“I thought we rallied pretty well around it,” Heaps said. “We had the right attitude. Unfortunately, sometimes being overzealous and too early rather than let the game kind of dictate what we needed to do (hurt us).”

Revolution done in by own goal in D.C.

April, 5, 2014
Apr 5
The soccer gods giveth, and the soccer gods taketh away.

A week after New England enjoyed the benefit of an own goal in San Jose, Revolution center back Jose Goncalves gifted one of his own to D.C. United, who grabbed a 2-0 win at RFK Stadium on Saturday.

Goncalves' own goal came in the 43rd minute, when he attempted to clear a Cristian Fernandez cross away from frame. But instead of sending it out of harm's way, the Revolution center back deflected the cross into his own net, much to the delight of the D.C. supporters.

Longtime Revolution nemesis Chris Rolfe, who entered Saturday's contest with seven career goals against New England, made it a two-goal game when he brought down a pass from Fabian Espindola and sent it past Bobby Shuttleworth in the 93rd minute.

With the loss, the Revolution fall to 1-3-1 (4 points), while D.C. grabbed its first win of the season to push its mark to 1-2-1 (4 points).

What it means: The Revolution wanted to enter Saturday's match with the same mentality they brought to San Jose, where they grabbed a 2-1 comeback victory last week. But it was easier said than done in D.C. Not only did they struggle to find the same attacking cohesion seen last week, but the defense was far from sharp. There were chances to be had in the second half from Diego Fagundez and Teal Bunbury, to be sure. However, the same demons that had haunted their form in the final third re-emerged on Saturday, as wasted opportunities undermined the Revolution's chances to grab a second straight win.

Stat of the match: The 2-0 loss snapped the Revolution's three-game unbeaten streak (2-0-1) against D.C. in league play. United hadn't gotten the best of the Revolution since a 2-1 win at RFK Stadium on Sept. 15, 2012.

Own goal adventures vs. D.C.: Goncalves' own goal marked the second straight game between the Revolution and D.C. in which United benefited from an own goal. In last year's head-to-head series finale, Scott Caldwell gifted United a goal when he mistakenly knocked a Luis Silva pass into his own net in the 12th minute.

Davies returns to D.C.: Revolution striker Charlie Davies, who came on in the 60th minute for Saer Sene, returned to RFK Stadium for the first time as an opponent. Davies scored 11 goals and added an assist in 26 games for D.C. in 2011.

Familiar look: For the first time this season, Revolution coach Jay Heaps made no changes to his lineup for Saturday's clash. Heaps previously used different lineups in each of his club's first four games.

Next up: The Revolution will look to bounce back next weekend when they host the Houston Dynamo on Saturday, April 12 at Gillette Stadium. Kickoff is set for 5:00 p.m. The Revolution will also be seeking revenge for the 4-0 loss the Dynamo handed them in the regular-season opener on March 8 in Houston.