Managers always hope to make correct decisions at the vital junctures of a match to will their team to victory. On Wednesday night, New England Revolution head coach Steve Nicol was the beneficiary of a stroke of luck, as his tactical switch at halftime proved to spark his side to a 3-1 victory against Chicago Fire.
Pat Noonan looked out of sorts on right wing during the first half. The striker was shifted to right midfield in favor of a Taylor Twellman-Clint Dempsey pairing up top, and he failed to make an impact during the first half.
Noonan's struggles prompted Nicol to send winger Richie Baker on in place of Noonan at halftime. The Irish midfielder had shown well in recent weeks, providing service into the box left wasted by profligate Revolution finishing.
The move paid immediate dividends for the home side, as Baker's 47th-minute cross found the head of Clint Dempsey to level the scoreline at one prior to a Twellman double to finish off the match.
Baker was happy to improve upon his performance in Sunday night's match in Chicago.
"I was happy to come on," said Baker. "Last weekend, my crosses weren't good. Tonight, I put in a good one and Clint finished it. It's the second one he's gotten off of one of my crosses. He reads my balls really well."
Dempsey pushed the plaudits for goal squarely onto Baker.
"Richie always gets a good ball into the box," said Dempsey. "You just have to get your head on the ball. You have to have to give him credit for the goal."
The work of Baker and fellow winger Kamler earned the praise of Nicol after the match.
"When you have Taylor and Dempsey in the box, you have to get them service," said Nicol. "We did that in the second half tonight."
For Dempsey, it was just another outstanding performance in a season where he has contributed four goals and received a berth on the Eastern Conference team for the MLS All-Star Game. Nicol admits that the play of Dempsey this season has left him speechless.
"I don't know what to say about Clint," said Nicol. "He plays to such a high standard, you if he has been here and done it before. He does everything we ask of him."
In addition to the goal and assist against the Fire (setting up Twellman's first), Dempsey made a vital save off the line from a Jim Curtin effort in the 53rd minute to preserve the 1-1 scoreline, allowing the Revolution to stay on level terms.
"It was a breath of fresh air," said Dempsey. "At the same time, we had to keep on going onwards. There were 15 or 20 minutes left, and we had to keep on playing."
Kyle McCarthy is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.