FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New England Revolution won their fifth straight match and extended their unbeaten run to seven games in a row with a 2-1 win over D.C. United in front of 13,589 at Gillette Stadium on Saturday night. Patrick Mullins fourth goal in four games and Diego Fagundez’s fourth goal in three games sandwiched a Fabian Espindola strike to complete the scoring.
After a first half largely devoid of quality chances, Mullins opened the scoring in the 55th minute, getting the ball thanks to some nice work from Fagundez. Espindola would equalize in the 73rd minute, just twelve minutes after coming off the bench, but Fagundez would give the Revolution the win, finishing off a great cross from Teal Bunbury to make it 2-1 in the 77th minute.
“I thought it was a good hard fought match all the way around,” said Revolution head coach Jay Heaps. “I knew they came in with an excellent game plan…. They made a formation change and it was hard to break them down. We had some good chances, but not great chances. We knew we weren’t going to be given anything, we had to go take it and I think that was what I’m taking away from the game. We went out and found a way and that’s what I’m most proud about.”
The win keeps the Revolution (7-3-2, 23 points) in first place, now five points ahead of second place D.C. United (5-4-3, 18 points). New England lost at D.C. 2-0 on April 5th, but hasn’t lost a game since.
“It was number one against number two,” said Fagundez. “Whoever won was going to take that number one spot, so we needed to come out here and show that this is our home field.”
Heaps made two changes to the line-up that won 5-3 at Philadelphia last weekend. Captain Jose Goncalves made his return from injury and started at center back with Darrius Barnes going to the bench and Andrew Farrell moving to right back, while Bobby Shuttleworth returned from a concussion to start in goal over Brad Knighton.
“[Changing the defense] was probably my hardest decision of the short season so far,” said Heaps. “Because who do you take out? It’s not an easy one. The conversation was about what was going to be better for us tactically tonight and it wasn’t about just getting Jose [Goncalves] back tonight. I thought tonight we needed an uptick from some senior leadership because that’s what he does so well. If you ever worry about complacency go in our locker room ten minutes before a game and I’ll tell you right now Jose is going to eliminate any complacency in anyone. ”
New England’s first chance came in the 19th minute when Lee Nguyen played Mullins into the both with a chipped pass. Mullins ran in on goal and attempted to find Bunbury with a pass. Bunbury, about three yards from goal and with his back to the net attempted to flick it into the goal, but his shot went well high of the net.
D.C.’s first quality chance came in the 28th minute when Cristian sent in a dangerous cross towards the penalty spot. Eddie Johnson rose above Chris Tierney to reach the ball and directed a header on frame, but Shuttleworth kept it out with a diving save.
Mullins had another opportunity for New England in the 38th minute when Tierney played a perfect pass to a streaking Mullins running down the left flank. Mullins ran into the box and hit a low shot towards the far post that Bill Hamid tipped wide for a corner kick with a diving save.
Another Tierney pass led to a Revolution chance just before halftime. The Wellesley, Mass. native played a curling pass down the left flank that allowed Fagundez to get behind his defender and make a run into the box. Fagundez, from a tight angle, blasted a shot on frame that Hamid could only tip out for a corner.
United had the first chance of the second half through Johnson in the 50th minute after he got on the end of a misplayed header by Goncalves. Johnson ran into the box and attempted a shot to the far post, but it rolled wide of the net.
Mullins then gave New England the lead in the 55th minute after Fagundez broke through multiple defenders into the box only to be stopped just outside the six yard box. The ball deflected to Mullins just inside the left side of the six yard box and the rookie curled a shot around Hamid for his fourth goal in four games. The goal made Mullins the only the second rookie in MLS history to score in four straight games. Only former Chicago Fire striker and University of Connecticut product Damani Ralph achieved that feat in 2003.
“It all started with the ball coming wide to me,” said Fagundez. “I just tried to cut inside and take players on. When I saw I was one-on-one, I was trying to just shoot it with my toe and it didn’t work out, but Patrick was there and he got the goal.”
“I think it started long before it came to my feet,” said Mullins. “Diego with a prototypical mazy run from him. He’s got great feet and the defense just kind of opened up for him. I thought he was going to take it all the way, but as a forward you’ve got to stay alert and ready for any kind of rebound. The ball came to my feet and I just did some quick footwork in and out, got it on my left foot. I saw a tight angle and I just wanted to lift it. I wanted to make sure that I didn’t rush it and just try and smash. I think at that point you need a little composure and I just lifted it and found the back of the net.”
Espindola entered the match for D.C. United in 61st minute for Collin Martin to provide an offensive spark and the Argentine striker nearly scored an equalizer a minute later when the ball fell for him in the right side of the box. Espindola hit a low shot on frame, but Shuttleworth corralled it with a diving save.
United found the equalizer in the 73rd minute through Espindola after the experienced forward got the ball off a cross from Cristian. Espindola cut inside and hit a low shot past Shuttleworth from close range that the Revolution ‘keeper seemed to dive the wrong way on. The goal was the first the Revolution conceded in 433 minutes at home this season.
But the Revolution retook the lead just four minutes later. Bunbury got the ball on the right flank and sent a low drive cross through the box that was just tipped by a diving Hamid. Fagundez got the ball in the left side of the box and blasted a shot past an out of position Hamid to make it 2-1.
“Teal played a cross and I just had to expect the flick back and I just saw an open net,” said Fagundez.
New England then gained a man advantage in the 82nd minute when referee Juan Guzman issued Johnson a straight red card for a challenge on Revolution substitute Kelyn Rowe. The Revolution then pressed the attack with Tierney forcing Hamid into a save off a free kick and Rowe shooting just wide from outside the box.
United nearly found a late equalizer in the 89th minute after earning their first corner of the game. Espindola swung in the corner where Cristian headed it on frame from close range, but substitute rookie Steve Neumann cleared it off the line at the far post to preserve the Revolution’s victory.
The Revolution return to action with a trip to face the Montreal Impact on Saturday, May 31st at 7 p.m. ET.