FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Partnerships are everything when it comes to the center back position, a fact the New England Revolution have learned the hard way since they let AJ Soares walk following their appearance at MLS Cup 2014.
Delamea and Angoua – both signed this past offseason using Targeted Allocation Money – led New England as they shutout the league-leading Reds for the first time since March 31, a streak spanning 13 matches across all competitions.
“They were the two players who deserve the most credit in this game, because it’s hard to go against Toronto and a player like Giovinco,” said forward Juan Agudelo. “To keep them away from scoring gave us time and space to score goals. We were able to get three goals, but credit goes out to the defense.”
Added left back Chris Tierney: “They’re both continuing to improve that relationship. They’ve been rock solid in the last few games, Toni especially who’s played every game and been so good for us. To see Ben coming along as well and that relationship continuing to improve, it’s really going to bode well if they keep working the way they are now.”
As Tierney alluded to, Angoua and Delamea’s partnership has come with several bumps in the road, especially as Delamea struggled in the early part of the season. They’ve pulled things together in recent weeks, however, overcoming divergent backgrounds and language barrier to help the Revs to a 3-1-1 record in their last five games.
Angoua, an Ivorian who signed on loan from Ligue 1 side EA Guingamp, speaks French and little English. Delamea, a Slovenian who most recently captained Olimpija Ljubljana, is proficient in English, but knows little French.
Their differences didn’t matter much on Saturday night, when they held TFC to three shots on goal and ended the Reds’ eight-game MLS unbeaten streak. Toronto were without Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley due to national team duty, but Greg Vanney’s side still packed plenty of punch with Giovinco and MLS assist leader Victor Vazquez both in the starting lineup.
The feat was largely lost on Delamea, who’s adopted a workmanlike mentality with New England.
“Really? I didn’t know that,” Delamea said when asked about shutting out Toronto for the first time since March 31. “We know we couldn’t allow [Giovinco] to turn and go with the ball, so we stayed close to him and closed him down. We cut him from their game, and that was I think one of the main things today that provided a great result for us.”
As stout as Angoua and Delamea were, the former’s biggest contribution arguably came on the offensive side of the ball. The 30-year-old opened his MLS account in the 17th minute, heading home a driven corner kick from Lee Nguyen to put New England up 1-0.
After that, the duo locked in, leading from the back as the Revs rolled to an important victory.
“Tonight, I thought Ben was one of the best players on the field,” said New England head coach Jay Heaps. “In on tackles, really reading the game well, and obviously dangerous on set pieces. A complete performance from him, and I thought Toni, he’s steady every week. The same performance.”