FOXBORO, Mass. – It wasn’t the first time New England has deployed this midfield, but it was something different.
For just the second time this season, Jay Heaps deployed Lee Nguyen, Daigo Kobayashi and Kelyn Rowe in his starting lineup.
And it paid off.
All three were involved in the lone goal of the game, with Nguyen picking up the goal on assists from Rowe and Kobayashi.
“That’s how the goal came,” Heaps said. “Kelyn got wide, he did a nice job and pulled himself, which was another adjustment at halftime. Kelyn was pinching in early. We like Kelyn to pinch when he’s on the wing during the build-up and closer to midfield, but once we get into the final third, final quarter, we want Kelyn width and that’s exactly where the goal came from.”
With all three in the lineup, something had to give in the center midfield and it ended up being Rowe that was pushed out wide as Teal Bunbury was on the bench. It took some time to adjust as often in the first half Rowe drifted into the middle.
“It was obviously a little bit different,” Rowe said of moving outside. “I played a little bit there my first year and little bit this year as well. You just have to stay wide. I found myself coming in a lot trying to find the ball and the guys gave it to me every once and while so it was good. I think we connected well with Daigo and Lee and Charlie was doing really well in the first half so I think we was connecting with us. It’s just a little bit different.”
In the 56th minute, midfielder Scott Caldwell changed the side of play, feeding Andrew Farrell. Farrell quickly switched the ball back to the left side to Diego Fagundez. After a couple of touches, Fagundez switched the ball back to the right side, this time to Rowe who was hugging the line. Rowe one-timed to ball down to Kobayashi, who charged onto it and back heeled it. Rowe continued his run, beating out Chivas’ Agustin Pelletieri to the ball and poked it through to Nguyen. Nguyen took a touch before rocketing a shot past Dan Kennedy.
“They tightened up the middle and made it hard for us to go through the middle,” Nguyen said of Heaps’ halftime adjustment. “[Jay] wanted us to play more east to west and spread out and quick so the space would open up eventually and that’s when we went to the middle and punished them.”
“It was one of those when my momentum was already going that way so might as well keep running,” Rowe said of the goal. “The guy slipped right in front of me and I figured I might get a touch on it. I got a touch and Lee did really well to finish that ball, it was a great finish.”
It wasn’t the only example of combination from the three. In the final minutes of the game Nguyen and Kobayashi toyed with Chivas’ defense, often in tight spaces to help kill off the final seconds.
“I love playing with him,” Nguyen said of Kobayashi. “We’re in the same length wave, I feel like we’ve been playing together for a long time. He’s very smart and very composed and can keep possession in tight spaces so I think that helps us out. I think it helps out Scotty and the defense as well. It helps when we can keep the ball and catch our breath.”
Nguyen finished second on the team in completed passes with an 87% complete rate and Kobayashi had 53 passes with an 89% completion rate.
“I thought Daigo was excellent,” Heaps said. “He brings an excellent calming presence, and it allows Lee to have an outlet at all times. I thought that was a good combination. I thought Scotty had a really good game, so the three of them worked well. Pulling Kelyn wide gives him some opportunities to go one on one, and we really like when he can get one-on-one. It gives us another look and we were happy with the way those three played in the middle”
Both Nguyen and Rowe noted how enjoyable it was to play as a trio, signaling this could be something we see more of in the future from the Revolution.
“I think it’s nice,” Rowe said. “I think we’re still getting used to each other and spacing and whatnot but playing with Daigo and Lee is kind of easy. You know they are going to get the ball in a great spot and you know they are going to turn and look for you.”
“I think thats what makes it tough for teams to play against us,” Nguyen added. “We have a lot of guys that can create things on their own and at the same time we can all play well together in tight little spaces. It’s good, we’re dynamic in that way and I think if we can keep consistent it’s going to be tough for teams to play against us.”