FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Kevin Alston gave the New England Revolution a 68th minute lead with his first career MLS goal and Jerry Bengtson sealed the win with his first goal in over a year in stoppage time to give the home side a 2-0 victory over the Houston Dynamo in front of 14,259 at Gillette Stadium on Saturday night.
Alston’s goal sparked to life what had been a match largely devoid of quality chances till that point. The Revolution left back got the ball in the box off nice combination play for Daigo Kobayashi and Teal Bunbury and perfectly placed a shot past Tally Hall for his first career goal in the 68th minute.
“It’s amazing to just finally break the seal,” said Alston. “It’s six years later [since I started my MLS career] and I’m just glad it’s finally here. I can say I scored at least one in my career.”
Bengtson then caught Houston’s backline pressing forward for a late equalizer and beat Hall to the ball in stoppage time before calmly finishing to clinch the win for New England.
The win temporarily pushes the Revolution (2-3-1, 7 points) into the fourth in the Eastern Conference, while Houston (2-3-0, 6 points) dropped to sixth place. New England also extended their home unbeaten streak to six games (including playoffs) and has yet to concede a goal at home through two games this season.
The Revolution, with assistant coach Tom Soehn on the sidelines in place of suspended head coach Jay Heaps, made just one change from the team that lost 2-0 in D.C. last weekend and won 2-1 at San Jose the weekend before. Alston, the Revolution’s eventual game-winning goal scorer came in for the injured Chris Tierney at left back.
“The game didn’t start out with a whole lot of pizazz,” said Soehn. “I felt like as the game built we started to feel it, started to create some opportunities, but we didn’t finish on the opportunities. Part of the talk at halftime was we just need to have that killer instinct. This team continues to create opportunities and I think today helps get us over that hump to get those couple goals because we’ve done a good job. We’ve been organized, compact and some of the results haven’t gone our way so it was refreshing to get the results today.”
After a dull opening 15 minutes, New England had the game’s first shot when Andy Dorman sent in a cross from the right flank. Dorman’s service found Saer Sene who, under pressure, weakly hit a header wide of the frame.
New England finally tested Houston ‘keeper Tally Hall in the 25th minute when Diego Fagundez got the ball on the left flank and cut inside at the top of the box. Fagundez hit a low shot to the near post, but Hall managed to push it wide with a diving save.
New England then tested Hall twice in the 37th minute. First Sene was denied from long range and then Lee Nguyen saw a powerful shot from distance tipped over the bar by Hall.
On the build-up to Nguyen’s shot, the Revolution suffered a blow when Jose Goncalves picked up an injury on a rough late slid tackle from Ricardo Clark. Clark received a yellow card on the play and Darrius Barnes replaced Goncalves, who suffered a right quad injury, and moved to right back with Andrew Farrell sliding into center back.
“It’s always difficult when you’re coming in off the bench like that, especially unexpectedly,” said Barnes. “I mean anything can happen in a game, but you don’t expect Jose to get injured like that, but that’s what we’re a team for – we’re expected to go in when we’re called upon. Jose went down and coach called my number to go in, so I just had to go in and do a job.”
The second half was much of the same as the first with minimal chances for both sides, but Alston put the Revolution on top in the 68th minute. Daigo Kobayashi got the ball just outside the box and attempted to find Teal Bunbury, but his pass was blocked. Kobayashi’s second attempt found Bunbury, who quickly played in Alston and the Revolution defender made no mistake, blasting a shot past Hall into the upper corner for his first career goal.
“We talked at halftime and they left a lot of space for Kevin to attack and I think Kevin just needs the confidence to really take those spaces,” said Soehn. “So we talked about it and I was really happy for him that it came because he’s got a lot of tools: he’s fast, just the confidence to beat guys and him scoring is going to help that confidence.”
“Tommy [Soehn] was just pushing me all game – just telling me the space was there, just get in the attack get wide, and try to help out,” said Alston. “I think that pushing really helped me to just be in a good spot to start.”
Bunbury had a chance to add to New England’s lead in the 90th minute after getting behind the defense on a lobbed through pass. Bunbury ran into the box, but managed to send his shot well wide of the target.
A minute later substitute Jerry Bengtson would make no mistake when he beat Hall to a long ball from A.J. Soares and ran in on goal behind the keeper. Bengtson managed to place a shot around two defenders and into the net to give the Revolution the 2-0 win. The goal was the first for Bengtson, the Revolution’s lone Designated Player, since March 9, 2013.
“I knew that they were losing and they were pushing up the lines,” said Bengtson through a translator. “At some point, I looked and knew that that was the opportunity. I looked over my shoulder and just took the space and scored.”
New England returns to action with a trip to face the Chicago Fire on Saturday, April 19, at 4 p.m. at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill.