New England Soccer Today

Firing On All Cylinders

Photo credit: Chris Aduama/

Photo credit: Chris Aduama/

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – It has been a frustrating season for the New England Revolution in all aspects of the field, but particularly offensively where, despite an abundance of talent, the production hasn’t been there. For once, on Saturday evening, the Revolution offense showed just what it was capable of and it was a sight to behold as the team put on a master class offensively in a dominating 3-1 victory over New York City FC in front of 23,235 at Gillette Stadium.

With Kei Kamara sidelined due to an injury picked up in training this week, head coach Jay Heaps had Juan Agudelo lead an attack that contained Lee Nguyen, Diego Fagundez and Kelyn Rowe. The combination had been a key part of the Revolution’s offense—with the exception of Agudelo’s spell in Europe—since Agudelo arrived at the team in 2013. Yet, due to injuries and various other reasons, the combination had yet to produce the results in 2016 that would’ve been expected of such a talented group.

Finally, on Saturday, it all came together with Agudelo, Nguyen, Fagundez and Rowe all playing one of their best games of the season and combining for three goals—and many more golden opportunities—as the Revolution matched their highest goal scoring total of the season.

“I think that those [relationships] are vital right now,” said Heaps. “Those guys have always had kind of an instinctual feel for each other and quite frankly Juan’s injury [earlier this season] hurt that because I think Juan was really coming into his own and now he’s showing some really good life. I also think the interchange—and I think Kelyn does a good job of where Diego and Lee and Juan are all playing quickly, Kelyn does a  good job of reading and he’s really good at opening the space. We really look at what he’s able to do opening the space and that’s huge for us.”

The interchanges were apparent in the 21st minute when a poor clearance off a Nguyen free kick fell to Fagundez, who immediately picked up his head and picked out a well-positioned Agudelo with a perfectly placed ball. Agudelo ran in behind the defense and blasted past New York City goalkeeper Josh Saunders to make it 1-0.

“We started the game the right way and we worked all week on how we could press [New York City FC] and change from that 4-4-2 into a good pressure system,” said Heaps. “I thought Lee and Juan did an excellent job of creating that initial pressure and then Gershon [Koffie], Kelyn and Diego read where to pick up the spaces and they did a good job and from there we were able to get a couple wins in their half and keep the ball when we could. Overall excited that everyone performed tonight.”

The combination shined ever brighter on the second goal in the 42nd minute. This time Agudelo won a long ball and played it back to Andrew Farrell, who immediately sprung Rowe up the wing. Rowe ran forward before slotting a low cross through the box. Agudelo had pulled two defenders forward with his run and Fagundez dummied the ball, taking another defender out of the play and allowing the ball to roll to a wide open Nguyen. Nguyen then calmly finished it off with the defense recovering.

“I think personally, it’s the most fun I’ve had all season these past two games,” said Agudelo. “It’s how I love playing and I’m sure it’s how all of the other players around me are loving it too.”

The four players were again the catalyst for the team’s third goal in the 58th minute to give the match its final 3-1 scoreline. Rowe picked off a pass near midfield and played Nguyen down the wing. Nguyen eventually sent a low pass to Agudelo in space at the top of the box. Agudelo saw his shot blocked, but fought for the rebound and eventually, while on the ground, played it out to Fagundez who blasted it past Saunders.

“It was a good week of training… It was a good day Tuesday,” said Heaps. “Wednesday was a little bit complacent and there was a lot of conversation that ‘hey, we had a good game against Colorado, but we’re onto the next game and if we think that we’re going to just step on to the field and beat New York’ and it took a pretty hard conversation that we had as a staff with the players and the leaders of the team and on Thursday it came out and it was night and day. From Thursday on I felt like we were going to have a really good opportunity to get three points tonight.”

In addition to a strong week in training, the players partly credited the offensive outburst to a shift in formation to a 4-4-2 over the last couple weeks from the 4-5-1 the Revolution had used almost exclusively during Heaps’ coaching tenure.

“It’s nice,” Fagundez said of the 4-4-2. “I think in the midfield we’re getting a low of touches, where in some games I felt like I wasn’t getting much of the ball. Now I feel like we’re actually moving it more between us four. I don’t know how many touches we get a game, but I think we’re doubling what we used to.”

Fagundez led the team with 67 touches on Saturday.

“We have good players that can keep the ball and I think with this formation it helps exaggerate that a lot, so I think we just have to keep going with that,” said Agudelo.

The team has also shifted strategy a bit due to Kamara’s absence the past two games, playing more balls on the ground and attempting less crosses. The Revolution attempted 12 crosses on Saturday and just 10 the week before in a 2-0 win against the Colorado Rapids. In the team’s last home game with Kamara up top, a 2-0 loss to the Columbus Crew on August 20, the club attempted 31 crosses.

“I’d rather prefer the ball on the ground than getting the ball in the air,” said Fagundez. “I think with Juan you can see—you can give him the ball, he’s holding up the play well, so when we can get him the ball on the ground it makes our jobs easier.”

Now the Revolution offense will look to build on Saturday’s performance and continue the positive momentum they’ve been building when they travel to face FC Dallas, holders of the best record in Major League Soccer, on Tuesday in the U.S. Open Cup Final, likely the club’s biggest game of the year.


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