Higuain scored for the second time this season on a free kick from about 25 yards in the 48th minute against the Revolution. The Argentinian midfielder had a chance to add another in the 85th minute from the penalty spot, but he was denied by goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth.
With the loss, the Revolution fell back to the .500 mark (13-13-3, 42 points), and suffered their first defeat since Aug. 2. Conversely, the win for the Crew allowed them to climb over the .500 mark (10-9-10, 40 points) and extended their unbeaten run to three.
What it means: Everyone in the Revolution locker room knew about the danger Higuain posed on set pieces. Even though coach Jay Heaps spoke to how his team couldn't afford to foul the Crew near the area, that's precisely what happened before Higuain blasted the game-winner into the back of the net. Although the Revolution have shown the ability to survive mistakes at home, Saturday's match showed just how difficult it is overcome them on the road. With three of their final five away from Gillette Stadium, it'll be up to Jay Heaps to get his team to cut down on those mistakes as the postseason hunt heats up.
Stat of the match: Kelyn Rowe, who was a sparkplug for the Revolution in their six-game win streak, completed only 50 percent of his passes, the lowest percentage among those who went the full 90 for the locals.
Scoreboard watch: The Revolution remain in third place with 42 points, but the fourth-place Red Bulls (41 points) climbed within one point of the locals. The fifth-place Crew (40 points) inched within two points of the Revolution.
Injured Jones suits up, comes on at halftime: A week after a left leg injury ended his night prematurely against the Impact, Jermaine Jones was back on the pitch Saturday. Although he was held out of the lineup, he was called upon to enter the game at the start of the second half. He completed 78 percent of his passes during his 45 minutes on the pitch.
Bunbury misses first game of season due to suspension: For the first time all season, right midfielder Teal Bunbury did not see the pitch, as he served his one-game ban for yellow card accumulation. Bunbury, who had played in all 28 games prior to Saturday's contest, was issued his fifth yellow card of the season in the 48th minute of the past Saturday's clash against the Impact.
Lineup changes: With Jones nursing an injury and Bunbury banned, Scott Caldwell and Diego Fagundez returned to the XI. Caldwell claimed Jones' spot in the central midfield while Fagundez manned Bunbury's position out on the right.
Tierney back in action: After missing the past eight games due to a knee injury, left back Chris Tierney returned to the pitch when he entered the game in the 56th minute for Darrius Barnes. The veteran defender went 34 minutes and launched a last-gasp free kick in stoppage time that was denied by Steve Clark.
Friday night lights on tap: The Revolution will remain on the road for a rare Friday night matchup against second-place Sporting Kansas City next week at Sporting Park. Kickoff is set for 8:00 p.m. ET. The Revolution will have the chance to sweep Sporting after beating them twice (2-0 on April 26 and 3-1 on Sept. 3) this season.
The Revolution, who ride into Columbus unbeaten in their past six (5-0-1), will attempt to channel more of the same form that has allowed them to climb the standings since Labor Day Weekend. Their most recent showcase of success came in a 2-1 win over the Montreal Impact, a game in which Kelyn Rowe and Lee Nguyen led the way to give the Revolution their third straight comeback victory.
While the Revolution might be one of the hottest teams in MLS at the moment, the Crew aren't exactly slouches themselves. Not only have they gotten results in four of their past five, they showed last week that they won't go quietly when tested. After falling into a two-goal deficit to Houston before the break, Columbus stormed back with a pair of their own to claim a 2-2 draw and seize an important road point at BBVA Compass Stadium.
Of course, the Revolution know the danger the Crew pose firsthand. On July 26, the Crew scored early and late to secure a 2-1 win over the local XI at Gillette Stadium.
Here's what to watch for with both sides hoping to bolster their playoff chances:
• Beware of fouling around the box. If the Revolution have learned anything from their recent encounters with the Crew, it's that they cannot be brazen in their challenges around the 18. Not when Federico Higuain is on the field, at least. The Argentinian midfielder has blasted a trio of free-kick goals against the Revolution over the past two years, the most recent coming in a 2-1 Columbus win on July 26. While Higuain is certainly as much a threat from the run of play as he is on set pieces, the Revolution know they'll be inviting danger if they're not disciplined in their own defensive third.
"We definitely have to be cognizant of that," Revolution defender Darrius Barnes said. "He's a class player; he's an artist when it comes to free kicks, and so part of our tactical approach is going to be not foul near the box, and limit their chances, and free kicks are kind of what they prey on a bit, so hopefully we can limit those chances and keep them off the board."
• Will Jermaine Jones play? Concerns about Jones' availability for Saturday's match immediately sprung up when a left foot injury cut his night short against Montreal last weekend. So it was somewhat of a relief for Revolution fans that he was listed as "questionable" rather than "out" on Thursday's injury report. Even so, expect the coaching staff to be cautious in their approach to Jones' return. With Scott Caldwell showing himself capable in the midfield during the Revolution's unbeaten run, the best course of action might be to keep Jones in reserve until next week's road tilt in Houston.
• Can the Revolution avoid conceding another early lead? For all the success the Revolution have seen since late August, their Achilles' heel has been gifting the opening goal to their adversaries. In each of their past three, defensive mistakes have put the Revolution into an early deficit. While they've been strong enough to overcome those errors, mounting a comeback against the stingy Crew at their home stadium isn't the kind of challenge they'll want to saddle themselves with. With that in mind, center back AJ Soares believes that the key to avoiding another deficit is simple.
"I think our approach has been good," Soares said. "It's just little mistakes here and there, and if we just cut those out, we'll be fine."
• Will Lee Nguyen find the score sheet again? Nguyen's recent run of success has been well-documented during the Revolution's unbeaten streak, and with good reason. Not only has he scored or assisted in each of the team's five straight wins, but he's racked up four game-winning goals over the course of that stretch. Clearly, the success of the Revolution has rested on the shoulders of their dynamic midfielder. But with the Crew likely to key in on Nguyen, especially if Jones is unable to play, someone else may have to play the role of hero for the Revolution.
• How can the Revolution continue their success on the road? While the Revolution offense has gotten plenty of press during their six-game unbeaten run, it'll likely be the defense's job to keep the streak intact at Crew Stadium. Granted, Columbus isn't known for its offense. But players like Higuain, Wil Trapp and Ethan Finlay are all capable of capitalizing on defensive mistakes, as evidenced by last week's 2-2 comeback draw against Houston. Therefore, expect the Revolution to drop back and rely on the counterattack rather than trying to play a possession-friendly brand of soccer.
"It's going to be a battle, it's going to be a fight," Rowe said. "They're fighting as much as we are to keep the spot."
Of course, it helps that the Revolution have bounced back from the early deficits and won each of those three games. Nevertheless, Heaps admitted that, on the whole, he’s liked what he’s seen from his squad.
“The starts have actually been really bright,” Heaps said. “It’s been a mistake here or a mistake there; it hasn’t really been a team breaking us down or us not moving the ball well.”
A look at the tape -- and the stats -- seems to suggest the same. Two weeks ago against Sporting Kansas City, a poor header from Jermaine Jones essentially fell into the lap of Soony Saad, who scored the opener. Days later, it was Sanna Nyassi unmarked at the far post, where he too put the Revolution in an early deficit. Then, on Saturday, Andrew Farrell slipped while trying to contain Jack McInerney, who slipped an easy assist for Calum Mallace in the 13th minute. Three gaffes, three goals, three deficits.
To further bolster the coach’s point: The Revolution held the better of possession leading up to those early strikes two out of three times, with the early goal allowed to Sporting Kansas City the exception. And in that instance, the Revolution already had threatened with a pair of shots before Saad pounced on Jones’ ineffective clearance.
“There’s been times where you can say, ‘Look, we haven’t started well, and haven’t played well,’” Heaps said. “But I think we have started well, and I think we have played well.”
Rowe finds groove: Many athletes who have had to fight their way back from injury will tell you that one of the toughest aspects of returning to the field is channeling their ability to play with confidence again. Kelyn Rowe is no different.
After hamstring injuries forced him to miss six games during the early part of the season, the third-year midfielder struggled to reclaim the form that allowed him to lead the team in assists last year.
“Coming off the injury was hard,” Rowe said. “I wanted to get back in and be the guy who would make an impact right away, and it’s hard to do that when you’re out of the team for so long.”
But over the last few weeks, it’s become clear that Rowe has found his groove again. In his last eight games, the midfielder has collected three goals and three assists. His five assists on the year are tops on the team.
“I think Kelyn’s been really good (on) both sides of the ball,” Heaps said. “I think when Kelyn is working on both sides of the ball (and) finding the gaps defensively, then his defense turns to offense -- he’s at his best.”
Jones update: Four days after he exited the Revolution locker room in a walking boot, the result of a fierce battle with Mallance during Saturday’s game, Jermaine Jones was not present during passing or possession drills during training on Wednesday.
The official status of the 32-year-old midfielder, who was rapidly approaching full fitness with his new team before the injury, will be released on Thursday’s injury report. However, Heaps did offer a glimpse into Jones’ prognosis prior to training on Wednesday.
“We’re progressing with him,” Heaps said. “But at the same time, we’re managing not pushing him too fast, and we’re optimistic.”
Hoping to go the full 90 minutes for the first time in his young Revolution career, the veteran midfielder’s evening came to a halt at halftime after he suffered a left foot injury during the first half. But the way in which he suffered the injury left him seething.
“I don’t know the name of that player, but he tried maybe two, three times, without the ball, to kick me,” Jones said. “One time he got me, and it’s not nice when you feel like you have players that try to hurt you –-- like this guy tried to hurt me.”
While Jones professed that he did not know who caused his injury, which he said occurred around the 20th minute, all signs pointed to Impact midfielder Calum Mallace as the guilty party.
The opposing midfielders dueled for a pair of 50/50 balls during the 22nd minute, and on the first one, Mallace was tripped by Jones. On the second occasion, Mallace’s intent appeared clear when he barreled into Jones with little regard for playing the ball.
“I’m not the guy normally to say something -- I play hard too so I can take it,” Jones said. “But this guy today, he was not nice. I hate people who don’t go for a tackle and try to get the ball. If he had tried to get the ball, I wouldn’t have said anything.”
Although referee Alan Kelly whistled a foul on Mallace, Jones held his hands in the air in disbelief that the Montreal midfielder was not issued a caution.
“He had no chance to get the ball, and he went straight for my bone,” Jones said. “I hope the referees will see that the next time.”
Jones pressed on from there and played the rest of the half relatively unaffected. But after the training staff examined his left foot, the coaching staff decided to take err on the side of caution.
“He had a little bit of a contusion,” Revolution coach Jay Heaps said following the match, “and right now he’s being looked at, and we just want to be smart and we took him out.”
Jones said that he underwent X-rays, which confirmed that there was no break. The veteran midfielder told the media that it was a bone bruise.
While Jones probably would have preferred to solider on for the second half, he ultimately decided that the best course of action was to heed the advice of the coaching staff.
“It’s not so bad,” Jones said. “It was swelling at halftime, and I could feel a little bit of pressure on my feet, and we didn’t want to take any risks, so I (went) out.”
The injury will probably put Jones on the injury report for Saturday’s match against Columbus, a game in which the Revolution will hope to extend their six-game unbeaten streak.
But after Saturday’s match, the only opponent Jones appeared concerned about is the one on tap for Oct. 11 in Montreal -- the third and final meeting between the Revolution and Impact.
“We’ve got a second game; we will see what happens there,” Jones said. “He hurt me, and I had to go out. I can take it, and I’ll see him again.”
But for the third straight game, the Revolution rose out of an early deficit and claimed another comeback win, this one a 2-1 victory over the Impact.
"You don't like to start that way," Heaps said. "But in the end, our conviction was really good, and we probably should've had more (goals). Unfortunately, we didn't finish it, but we're happy to get the win."
It wasn't all that long ago that the prospect of a comeback victory was little more than pure fantasy for the Revolution. After all, through the month of August, the Revolution had lost 11 of their previous 13 games when conceding first.
Then, in a crucial conference clash against second-place Sporting Kansas City on Sept. 3, something changed. After Soony Saad scored inside of nine minutes, the Revolution took a stance. Instead of hanging their heads, they pressed ahead, and returned fire three times to secure a 3-1 victory.
Much like they did against Kansas City earlier this month, the Revolution saw Calum Mallace's 13th-minute strike for what it was: a goal. Not a bad omen or death sentence. Just a goal. And they saw something else, as well: plenty of time to find opportunities to answer it.
And that's exactly what they did, and in quick succession, too. Ten minutes after Mallace's strike -- which came in the face of a defensive error from Andrew Farrell -- the Revolution responded. Kelyn Rowe hunted down a poorly cleared ball in front of the box and blasted it through the hands of Troy Perkins.
Two minutes later, it was Lee Nguyen's turn to scribble his name on the scoresheet when Charlie Davies grabbed hold of a tricky ball inside the box and fed Nguyen, who chipped it over Perkins for the go-ahead.
"I think it's our mentality and also our will to keep fighting," Nguyen said. "We don't keep our head down when we get scored against and at the same time, we're looking to not only to score one goal but we want to keep attacking."
But even though the lead was theirs, the Revolution did something else they hadn't done prior to their recent string of comeback victories: They kept the foot on the gas instead of going into a shell.
Just before halftime, Davies ran unmarked toward the near post and ripped a shot that required a heady save from Perkins, who faced 18 shots and was called upon to make eight saves on Saturday.
"After we got the second goal, you can see from the guys we kept pressing and tried to get the third goal," Nguyen said. "That's the fight (and) the mentality we have on the team."
The opportunities continued to flow for the Revolution in second half, albeit with a little help from their hosts. After Krzysztof Krol's 62nd-minute red card left the Impact short-handed for the duration, Nguyen nearly netted his second goal of the game in the 64th minute when he speared through the box and drove a low shot that was cleared away by Miller at the last moment. From there, Davies and Diego Fagundez found opportunities to extend the lead, but were denied by an alert Perkins.
"It almost propels us to be a little more confident in our passing and they drop off a little bit," Heaps said about going down early. "So it actually helps us a little bit (because) they drop in a little bit, and we start to open them up."
No doubt, resiliency has been the key for the Revolution during their last three wins. And while stronger starts will surely be a point of emphasis in training this week, Heaps couldn't help but see his team's confidence grow, even in the face of adversity.
"Now that we've done it a few times there's that belief," Heaps said. "Even going down a goal tonight, it was clear that we were going to get our chances and we were going to have opportunities to win the game."
After Calum Mallace opened the scoring in the 13th minute, Rowe and Nguyen responded with strikes in the 23rd and 25th minutes, respectively. However, Saturday's match may have come with a price to pay after Jermaine Jones was forced to come out at halftime due to a left leg/foot injury.
The Impact finished with 10 men after Krzysztof Krol was issued his second caution and subsequent ejection for a rough challenge on Rowe in the 62nd minute.
With the win, the Revolution extended their unbeaten streak to six (5-0-1), while the loss keeps Montreal winless in their last three (0-2-1).
What it means: For the third straight game, the Revolution fell into an early hole, and for the third straight game, they climbed out of it to get the win. Clearly, the club's resiliency has improved considerably since their midsummer struggles. Prior to their current six-game unbeaten run, the Revolution had sported an embarrassing 1-11-1 record when conceding first. It's often said that a tell-tale sign of a playoff team is mental strength. If that's true, then recent results suggest that the Revolution will be playing November soccer for the second year in a row.
Stat of the match: Saturday's win puts the Revolution one result away from matching their season-best seven-game unbeaten streak (5-0-2), which stretched from April 12 through May 24.
Scoreboard watch: With the win, the third-place Revolution (42 points) climbed within three points of second-place Sporting Kansas City (45 points), while putting themselves four points ahead of the fourth-place New York Red Bulls (38 points).
Three changes to Revs lineup: Daigo Kobayashi, Teal Bunbury and Charlie Davies all returned to the starting lineup after coming on as substitutes in Sunday's win over the Fire. With the trio all returning to their regular spots, Scott Caldwell and Diego Fagundez took spots on the bench, while Patrick Mullins did not make the game-day roster. Caldwell came on at the start of the second half for Jones, while Fagundez spelled Bunbury in the 76th minute.
Castillion makes debut: Dutch striker Geoffrey Castillion, who was signed by the Revolution on Aug. 25, saw his first action with the Revolution when he came on for Charlie Davies in the 76th minute. The 23-year-old completed six of his nine passes, and won an aerial duel during his late-game cameo.
Impact field makeshift XI: With the playoffs no longer a reality, and a number of starters recovering from injuries, Impact coach Frank Klopas fielded a makeshift lineup for Saturday's match. Among those who did not start and/or were not available: midfield general Patrice Bernier, newly signed midfielder Ignacio Piatti, and team-leading scorer Marco Di Vaio.
Back on the road: The Revolution head to Columbus for the first time this season on Saturday when they face the Crew at Crew Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. ET. The Revolution will be seeking to avenge a 2-1 loss Columbus handed them at Gillette Stadium on July 26.
The Revolution enter the match on the heels of Sunday's 2-1 win over the Chicago Fire, a game in which Diego Fagundez scored his first goal since May, while Jermaine Jones collected an assist on Charlie Davies' game-winning goal. The victory was the club's third in a nine-day span, and gave the Revolution sole possession of third place.
Although the Impact find themselves well south of the red playoff line, they've managed to make it tough on their opponents in recent weeks. Two weeks ago, they beat the Columbus Crew, and pushed the Houston Dynamo to the brink last week. Montreal's most recent measure of success came in a 2-2 draw against a streaking Los Angeles Galaxy side at Stade Saputo.
Saturday's meeting between the Revolution and Impact comes months after the latter upset the former 2-0 at Stade Saputo on May 31. The loss was the first of eight straight the Revolution suffered during their summertime slide.
Here's what to watch for with the Revolution hoping to avoid a repeat performance:
• Impact not to be overlooked. The stats don't lie: Montreal has not performed particularly well during the course of the 2014 campaign. They're at the bottom of the table, and have spent much of the season struggling to find their form. But just because they haven't put it together for extended periods doesn't mean they're a pushover. For proof, just ask the Galaxy, Dynamo and Crew, all of whom were put on their heels by the Canadian side in recent weeks.
"First and foremost, they're a quality team," Revolution striker Patrick Mullins said. "They've got some good players, and they've certainly showed that in the past couple of weeks. (Plus) they've got a recent DP signing (in Ignacio Piatti) and he's a very good player."
• Is Diego Fagundez ready to go on another tear? For the first time since May 24, the 19-year-old found the back of the net in Sunday's win over the Fire. While Heaps cautioned that it wasn't Fagundez's best game by any stretch, there's evidence to suggest that the winger is primed for more. Earlier this year, Fagundez broke out of a nine-game drought by scoring four times in a three-game span. If success breeds confidence, then the Impact may have their hands full with Fagundez on Saturday.
• Preparing for Piatti. One of the reasons why the Impact are finding some long-overdue doses of success has been the play of designated player Ignacio Piatti. The 29-year-old midfielder arrived last month, and since then, has made a seamless transition to the team. In his first five games, he's scored four goals, and has already established a rapport with reigning Golden Boot winner Marco Di Vaio. In the past, the Revolution's primary concern was Di Vaio; now, with Piatti on board, the Impact are a far more dangerous squad than the one seen back in May.
"When you have that kind of technical ability that he has with a knack around the goal, it's always difficult," Revolution coach Jay Heaps said, and he and Di Vaio are really working well off of each other. I think they have a good connection that translates well to the game."
• Getting maximum points before a trying stretch in schedule. Saturday's match will mark the Revolution's fifth home game in their last six, and to their credit, they've taken full advantage. Not only have the Revolution collected 13 points since the beginning of that stretch, but they've also climbed from sixth to third place in the standings. With the close of their fortuitous scheduling break on tap, the Revolution must do all they can to cap it off on a high note. For after Saturday's clash, four of their final six games will be on the road, and all against conference foes.
• More surprises in store for the rematch? In their last encounter, the Impact scrapped their traditional one-striker system for a two-man tandem up top, and the move paid immediate dividends. The unexpected switch caught the Revolution off guard, with Andres Romero scoring inside of three minutes. Had Di Vaio's aim been sharper, the Impact could've very well put the Revolution in a three-goal ditch even before Jack McInerney tallied in the 38th minute. With the Impact pulling a fast one on them back in May, Revolution midfielder Scott Caldwell said New England will be ready to adjust.
"They spread us out with two forwards last game," Caldwell said. "We're not sure yet if they'll be playing the same way, but we're going to have to treat it just like any other game."
Two weeks to the date in which MLS granted the rights of Jones to the Revolution, Heaps was effusive in his praise for the former Bundesliga veteran following his new club’s 2-1 win over the Fire.
“I credit him for the way he has gone into that locker room -- right away, he’s gone in,” Heaps said following Sunday’s win. “I think that’s the most surprising thing when you bring in a player like that is that he’s a team guy.”
While Jones has made the rapid progression from substitute to starter within a matter of days, it’s what Heaps has observed off the pitch that has really stuck with him.
“He walks in the locker room, and within minutes, he’s got four, five, six guys around him,” Heaps said. “They’re talking about football, they’re talking about the game, they’re talking about the opponent coming up. Right away, he’s fit in.”
Of course, the Revolution didn’t pay a princely sum for a locker room guy. In adding Jones, the Revolution sought to stabilize their midfield, bolster the attack and bring a heavy dose of the physicality they’ve lacked since Shalrie Joseph departed two years ago.
So far, Jones has delivered on all accounts and then some. Through his first three games in a Revolution uniform, his passing accuracy is 83 percent, he has won 71 percent of his duels and, most notably, has collected two assists -- both of the sublime variety -- in winning efforts against Sporting Kansas City and Chicago.
What can’t be measured, though, is the seasoned leadership he brings to one of the youngest teams in the league. In the opening moments of Sunday’s match, he yelled out instructions, motioned toward teammates and directed traffic to ensure that there was purpose to their movements.
“I try to help them, like, in some situations, we tried to make the next step,” Jones said after Sunday’s match. “I was playing in big clubs and big games already, with the World Cup and all that stuff, so I have a little bit of experience and I tried to help the guys in a good way. It’s nice to see that guys do what I say.”
But to say that Jones is operating under his own accord would not be accurate. Rather, the veteran midfielder is hoping to parlay his coach’s instructions from training and pregame preparation directly onto the pitch.
“I try to help the coach on the field, and be maybe his right arm on the field, but still, it’s just (three) games,” Jones said, “and the team makes it really good when I’m on the pitch.”
It didn’t take long to figure out that his role for Sunday’s game was decidedly different than the one he was asked to undertake during the midweek match against Sporting Kansas City. Instead of playing deep, Jones was allowed greater freedom to roam with defensive midfielder Scott Caldwell back from suspension.
“I’m a lot of times a No. 6, but it’s always the position from the coach,” Jones said. “The coach will come to me and ask me what position I prefer (and) I will say like more of the guy who goes box-to-box and not only stays (back). I like that position more than only to stay (back).”
Not surprisingly, that willingness to do whatever is asked of him -- especially as a player who has performed at the highest level -- has endeared himself to the coaching staff. It’s a refreshing development, to say the least, given the “me-first, team-later” stereotype that’s become the unfortunate norm when it comes to high-priced signings in MLS.
“I think that’s one thing that I’m so proud of him, is that he’s come in to be a part of the team,” Heaps said. “You can’t say that about every (designated) player in the league, and I think that it shows.”
But after going 90 minutes last week in Toronto, and 61 minutes against Kansas City five days earlier, Davies found himself on the bench. From there, he watched his team go down a goal, then watched them level it, all while patiently waiting to hear his name from the technical area.
Then, around the 58th minute, he got the call. He quickly shed his warmup shirt, donned his No. 9 jersey and, within moments, burst onto the pitch. Two minutes later, he scored the game-winner, tipping the game in the Revolution’s favor and sending them to a 2-1 comeback win.
“That’s kind of my job, to come on the field and change the game,” Davies said. “I wanted to make an immediate impact, and I was fortunate enough to have Jermaine (Jones) play me a great ball.”
At first blush, the absence of Davies from the lineup was curious in some respects. Since scoring in back-to-back games earlier this summer, he infused much-needed life into a stagnant attack and appeared to earn the role of starting striker until further notice.
But leaving Davies out of the lineup for another critical conference clash was by no means due to poor form. Rather, it had everything to do with the game plan, and keeping Davies, who hasn’t played a full season since 2011, from burning out.
“As a staff, we really felt that tonight was going to be one of those games where later in the game, his speed was going to make a difference,” Heaps said. “Charlie’s put in a lot of minutes, so we were also managing that as well, so with all the factors, we thought it was a good time to bring him in (later).”
That decision proved to be a masterstroke. The Fire, who showed signs of life early, were starting to fade. The Revolution, who entered the game on a four-game unbeaten streak, were collectively pressing for a go-ahead goal in front of the home crowd. In short, it was the perfect scenario for Davies to take center stage.
And that’s exactly what unfolded at the hour mark. After Jone Goncalves dug the ball out of his own end, he raced ahead and linked up with Jones, who received it and raced ahead while dodging a pair of defenders. At the last moment, he released it to a streaking Davies, who chased it down and, with only Sean Johnson to beat, sent it through.
“You could probably see my eyes get real big,” Davies said. “I saw it was going to be a one-on-one with me and Sean Johnson, and I know he’s a big keeper. So you have to put it low and in the corner, and you have to hit it with good pace to beat him, which I was fortunate enough to do.”
And that’s essentially what Heaps asked Davies to do just before the No. 9 flashed on the fourth official’s board.
“(They’ve) got two tired center backs, and that’s what we felt was a good time to put Charlie in,” Heaps said. “We went to him earlier than we thought, and he went in and changed the game within two minutes.”
Davies may not have started, but Sunday’s match was proof of what can happen when a coach and player are on the same page, regardless of how it looks on paper.
“I was starting to feel it a little bit,” Davies said, alluding to the two starts he earned within a four-day span. “But I felt good today, and I knew that it was probably for the best that I get a rest today. It’s one of those things where you have to respect the coach’s decision and be ready for when your name is called.”
Two minutes after coming off the bench, the Boston College product raced onto a Jermaine Jones pass and slotted it through in the 60th minute to send the New England Revolution to a 2-1 win over the Chicago Fire at Gillette Stadium.
Davies joined Diego Fagundez on the scoresheet as Fagundez notched his first goal in more than three months when he headed through a Lee Nguyen pass in the 41st minute. Chicago’s Sanna Nyassi opened the scoring in similar fashion when he glanced a Quincy Amerikwa cross into the net during the 28th minute.
The win extended the Revolution’s unbeaten streak to five straight (4-0-1), while the Fire were unable to build from last week’s win over FC Dallas.
What it means: It seemed like déjà vu all over again for the Revolution during the first half. Nyassi’s strike put them in an early ditch for the second straight game. But just as they did against Sporting Kansas City last week, the Revolution responded before the break, this time from the forehead of Fagundez. With the match knotted coming out of the break, Jay Heaps tabbed Davies to enter the match in the 58th minute and was immediately rewarded when Davies scored the breakthrough in the 60th minute. With the Revolution heading into the middle of September with a five-game unbeaten run, it appears they’re getting hot at the right time for the second straight year.
Stat of the match: In his second start in five days for the Revolution, designated player Jermaine Jones proved to be an active participant by collecting a game-high 108 touches.
Scoreboard watch: The Revolution claimed sole possession of third place and pulled within three points of second-place Sporting Kansas City, who remained stuck at 42 points after dropping a 2-1 loss to the New York Red Bulls on Saturday.
Jones gets long look in second start: Jones earned his second straight start only four days after going the first 45 minutes in last Wednesday’s 3-1 win over Sporting Kansas City. The 32-year-old midfielder went 90-plus minutes before he was spelled in stoppage time by Daigo Kobayashi. During his time on the pitch, Jones collected his second assist in as many games, completed 82 percent of his passes and was awarded his first caution in a Revolution uniform for good measure in the 78th minute.
Three changes to Revs lineup: Heaps made three changes to his lineup, with Scott Caldwell returning from suspension, while Patrick Mullins and Fagundez both reclaimed their spots in the XI. With Caldwell, Mullins and Fagundez back in the lineup, Teal Bunbury, Kobayashi and Davies were among the substitutes for Sunday’s match. To no one’s surprise, all three saw the pitch in the second half.
Impact on tap: The Revolution will close their three-game homestand on Saturday when they host the Montreal Impact. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. The last time the squads met, the Impact triumphed with a 2-0 win at Stade Saputo on May 31.
The Revolution enter Sunday's game days removed from a 3-1 win over second-place Sporting Kansas City, which gave them sole possession of third place with eight matches remaining. Designated player Jermaine Jones earned his first start in a Revolution uniform, but it was Lee Nguyen who stole the show by pocketing a pair of second-half goals to steer the squad to its third straight win.
As for the Fire, they'll be looking to build on last weekend's 1-0 win over FC Dallas after dropping points in their previous two. New addition Robert Earnshaw scored the decisive strike late to keep the Fire's postseason hopes alive, albeit for the time being, as the squad currently resides in eighth place with nine games to go.
Of course, the subplot to Sunday's match is the small matter that both organizations were vouching for the services of Jones, the biggest free agent on the market, two weeks ago. With both sides submitting hefty bids, the league conducted the now-infamous blind draw, which awarded the U.S. International to New England.
Here's what to watch for in a match that the Revolution hope to use to inch closer to second place.
• Can the Revolution keep their focus late with Robert Earnshaw poised to strike again? Frank Yallop doesn't have an arsenal of magic bullets on his bench, but one player whom the Chicago coach can count upon is recent addition Robert Earnshaw. Although the former Toronto forward hasn't reached full fitness yet, he's already scored twice off the bench, with his latest sending the Fire to its fifth win of the season. With Earnshaw likely to come on late again on Sunday, there's no doubt Revolution keeper Bobby Shuttleworth will have to do his part to keep his teammates focused.
"We've played against Earnshaw a couple of times when he was in Toronto and he's a very dangerous player who picks up great spots," Shuttleworth told the media on Friday. "You always have to have an eye on him so we'll definitely be prepared for him, and go over tape, and I think we'll be ready."
• Will Lee Nguyen add to his recent haul? There's no question the veteran midfielder has put together a strong season, with a team-high 12 goals. But his influence over the last few weeks has been remarkable. He's scored four goals in his last three, and slotted the game-winners in each of his team's three straight wins. Unless the Fire map out a plan to contain the shifty midfielder, it could be another eventful evening for Nguyen on Sunday.
• Don't let the Fire's record fool you. It's been a trying season for Yallop, to say the least. In his first year with the Fire, the club has struggled to find the win column, with only five victories through 25 games. He sought out Jones, the most coveted free agent available, as a possible midseason solution, then watched the U.S. International slip out of his grasp. But when the Fire hit the field against the Revolution, it'll be a different story. After grabbing four points in their last two encounters -- including a 1-0 win at Gillette Stadium back on July 12 -- there's no doubt that the Fire pose a clear and present danger for the hosts.
"From what I've seen so far, anytime we face Chicago, it's going to be a battle," Revolution midfielder Steve Neumann told the media on Friday. "They've got a great fighting spirit over there, just like we do. We know that they're not going to come here and back down in any way."
• How long will Jermaine Jones go? After going nearly two months without playing, Jones has gone a combined 70 minutes since making his debut last weekend. While Jones would love nothing more than to get more time each match until he reaches full fitness, Revolution coach Jay Heaps isn't going to rush his high-priced midfielder along. With Scott Caldwell (suspension) ready to return to the fold, and the Revolution set to play their third game in nine days, it wouldn't be surprising to see the U.S. International get anywhere from 25 to 35 minutes against the Fire.
• Points becoming more crucial by the week. The Revolution may have turned the corner on what can only be classified as dreadful summer, but don't expect anything to be taken for granted with only eight games to go. With only five points separating the third-place Revolution from the seventh-place Red Bulls, and a Fire side with a league-high 14 draws in town, Heaps is surely stressing the point that anything less than a victory -- especially at home -- is unacceptable.
"We're at the point now where every game matters," Heaps told the media on Friday. "Every point is important and Chicago -- they don't lose much at all, and it's going to be a hard-fought match, guaranteed."
Nine minutes into his first foray onto the Gillette Stadium pitch, the designated player tried to guide a low and long throw-in by Matt Besler away from the net. Instead, the ball fell to the back post, where Sporting Kansas City midfielder Soony Saad raced over to bury it.
But that wouldn’t be the lasting image from Jones’ first start in a Revolution uniform. Knowing that there would be plenty of time to redeem himself, he bounced back before the close of his 45-minute stint by sending a long ball to Teal Bunbury, who then went at goal to bring the match back to level terms in the Revolution’s 3-1 victory over the second-place squad.
“I played the ball, and so I have to look, and (then) he makes the run,” Jones said. “What’s funny is that we talked yesterday and before the game, and he scores the goal after that, so everything was perfect.”
It certainly was an ideal finish to a night for a player who probably wouldn’t have started under normal circumstances.
Shortly after arriving in Foxborough last week, Jones and coach Jay Heaps sat down and adopted a step-by-step plan to getting Jones match fit following a two-month respite from game action.
The first step, of course, was getting Jones into training. With a handful of sessions under his belt prior to the club’s conference clash in Toronto, Jones made his Revolution debut as a 65th minute substitute in Saturday’s 3-0 win over the Reds.
But in the 47th minute at BMO Field, Scott Caldwell picked up his fifth caution of the season, which resulted in an automatic one-game ban. With Caldwell unavailable and Andy Dorman nursing an MCL sprain, Heaps found himself with only one option at defensive midfielder for Wednesday’s match: the hungry, but not yet completely fit Jermaine Jones.
While there would seem to be concerns about giving Jones the start on Wednesday, the Revolution head coach wasn’t worried at all about penciling in his prized midfielder for another important conference contest.
“I was excited to start him,” Heaps said. “We wanted to attack the game from the beginning and put our foot forward knowing that he was coming out at halftime, and that was the game plan. (Steve) Neumann knew that he was going in (at halftime). The entire thing was set up to get Jermaine that 45 minutes.”
Although the Revolution grabbed the go-ahead goal while Jones rested on the bench, his first-half foray at midfielder certainly made a positive impression.
“I thought he was really good,” Heaps said. “It’s a little bit different because they were pressing him, so he didn’t get a ton of the ball, but when he was able to make a play, he made the goal (basically).”
The final stats on Jones’ night aren’t eye-popping by any stretch. He completed 86 percent of his passes, intercepted a pair of his opponents’ passes and, oh yeah, uncorked a majestic 40-yard pass to Bunbury to dig the Revolution out of what could have been a demoralizing halftime deficit.
Granted, it didn’t initially appear that all would end well after Jones’ early gaffe, which led to a goal that Heaps deemed a “fluke.” But the combination of Jones’ superior skill and an impressive performance from Lee Nguyen (two goals) allowed the midfielder to laugh about his mistake after the match.
“I touched it, and the ball goes in the back, and the guy scored,” Jones said with a smile. “But I think all of (my teammates) -- we were good in shape. We came back and won the game.”
Nguyen scored in the 48th and 90+4 minutes, while Jones, who started and played the entirety of the first half, assisted on a 45th minute goal from Teal Bunbury. Kansas City built an early lead when Soony Saad opened the scoring in the ninth minute.
With the win, the Revolution extended their unbeaten streak to four (3-0-1), while Kansas City dropped its third straight game.
What it means: It wasn’t the kind of start the hosts had in mind when Saad capitalized on, of all things, a poor clearance from Jones in the ninth minute. But Jones, who started his first meaningful game in more than two months, redeemed himself just before the end of his evening when he blasted a long ball to Bunbury to set up the equalizer. With Jones off for the second half, Nguyen reprised his role of Revolution hero when he fired another long shot that found the back of the net right after the break, and added another right before the final whistle. While the Revolution’s chances undoubtedly were helped by the absence of prolific poacher Dom Dwyer, who was serving a one-game ban, New England should be credited for breaking through the physical front employed by Kansas City.
Stat of the match: Jermaine Jones may have only gone 45 minutes, but he made good during that span by completing a team-high 87 percent of his passes -- the last of which set up the equalizer.
Scoreboard watch: After leapfrogging three spots as a result of Saturday’s emphatic win at BMO Field, the Revolution, with 36 points, claimed sole possession of third place with Toronto (33 points) losing 1-0 to Philadelphia (33 points) on Wednesday.
Fagundez on the bench again: Diego Fagundez, who led the Revolution in scoring last year with 13 goals, found himself on the bench for the third time in the last five games. The 19-year-old entered the match with four goals through 22 games, with his last strike coming in a 5-3 bonanza against Philadelphia on May 17. He entered Wednesday’s game in the 85th minute, coming on for Kelyn Rowe.
No place like home: The Revolution will remain in Foxborough for the second of a three-match homestand when they host the Chicago Fire on Sunday. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. The subplot for Sunday’s match, of course, is the fact that two weeks ago, the two organizations were in a tug-of-war for the services of Jones, who landed in New England following the controversial blind draw conducted by MLS.
The match, which kicks off at 7:30 p.m., will mark the second time this season the longtime conference foes have met. Back on April 26, the Revolution clinched a pair of stoppage-time strikes to secure a 2-0 win over the defending champions.
For the hosts, the midweek match presents an opportunity to pick up right where they left off following last weekend’s 3-0 win over Toronto. The victory not only extended the club’s modest unbeaten run to three (2-0-1), but it also marked the first time this season that the Revolution posted consecutive clean sheets.
The picture hasn’t been quite as rosy for the Revolution’s adversaries, who enter the contest licking the wounds from an embarrassing 3-1 home loss to the ninth-place Houston Dynamo on national television. Making matters worse, cautions to Benny Feilhaber and Dom Dwyer will force both to miss Wednesday’s match due to yellow card accumulation.
With nine points separating the third-place Revolution from second-place Kansas City, here’s what to watch for during a classic “six-point” contest on Wednesday.
Don't get overconfident. Few would blame the Revolution if they believed that their summertime struggles were effectively over. Not only have they stayed unbeaten in their last three, but they’ve improved their form on defense with back-to-back shutouts. Plus, the three-goal shift put in by the offense on Saturday has likely turned more than a few skeptics into believers. However, Revolution midfielder Teal Bunbury said it’s far too early to believe they’ve turned the corner.
“I think we’re hitting our stride now, and we’re getting good results,” said Bunbury. “But we know there (are) still a lot of games left to be played. So we don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves; we want to build from each result that we have.”
Will Jermaine Jones get the start? After Scott Caldwell’s 47th-minute caution in Toronto spelled a subsequent one-game ban, speculation immediately ran rampant that Jones could be in line for his first start, and at the friendly confines of Gillette Stadium, no less. Following Saturday’s 25-minute cameo, Jones admitted that he isn’t at 100 percent. But even though he may not be ready to play 90 minutes, don’t be surprised if the U.S. International finds himself in the starting lineup and slotted for 60 minutes, especially considering that Jones is the only natural defensive midfielder available.
Heaps isn’t overlooking depleted K.C. The squad that Kansas City will bring to Foxborough certainly won’t be its strongest due to the suspensions of Benny Feilhaber and leading scorer Dom Dwyer. And after the Revolution handed Peter Vermes’ squad a 2-0 loss earlier this season even with Feilhaber and Dwyer on the pitch, it’s clear that the defending champions are the underdogs. But as you might expect, Revolution coach Jay Heaps isn’t penciling in three points ahead of the clash.
“Any way you look at it, you have to be prepared for a Kansas City team that’s going to be difficult to play against,” Heaps said. “Any time new players come in, or new players play, it’s a different set of challenges, and neither one of them is easier than the other.”
Will Kansas City play for the draw? It wouldn’t be surprising to see the short-handed Kansas City squad march into Foxborough with one point as the primary objective. Not only will two of their best attacking players be absent, but under Vermes’ watch, Kansas City has often employed an overly physical and undeniably negative brand of soccer on the road. In fact, for all of the artistry they display in the attacking third, Kansas City leads the league in the fouls department, racking up an average of 14.8 per match. On the road alone, that stat climbs to 16.8. With that in mind, expect Kansas City to come out intent on disrupting and demoralizing the Revolution from start to finish.
Can the defense rise to the occasion again? It’s tempting to say that the defense has found its stride after watching the way Saturday’s match in Toronto unfolded. Not only did the Revolution keep a dangerous and quick-strike squad off the board, but they also limited them to only three shots on goal. A closer examination, however, reveals that the guests’ efforts were greatly aided by a host that repeatedly gave the ball away, and suffered a number of self-inflicted wounds. That said, any time a club can collect a clean sheet, confidence can only grow. And with Dwyer relegated to the role of bystander, the Revolution could find themselves in a good position to post their third shutout in a row.
“Whenever you keep the opponent to zero, you kind of feel good about yourself,” Revolution defender Darrius Barnes said. “You feel like you’re doing your job, and we feel, as a back line, if we’re limiting the opponents’ chances and keeping them at zero, then we’re always going to have a chance (to win).”
The 32-year-old designated player, who was acquired by the club via league draw last Sunday, entered in the 65th minute of Saturday’s 3-0 win over Toronto and, like a seasoned pro, took it all in stride.
“I was happy to be back on the pitch, and it’s always nice to play in stadiums like here,” Jones told the media after the match. “It’s a nice stadium in Toronto, and I try to take everything (in). I was happy to get some minutes on the pitch; it’s always good when you get minutes in.”
Jones’s status for Saturday’s contest appeared to be in the air during his introductory press conference on Tuesday. While he expressed his desire to play as soon as possible, the fact that the veteran midfielder hadn’t played since the United States’ Round of 16 contest against Belgium on July 1 suggested he might need a couple of weeks to regain his match fitness.
In the days leading up to Saturday’s clash, Jones said that he and coach Jay Heaps discussed a “step-by-step” plan that would allow him to return to game action and help the Revolution in its playoff push.
That plan, however, didn’t appear particularly conservative even before the first whistle. With only a handful of training sessions under his belt, Jones not only made the game-day roster, but he was tapped as the team’s first substitute when Daigo Kobayashi exited the game just after the hour.
“Jermaine has been excellent around his team, and around our group,” Revolution coach Jay Heaps told the media after the match, “and we wanted to get him in there and kind of build it in with the training sessions.”
While putting his prized midfielder into the match appeared to be a given after the Revolution racked up a trio of goals by the 58th minute, Heaps admitted that Jones’ cameo didn’t go exactly as planned.
“For us, it’s about fitness,” Heaps said about Jones’ ability to contribute. “Unfortunately, when he went into the game, we were trying to keep it a little bit more, and didn’t, so he got a little extra fitness in.”
Aside from the extra work Jones put in with Toronto tipping the possession scale in their favor, Saturday’s debut couldn’t have gone smoother. Not only did his new club claim a convincing win over a conference opponent, but Jones appeared to genuinely enjoy himself even before he entered the match.
“I was happy on the bench with the boys,” Jones said. “They played a good game, it was 3-0 (for us), so it was easy to come in, and I was happy that I came back on the pitch.”
And with good reason. Nearly two full months had passed since his last action, and with plenty of expectations placed on his shoulders, the U.S. international spoke about his eagerness to aid the club’s cause down the stretch.
“It was a long break for me and I can feel it, yeah,” Jones admitted. “I need (more) time on the pitch, of course. But step-by-step, today was 25 minutes, and maybe next game, (it’ll be) a little bit longer. I will try my best to be fast (in getting to) 100 percent.”