FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Charlie Davies wasn't going to lie: The first leg of the Eastern Conference final was not his best game. To him, it was a lot of running and not much else. So naturally, he wasn't about to let it happen again in Saturday's second leg.
After watching the game film from his Leg 1 performance, Davies discovered how he could improve, which is exactly what he did Saturday by scoring both of the New England Revolution's goals in their 2-2 draw against the New York Red Bulls. The Revolution beat the Red Bulls 4-3 on aggregate to advance to the MLS Cup final.
"I found that, most of the time on set pieces, they left me unmarked," Davies said, "and on crosses, I could find myself unmarked as well. The space in the corners -- they weren't great at tracking, so today, I tried to exploit that."
There's no doubt Davies exploited those defensive deficiencies in the biggest game at Gillette Stadium in seven years, thanks in part to that research and film review. And it's fair to say the Revolution's chances of reaching their first MLS Cup final since 2007 would have been diminished without Davies' due diligence.
After the Red Bulls leveled the aggregate score in the 26th minute from a Tim Cahill goal, the Revolution were suddenly challenged to punch back against a squad that looked primed to score more than once on Saturday.
With halftime approaching and the guests looking for more, Davies came to the rescue in the 41st minute. Following a short corner sequence in which Chris Tierney received the return pass from Lee Nguyen, the Revolution winger sent it into the heart of the area, where Davies shed his mark and nodded it through to ease some of the anxiety felt by much of the 32,698 in attendance.
"I liked that we were able to get a set-piece goal. It was something that we worked on all week on that exact play," Revolution coach Jay Heaps said. "It was actually a very similar play we ran in New York, [and] we missed that chance, so we knew there was going to be some space in that area, and we were able to hit on it."
To Heaps, Davies' first goal didn't just reclaim the Revolution's aggregate goal advantage. It did something more.
"When you get into moments in the game where you need to find a goal, knowing that you've worked on certain set plays and certain things that you know are going to work," Heaps said. "That gave our guys a little bit of energy."
But Davies' job, as impressive as it was during the first half alone, was far from done going into the locker room for halftime.
In the second half, the Red Bulls found a response when Peguy Luyindula slipped a shot through in the 52nd minute to not only put his squad back on level terms on aggregate, but also void the Revolution's ownership of the road-goal tiebreaker.
With the conference final series suddenly up for grabs with more than a half-hour remaining, the hosts needed someone to step up and take command. It didn't matter whom, or how, for that matter. The Revolution needed at least one more goal, lest their surging postseason form suddenly hit a brick wall on home turf.
So, in the 70th minute, Davies took it upon himself to play the role of hero once again. On a cross from Tierney out on the left, the Revolution striker found himself with even more space this time around to nod it through.
"Today, from the opening whistle, the number of times he got behind their back line early -- and then the two chances -- you know Charlie Davies can score," Heaps said. "And I think that when he gets into those areas, he's going to put them away."
The fact he was able not once, but twice, was more than just a testament to his work ethic or motor. Rather, it was his ability to make adjustments ahead of the match that allowed him to seize the moment.
"Yeah, it was a battle with [Jamison] Olave out there," Davies said in reference to the Red Bulls' imposing center back. "But I felt like I was more into the game and had more touches, and the team was able to find me more."