Mullins Magic in Toronto


The New England Revolution are first in the East – at least until Sunday – after defeating Toronto FC, 2-1, at BMO field on Saturday afternoon. Rookie Patrick Mullins, in his first start since the season opener, scored the equalizer in the first half and earned the game winning penalty kick which Lee Nguyen converted late in the second half as the Revolution got their first ever win against Toronto.

The win extended the Revolution’s unbeaten streak to four games and sees New England (4-3-2, 14 points) jump into first place in the Eastern Conference, though three teams could overtake them in the next couple of days. Toronto FC (3-4-0, 9 points) – who made a big splash in the offseason with the acquisition of U.S. International Michael Bradley, England International Jermain Defoe and Brazilian International Julio Cesar – have lost three straight and sit in sixth place.

Revolution head coach Jay Heaps made two changes to the line-up that won 2-0 against Sporting Kansas City at Gillette Stadium last weekend. Mullins replaced Jerry Bengtson up top, while Kevin Alston returned from suspension to start over Chris Tierney at left back. Alston would be subbed out for Tierney with an injury in the 35th minute.

The home side had the first opportunity of the match in the third minute when a poor pass from Darrius Barnes sparked a Toronto counter attack. Defoe and Gilberto broke forward in a 2-on-2 situation, where Defoe played Gilberto behind the defense. The Brazilian striker ran towards goal, but A.J. Soares slid in to block his effort.

Three minutes later it was Toronto on the attack again, sparked by a poorly defended Defoe pass. Gilberto got the ball behind the defense, but sent his shot wide.

Toronto would take the lead seconds later when a long, relatively weakly hit shot by Jackson was deflected by Soares and beat a flatfooted Revolution ‘keeper Bobby Shuttleworth at the near post.

But New England would equalize on their first real chance of the match in 24th minute. Mullins got the ball running towards goal from Daigo Kobayashi after a Toronto turnover. Mullins unleashed a shot from outside of the box that beat a helpless Julio Cesar into the top corner to knot the score at 1-1.

Four minutes later Mullins had another chance after some nice footwork from Lee Nguyen led to a shot from close range. Nguyen’s shot was deflected, but bounced to Mullins just a couple yards from goal and the rookie attempted to volley a shot on frame only to see his effort go wide of the net.

Then seconds after that it was Toronto back on the attack with Defoe playing Jackson into the right side of the box. Jackson ran in on goal, but Shuttleworth was quick off his line to deny the speedy Brazilian winger.

Toronto continued pressing forward and earned another chance when Gilberto managed to beat the Revolution backline again, but failed to find the target for a third time.

The wide open first half continued in the 39th minute when some good work from Nguyen led to the creative midfielder sending a dangerous cross to Teal Bunbury. Bunbury was alone on goal, but with Cesar breathing down his neck. The Brazilian International was able to grab the ball off of Bunbury’s first touch.

The second half was played at a much less hectic pace, with chances few and far between. New England finally threatened in the 80th minute after some great combination play between Bunbury and Nguyen set Bunbury on a run towards the box. Bunbury’s shot from just outside the area forced Cesar to tip the shot wide for a corner kick.

The Revolution kept the pressure on Toronto for the next couple minutes and earned a penalty kick when Mullins’ attempted shot was denied by a clear handball from Doneil Henry in the box. Nguyen stepped up to the spot and buried his third penalty kick of the season to make it 2-1. The goal was his fourth of the season.

Toronto had a chance for a near instant equalizer in the 84th minute off a dangerous free kick. Bradley delivered a dangerous ball to the far post where Henry headed it just high of the net.

Shuttleworth then came up huge to preserve the lead two minutes later when Gilberto powered a header off frame from a Mark Bloom cross. Shuttleworth dove to tip the ball off the post and then grabbed the rebound.

Two minutes later again in the 88th minute it was the Canadian side with a chance, but Defoe fired wide from close range.

Ngueyn nearly sealed it in the fourth minute of stoppage time with some fantastic work in the corner on the left flank for New England. Nguyen dribbled into the box through the defense, but couldn’t beat Cesar from a tight angle.

The Revolution withheld late pressure to get their fourth win of the season and temporarily claim first place in the Eastern Conference.

New England returns home to face a surging Seattle Sounders team on Sunday, May 11 at 6 p.m. ET. The match will mark Sounders’ striker and former Revolution star Clint Dempsey’s first game back in Foxboro since returning to MLS last year.

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About Sean Donahue

Sean Donahue has been covering the New England Revolution since 2002 for various publications. He has covered four MLS Cups, in addition to covering various international matches, including World Cup Qualifying and the CONCACAF Gold Cup. He has done freelance work for the AP and ESPN Boston. Sean hosted Revolution Recap, a weekly radio program covering the New England Revolution and U.S. Men's National Team from 2005-2008. He is a member of the North American Soccer Reporters. Sean can be reached at nesoccertoday@gmail.com or followed on twitter @SeanLDonahue