While many eyes were trained upon a certain ex-Rev who was making his home debut in front of 68,000 and a ginormous display of tifo, a collection of current Revs collaborated on what might have been one of the most compelling MLS games of the summer on Sunday.
At first blush, the Revolution-Union clash had all the makings of a close, low-scoring affair. A game that, if recent history was any indication, Philadelphia would prevail. After all, they’d collected clean sheets in four of their last five, boasted a sure-fire Rev killer on the roster, had only lost one of their previous nine all-time contests against New England, and oh, were three spots above them in the standings. The Revolution, to their credit, may have had a chance, though it wasn’t a sizeable one, to say the least.
Then, Allen Chapman blew the whistle.
From there, the Revolution slowly built their attack, and pass by pass, before Kelyn Rowe found the back of the net in midway through the first half. One-nil, and more importantly, the Revolution had fired the opening salvo against a team they’d struggled against for years.
Although Juan Agudelo missed a wide open chance in first half stoppage, and Danny Cruz leveled it shortly after the break, the Revolution averted a pair of dangerous sequences before they went on a 15-minute tear that went a little something like this: Agudelo-58′, Rowe-65′, Fagundez – 71′, Agudelo-73′.
All told, the Revolution scored five goals against a team that hadn’t allowed five goals in its previous seven games combined. They clobbered a club that hadn’t lost by more than three goals all season. But most importantly, they may have restored the hope that many Revolution supporters had lost during the past four years.
Is it too soon to start printing Revolution playoff tickets? Most definitely. Right now, the Eastern Conference is anybody’s, save for D.C.’s or Toronto’s. And there’s still plenty of games to go before the five postseason spots are set in stone.
However, while plenty of attention was given to Clint Dempsey’s home debut and, regrettably, Miley Cyrus’ “performance” during the VMAs on Sunday, the real intrigue was what unfolded in Foxborough. For, if this current crop of Revolution players continues its postseason push, it may not be long before they’re the ones getting national attention.
We never seek more attention than we deserve here at Five Things, so without further ado, let’s take a look back at Sunday’s clash and thank the soccer gods for providing us with an exciting 90 minutes.
1. The Revolution should send a thank you card to John Hackworth for benching Jack McInerney. Honestly. On paper, the move makes sense as McInerney was on an eight-game goal drought, and was clearly pressing in recent weeks. So, in that respect, there might be some logic to it. But in reality, benching him against a club he’s enjoyed success against made about as much sense of Chapman’s inexplicable foul call on Conor Casey in the 55th minute. Not only had McInerney scored three game-winners against the Revolution in the last 13 months, but he was a player that Jay Heaps favorably compared to Mike Magee, who also shook off a dry spell of his own earlier this season. Hackworth may have his reasons for keeping his 21-year-old striker on the bench until the game was already decided, and they, perhaps, might be good ones. But from this vantage point, it was a move only a Revolution supporter could love.
2. Kelyn Rowe is officially feeling it. If you want to see what a player who’s in the groove looks like, check out the highlights from Sunday’s game. Not only does the sophomore midfielder score twice from a combined distance of 55 yards, but he played a number to good balls to teammates and regularly injected himself into the attack. True, the Union may have gifted him plenty of space to roam. And yes, the injury to Keon Daniel in the 26th minute probably made Rowe’s night a little easier afterward. But take away a forgettable first half against Chicago last week, and Rowe is performing like a man on a mission. A man who, not that long ago, struggled to get into the XI, despite his impressive assist total. Maybe Sunday’s game was a bit of an aberration given the Union’s lackluster defense. Even so, Rowe’s performance can only boost his confidence down the stretch.
3. It’s no longer hyperbole to say that Juan Agudelo is the Revolution’s biggest game changer since Taylor Twellman. Following Sunday’s game, a colleague was overheard saying that he was inclined to drop a Twellman reference into his match report when discussing Agudelo’s performance. At first, the comment drew chuckles, with a few figurative tomatoes hurled his way. But thinking back to how number 20 could change a game just by being on the pitch, the comparison is actually pretty apt. In Agudelo’s seven games with the Revolution, he’s scored six goals, and the Revolution have tallied a 2.85 goals/game average. More importantly, the Revolution are 5-1-1 in those contests, and have an astonishing +14 goal differential. In the eight games he missed due to injury, the Revolution averaged 1.26 goals/game, and had a -1 goal differential. While Saer Sene put together an impressive 11-goal campaign last year, there’s no question that Agudelo is carrying the torch that Twellman once held.
4. Let’s be honest: the Revolution skirted potential disaster when Conor Casey’s goal was called back. Looking at the replay, it’s clear that Matt Reis did not have the ball in his possession when Casey kicked it through. Contrary to how referee Allen Chapman ruled, and what Matt Reis said after the game, having a heel and/or calf on the ball while in a reclining position is not holding onto the ball. At the time the goal was called back, it was still anyone’s game at 1-1, with Casey’s strike likely to swing even more momentum to the Union, who’d just equalized only five minutes prior. Instead, the game remained level for only three more minutes, then escaped the guests’ grasp when Agudelo collected the first of his two goals in the 58th minute. It’s hard to say definitively whether Casey’s goal steers the Union to three points and sinks the Revolution closer to the Crew. But given the state of the game in the 55th minute, it appeared that if the guests were going to win it, that goal probably would’ve paved the way.
5. With Houston about to embark on a brutal stretch of the schedule, it’s a must that the Revolution put some distance on their former MLS Cup adversaries. One of the best things about Twitter is the brilliant perspectives I get from loyal readers and Revolution fans alike. Shortly after Sunday’s contest, which put the Revolution level with the Dynamo on points, @Fred_MacDuff brought up an interesting fact. While the Revolution don’t have any fixture congestion on the horizon, the Dynamo kick off a grueling five-game, 19-day gauntlet kicks off on Tuesday. A gauntlet that takes them in between MLS and Champions League group play. True, the Dynamo have a game in hand on the Revolution inside the table. And yes, we’ve seen worse Houston sides sneak all the way through to MLS Cup (see: 2011 season). But if the Revolution do manage to make to their first postseason appearance since 2009, that journey will likely be aided the Dynamo’s hellish late-summer schedule.