FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – New England coach Jay Heaps tinkered with his lineup this week in a bid to spark the Revolution's moribund offense.
Heaps opted to switch to a 4-1-4-1 setup to place Lee Nguyen and Kelyn Rowe into central playmaking roles to prompt opportunities for others and provide some thrust through the middle of the park. The switch – accompanied by Ryan Guy and Diego Fagundez operating as natural wingers and Kalifa Cissé sweeping up in a deep-lying midfield spot – generated exactly the sort of response required.
New England created several chances in the first half of Saturday's 2-0 victory over the Philadelphia Union at Gillette Stadium only to see all of them spurned for one reason or another. The continued frustrations in front of goal led Heaps to wonder whether he might need to take more mystical steps to rectify the situation.
“We were about to sacrifice a live chicken pretty soon if one of those didn't go in during the second half,” Heaps told MLSsoccer.com.
All poultry escaped unharmed after the Revs leaned on the strength of their revamped shape – movement from Nguyen and Rowe into spaces through the middle – to break their duck and secure their first home win of the season.
“I was very comfortable in there and you could see Lee was comfortable in there as well,” Rowe said. “I thought we combined very well with Ryan and Diego out wide and Jerry holding the ball for us. I think it's something for the future. You'll see that we both like it.”
The first goal offered the perfect display of what Heaps imagined when he concocted this setup and why Rowe felt so comfortable: Nguyen dropped off to provide service, Rowe pushed through the line to collect it and Fagundez worked himself in the right spot to sweep home.
Nguyen's second goal supplied a different variation on the same idea – a deep run continued all the way through to a tap-in at the far post – and tucked away the points with 19 minutes to spare.
The pair of goals doubled the Revolution's modest output on the season to date and provided some hope that this new shape – at least for one night – provided a potential solution to the attacking woes.
“We're learning each other,” Guy said. “The chemistry is a biggie in this one, but I think we're looking for our formation and we're getting a lot closer.”