Jerry Bengtson’s 62nd minute strike was all the New England Revolution needed to defeat the Chicago Fire on Saturday night in their season opener at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill. Matt Reis and the Revolution backline recorded a shutout as the Revolution started things off with a 1-0 win.
Bengtson’s goal came after former Revolution midfielder and current Fire captain Jeff Larentowicz could only clear a corner kick as far as Kelyn Rowe about 30 yards from goal and Rowe headed it forward to Juan Toja. Toja played it back to Rowe, who chipped a pass to Bengtson at the far post. The Honduran International was running in on goal behind the defense and headed it inside the post from close range.
The result was the first time the Revolution (1-0-0, 3 points) had won at Toyota Park since 2006. For Chicago (0-2-0, 0 points), it was their second straight loss to start the season.
New England handed four players their debut in the starting line-up with Jose Gonçalves (Portugal) and Andrew Farrell (#1 SuperDraft pick) and midfielders Donnie Smith (2nd round SuperDraft pick) and Kalifa Cisse (Mali) making their first MLS appearances.
The Fire had the first opportunity of the match in just the third minute, but after some nice play down the right flank, Sherjill MacDonald blasted shot from just inside the box well high of the target after receiving the ball from Steven Kinney.
Two minutes later it was the Revolution with a chance off a Fire giveaway. Jerry Bengtson sent a cross into the box where Cisse lost his defender and headed a powerful shot on frame. Cisse’s header was too close to Sean Johnson, who made the save.
The game became more bogged down in midfield after the opening opportunities, but the Fire should’ve taken the lead in the 27th minute when Patrick Nyarko stole the ball from Smith, who was trying to shield it over the goal line. Nyarko passed it to MacDonald who was just yards from goal in space, but the Dutch forward flubbed his shot right at goalkeeper Matt Reis, who easily made the save.
Four minutes later it was Fire midfielder Dilly Duka testing Reis. Duka got the ball about 30 yards from goal and blasted a shot on frame, but Reis made an impressive diving save and tipped it off the crossbar.
The Fire continued on the offensive in the second half when halftime substitute Maicon Santos played Joel Lindpere behind the defense in the 50th minute. Lindpere ran in on goal and attempted to find Duka with a pass to his left, but Reis was quick off his line to grab the poorly weighted ball before it got to Duka.
New England had perhaps their best chance of the match so far in the 56th minute after some fantastic combination play at the top of the box between Lee Nguyen, Rowe and Juan Toja. Rowe eventually played Toja in towards goal, but Austin Berry got back just in tap to tap it away from Toja and out of bounds for a corner kick.
Bengtson would end the deadlock in the 62nd minute after Rowe, a second half substitute, headed forward a poor Larentowicz clearance off a Revolution corner kick. Toja immediately played the ball back to Rowe, who chipped it over the defense where Bengtson got forward to head it into the lower corner past a stunned Sean Johnson from close range.
Just over 10 minutes later it was Rowe with a chance, as the 21-year-old attempted a long shot from about 30 yards. The second year midfielder’s effort went just high of the target.
The Fire came close to finding an equalizer in stoppage time, but Santos shot was well saved by Reis.
The Revolution returns to action on Saturday, March 16, with a trip to face the Philadelphia Union.