FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – With the New England Revolution still trailing the Chicago Fire 1-0 about midway through the second half on Saturday night, head coach Jay Heaps went to his bench to give the team a spark. Down to only two subs after Andy Dorman was forced off due to a right knee injury and replaced by Scott Caldwell in the 29th minute, Heaps options were limited, but the third year coach brought on striker Jerry Bengtson in the 65th minute and Steve Neumann in the 75th to help turn things around.
Heaps switched from the usual 4-5-1 to a 4-4-2 to start the second half with Teal Bunbury joining Patrick Mullins up top and Kelyn Rowe moving to the wing. He then brought Bengtson, fresh off his return from the World Cup with Honduras, in for Rowe in the 65th minute and put him up top moving Bunbury back to the wing. Finally Heaps exhausted his options with rookie Steve Neumann entering for Daigo Kobayashi. The formation changed further to a 3-5-2 with Chris Tierney moving to left midfield and Diego Fagundez moving centrally.
“I thought that we definitely had more chances [after the changes in the second half],” said Heaps. “I thought Jerry did a great job coming in and having an impact on the game and I thought Steve Neumann did good job as well. It was a little bit of a change to a 3-5-2. It helped out our attack. It would’ve been nice to punch one in.”
It was a more aggressive approach than Heaps had taken in the first four loses of the Revolution’s current five game losing streak, and while New England didn’t get the goal they needed, the subs and formation change all played their part in igniting the Revolution’s offense in the second half in a way that hasn’t been seen much lately. Bengtson winning an 86th minute penalty was the most noticeable, but the changes helped spark the team to 16 shots in the second half.
“[The substitutes’ impact was] good,” said Revolution captain Jose Goncalves. “The guys knew that we were pushing and they knew they had to step on the field with the right mentality.”
In addition to earning the penalty, Bengtson was credited with two chances created. Neumann was also credited with a chance created in his 15 minutes, as well as a shot on goal. As a whole, the team registered 10 shots after Bengtson was introduced.
Bengtson, who was making his first appearance since April, earned a dangerous free kick just outside the box in the 81st minute that Tierney took and saw blocked by the wall. Three minutes he earned the team’s penalty kick when he was fouled in the box challenging for a Tierney cross. The chance could’ve tied the game, but with regular penalty kick taker Lee Nguyen suspended for the match, Tierney stepped up and saw his effort saved by Sean Johnson.
Neumann then had a chance saved by Johnson from close range in the 87th minute.
The changes impact was noticeable in other areas as well. The Revolution won 60% of the aerial duels after Bengtson’s introduction, while winning just 33% before. Bengtson won three, which was more than anyone else on the team outside of Goncalves who played the full 90 minutes.
Unfortunately for the Revolution, the increased chances didn’t lead to goals.
“The subs did a nice job coming in and no one gave up, that’s for sure,” said Heaps. “To earn a penalty kick in the 86th minute with a team that’s bunkered in, it’s not easy. You’re trying to probe and pick things apart. It’s unfortunate, but you’ve got to use the positives and just keep going. You’ve got to dig even deeper now.”