FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Saturday’s 1-1 draw against the Houston Dynamo may not have been the result the New England Revolution had in mind, but it wasn’t for lack of effort -- especially up top.
Although the Revolution were held to one goal for the first time in nearly a month, Revolution coach Jay Heaps praised the efforts of strikers Dimitry Imbongo and Juan Agudelo after the game.
“I thought (Juan) Agudelo did an excellent job coming in,” Heaps said. “But I have to be honest with you: I thought Dimi (Imbongo) played his heart out. I thought (he) was excellent at holding the ball (and) smart play, because it didn’t take a genius to look at the field and see what was happening.”
It didn’t look like the kind of contest Imbongo would be involved in very long after he was brought down on a hard challenge by Giles Barnes about 20 seconds into the match. But Imbongo, who incidentally was ejected from the last two Revolution-Dynamo clashes, pressed on and avoided the temptation to retaliate against a side that was surely trying to bait him.
While his awareness probably could’ve been better against the Dynamo’s offside trap -- Imbongo found himself offside a game-high four times -- he nevertheless endured the punishment the Dynamo defenders dished out.
In 39th minute, his willingness to play the role of piñata nearly set the stage for a first half Revolution lead. After he was cut down by Kofi Sarkodie near the edge of the area, Lee Nguyen played the subsequent free kick quickly to Chris Tierney, who ripped a shot right off the post.
“Demi did an excellent job of holding it and keeping his head,” Heaps said. “I like that one-two combo, because once Agudelo comes in, their center backs are tired from battling Dimi and Juan Agudelo is able to really change the game.”
And that’s precisely what Aguelo did when he came on in the 62nd minute to spell Imbongo. With the attention of the Dynamo defense square on the strong 20-year-old striker, space immediately opened up for other attacking components.
Three minutes after Agudelo’s introduction, Kelyn Rowe found Nguyen, who then carried it into the box, looking for an option. He found one on his right, which is where put the ball ahead for Saer Sene, who fired it through to give the Revolution the lead in the 64th minute. Although Agudelo may not have touched the ball, it was clear that his presence in and around the area drew defenders away from Nguyen and Sene.
“He created a lot,” Revolution midfielder Scott Caldwell said of Agudelo’s performance. “He held the ball up, brought in an extra energy (and) worked hard defensively. I’m sure he makes the back line space out (and) give cover. It just takes another defender away and gives our attack more options.”
Although Houston equalized in the 76th minute from a Will Bruin goal, Agudelo gave his club two chances to equalize late, one of which nearly saw him bicycle kick his way onto the scoresheet before his effort was collected by Tally Hall in stoppage time.
Even though the Revolution fell short of getting the win, Caldwell believes that the efforts of Imbongo and Agudelo gave the Revolution a solid chance to get maximum points on Saturday.
“Dimi (Imbongo) also did a great job when he was in there,” Caldwell said. “(During) the last half hour, we definitely created stuff. We’ve just got to put that final chance away.”