FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- It sure looked like it was going to be one of those nights for the New England Revolution on Saturday after heading into halftime with nothing to show for their first-half dominance of a struggling Chivas USA squad.
The hosts not only held the better of the possession (67.8 percent), but connected on 85.6 percent of their passes as well. And yet, they marched into the locker room at the break with the scoreboard completely unblemished, much to their dismay.
But after coach Jay Heaps called upon his players to make the appropriate adjustments, the Revolution were able to finally break through in the 56th minute to grab a 1-0 win on Saturday.
"We had our way with the ball, but it just wasn't penetrating, so that was our adjustment at halftime," Heaps said. "One of things that we wanted to do was more penetration and more runs that were a little bit riskier, and if we didn't get that ball, we wanted to jump on them."
The fact that the Revolution encountered difficulties getting through the Chivas defense came as no surprise, of course. The Goats entered the match winless in their last five, and were looking to do nothing more than stifle their hosts with the hope of grinding out a result.
However, even though they managed to clog up the middle of the pitch, a couple of opportunities fell to the Revolution during the first half.
Lee Nguyen chipped a pass over to Charlie Davies, who broke free of his defender but was beat to the ball by keeper Dan Kennedy in the third minute. Later in the half, it was Nguyen who pierced the backline and fired an open shot that lodged itself in the side netting during the 36th minute.
Sensing the need to stretch the Chivas defense, Heaps implored his players to play the ball east-to-west. In order to do so, he asked fullbacks Darrius Barnes and Andrew Farrell to not only make forays forward, but to alternate those runs in order to ensure that there was still cover behind.
The adjustment worked to perfection not long after they returned to the pitch after halftime. And with Chivas sticking to their script, the Revolution put their guest to the test.
With the ball firmly in their possession, Diego Fagundez played a long pass wide to Kelyn Rowe, who then played a give-and-go pass with Daigo Kobyashi. On the return ball, Rowe put it on the foot of Nguyen, who took a touch and fired a shot that beat Kennedy at the right post in the 56th minute.
The key on the play was Rowe's commitment to create from the wing, a spot where the third-year midfielder hadn't exactly shown himself as a world-beater in the past. Nevertheless, Rowe remained faithful to his assignment, and his efforts paid off at what proved to be the most crucial moment.
"I played there a little bit during my first year, and have a little bit this year, as well," Rowe said. "You just have to stay wide a little (more). I found myself coming in a lot and trying to find the ball, and the guys gave it to me every once in a while. It was good."
But it wasn't exactly clear sailing for the Revolution following Nguyen's blast. While they continued to stay wide, and continued to create problems for Chivas, Bobby Shuttleworth was called upon to make a couple of saves in the latter stages.
While Heaps praised his goalkeeper for preserving the victory -- a much-needed one at that after going winless in 10 of their last 11 -- much of the credit was given to the team-wide effort required to not only recognize the problem, but to execute on the solution.
"I think Chivas came in with a gameplan to really make it difficult for us, and they did," Heaps said. "I think we made a couple of adjustments at halftime, and were able to open them up a little bit."