New England Soccer Today

Cup Final Clinched

Trialist Florian Lechner saw 90 minutes against Real Salt Lake. (Photo Credit: Joshua Pearson)

The Revolution punched their ticket to the FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup championship game after taking a 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake on Wednesday night.

Diego Fagundez opened the account in the 8th minute, but a Nico Muniz blast leveled it three minutes later. Trialist Bjorn Runstrom tipped the scales back in New England’s favor in the 56th minute to send his squad to Saturday’s final, where it will either face New York or Los Angeles.

As expected, head coach Jay Heaps fielded a Revolution “B” team with a number of regular starters getting a rest. But, much like their last two games, the team wasted little time announcing its intent to get on the board.

Seconds into the match, Fagundez fired a shot from the edge of the box that immediately tested keeper Kyle Reynish. Fagundez, who made his first start of the tournament Wednesday, didn’t hesitate to make his case for a spot in the starting XI.

In the 8th minute, Reynish made a critical error when he attempted to divert the ball away from the edge of the area. But Zack Schilawski won it, and went into the area before sending it across to Fagundez, who pushed it through for the early Revolution lead.

It didn’t take Salt Lake long to respond. In the 11th minute, Muniz took it and cranked a shot from distance that bulged the back of the net to level it at one apiece early.

After the clubs traded goals, much of the first half saw both midfields struggle with possession. On its few successful forways, Salt Lake found space along the right channel, but fell short more often than not.

Despite the sloppy form, Salt Lake nearly gained the advantage in the 33rd minute. Near the goal line, Emiliano Bonfligli played it inside the box to Terukazu Tanaka, who heeled it back on the give and go. But Bonfigli’s point blank shot sailed high over the bar.

With the score knotted at one, both clubs emerged from the locker rooms ready to correct the mistakes and push ahead. But which one would find the net next?

After improving its possession game, the Revolution searched for the go-ahead in the early stages of the second frame. And it didn’t take long.

In the 56th minute, Fagundez saw Reynish well off his line and chipped it up and over the keeper before it banked off the crossbar. The deflection fortuitously fell to Runstrom, who headed it into the vacant net.

Down a goal after the hour, Salt Lake head coach Jason Kreis inserted a series of his regular starters hoping to revitalize the attack. In came Fabian Espindola, Kyle Beckerman, Jamison Olave and Tony Beltran, all ready to reinforce Salt Lake’s form.

It almost worked. In the 72nd minute, Espindola hunted down a Beckerman long ball into the box and went alone on keeper Bobby Shuttleworth ready to score the equalizer. But the Argentinean’s touch betrayed him, and Shuttleworth ran up to poke the ball away.

Ten minutes from full time, Beckerman sent another precise pass across to Jonny Steele. But Steele’s header strayed wide of the far post as another Salt Lake salvo evaporated.

After enduring Salt Lake’s sharpened attack, the Revolution came within inches of adding an insurance goal in the 85th minute. Ryan Kinne raced down the right flank and sent a teasing cross over toward the far post, where Alec Purdie arrived a split second late.

The result extended New England’s preseason winning streak to six, with the last three coming against MLS squads. Saturday’s Cup final will be the last match of the preseason for the Revolution, who open the regular season 10 days from Wednesday in San Jose.

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