The New England Revolution recovered from a sloppy first half to defeat the New York Red Bulls, 3-1, in the Desert Diamond Cup on Saturday night in Tucson, Arizona. The win was the Revolution’s first of the 2013 preseason, improving their record to 1-1 in the Desert Diamond Cup, good enough for second place in the tournament, and 1-3 overall.
The Red Bulls opened up the scoring through Juninho in the 11th minute and would take a 1-0 lead into halftime, but New England would turn things around in the second half. A Lee Nguyen penalty kick leveled the score in the 53rd minute before Jerry Bengtson put the Revolution ahead three minutes later. Trialist Marko Jesic would cap the victory with an 88th minute goal.
“The first half we were happy with the way we moved the ball and the way we played,” Revolution head coach Jay Heaps told the media after the game. “After ten minutes we were controlling the game and then we made a mistake and they scored. For the next five minutes I thought that New York controlled the match, but then as the half went on we started to do a little better. Second half we came and definitely had another gear.”
After falling 2-0 to the Seattle Sounders in the opening match of the Desert Diamond Cup, the Revolution made three changes to their line-up. Veteran ‘keeper Matt Reis got the start in goal, while Darrius Barnes replaced the injured Chris Tierney at left back. Unsigned draft pick Donnie Smith replaced trialist Gabe Latigue at left midfield.
New England had the first opportunity of the match in the 6th minute when Bengtson was played into New York’s box by Nguyen. Bengtson one-timed a low shot on frame, but Red Bulls ‘keeper Luis Robles made the save and Diego Fagundez was called for a foul trying to get to the rebound.
But it was the Red Bulls who would take the early lead. A poor first touch from Nguyen off of a Reis goal kick led to New York getting possession near the top of the box in the 11th minute. A deflected pass found Juninho outside of the box and the former Brazilian international blasted a shot towards the lower corner that eluded a diving Reis.
“It’s a work in progress,” Reis told the media after the match. “Preseason we’ve talked about just getting better game in and game out. I think the first half with [New York’s] first team in there they were pretty organized and it was tough for use to break down, even though we did create a few chances early on. They have a lot of quality guys that can do a lot of damage. Second half I thought we really settled in and were comfortable and were really on the front foot for the whole second half.”
Juninho came close to having his second goal of the night in the 26th minute after the Red Bulls moved the ball well down the left flank. Tim Cahill received a pass just outside the New England’s box and moved it along to Juninho. The 38-year-old chipped a left footed shot towards goal, but it curled just wide of the post.
Known across the globe for his set piece skills, Juninho showed a glimpse of his quality just before halftime. From about 35 yards out, Juninho blasted a free kick that Reis managed to tip over the net. The Red Bulls newcomer then took the ensuing corner kick and found Thierry Henry, but the Frenchman’s header was high of the net.
New England brought in rookie Scott Caldwell for Clyde Simms at halftime and the team came out of the break with renewed energy. Eight minutes into the half, the Revolution found the equalizer after earning a penalty kick. On a quick counterattack, Donnie Smith drove a cross into the box that Red Bulls defender Jámison Olave blocked with his arm in the box and the referee immediately pointed to the spot. Nguyen stepped up and took the ensuing penalty kick, fooling goalkeeper Luis Robles as he chipped it down the middle to knot the score at 1-1.
“I’ve been practicing [penalty kicks] with Bobby [Shuttleworth] and Matt [Reis],” Nguyen said after the game. “It’s just one of those where I was expecting him to guess and I just went down the middle.”
Bengtson then put the Revolution in front in the 58th minute. A deflected free kick from Nguyen fell to Smith who lofted a cross into the box. Smith’s cross found Bengtson who eluded his defender and headed it into the far corner to put New England up 2-1.
“My goal was beautiful, and it helped because we did a better second half,” Bengtson told the media through an MLS translator. “We worked hard, it was a difficult game. I thank God for the goal, because it gave us plenty of confidence to win the match”.
Trialist Marko Jesic finished off the scoring for the Revolution up in the 88th minute on another effective counterattack. Substitute Juan Toja found Jesic running into the right side of the box and the Australian took a touch wide before sending a low shot into the far corner, putting the game out of reach at 3-1.
The Revolution continues Desert Diamond Cup play on Wednesday against Real Salt Lake at 7 p.m. ET. A win would clinch a spot in the final against the Seattle Sounders, while a tie may also be enough for New England to advance.