NEW YORK – The New England Revolution may have found the magic formula to get a road result.
But does it come too late for a playoff push?
For 75 minutes on Sunday, the Revs clogged things up in their defensive third and frustrated a New York City FC team that, although dominating possession, didn’t put a first shot on frame until the 73rd minute.
While staying defensively sound, the Revs looked for opportunities on the counterattack, and cashed in when Teal Bunbury knocked in a rebound spilled in front by NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson in the 57th minute.
All that was missing was the final 15 minutes.
“I feel like we worked hard. We had a game plan and we were executing it well,” Bunbury said. “Everybody fought, everybody put the effort in, everybody was aggressive and we were working for each other. Granted New York has talented players and they were able to take some good chances. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get the three points or get a point.”
The lineup New England head coach Jay Heaps employed was, at first, puzzling. There was no Lee Nguyen, who made 53 consecutive starts, or Diego Fagundez, who was another regular in the Revs starting XI.
“Part of the thought process was you get strong guys, you know it’s a smaller field, there’s going to be quick turnovers, second balls, things in the air,” Heaps said. “We felt we could battle them for 60 minutes and then we could bring in the right pieces depending on the score.”
NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira said he did a double-take when looking at the Revs team sheet.
“I was surprised by their starting XI. I was worried because that was quite a compact, physical team,” he said. “When I saw their starting XI I knew it would be really difficult for us to play around. The game plan was good because they really frustrated us. It was difficult for us to play.”
Nguyen would have been one of those pieces, but Heaps said he picked up a pregame knock and was unavailable for selection, despite being in the 18-man roster. Fagundez also came on in the 70th minute, but Heaps said his hand was forced to bring on Scott Caldwell for Benji Angoua with his first substitute.
Angoua was furious with referee Mark Geiger for a 53rd-minute yellow card, and Heaps was concerned the defender from the Ivory Coast would get sent off.
“Unfortunately, the Benji yellow card hurt us because it just didn’t look like he was going to get himself back in,” Heaps said. “It wasn’t a sub we wanted to make.”
Dielna, who was tasked with trying to keep NYCFC’s David Villa in check, was going to be one of Heaps’ three changes with the manager figuring he wasn’t 90-minutes fit yet.
“I thought Claude was really good,” Heaps said. “He’s been training really hard all well and he got here a couple days before our home game against Vancouver. He had about nine days under his belt. Ideally he’d go 65 [minutes], but we talked to him at 60 [minutes] and he felt good so we pushed him through and I thought he was one of our better players tonight.”
Dielna, who arrived from Sheffield Wednesday on July 28, was one of the bright spots for the Revs, as was the team's overall commitment to defending.
But with 10 games remaining, what the Revs desperately needed was three points. Conceding twice in the final 13 minutes meant they are seven points below the playoff line, and are still in search for their first win away from Gillette Stadium this season.
“We’ve got to be very optimistic. We can’t be anything less than that to be honest,” Bunbury said. “We have to continue to grind and we’re going to get a road win. That’s the only way we’re going to be able to make it to the playoffs in my mind is being able to get if not more than one win on the road."