New England Revolution head coach Jay Heaps sent his team a message when he made six changes to his starting lineup in the wake of the 2-1 defeat at Colorado on Wednesday night.
It took the Revs the better part of 90 minutes to heed the admonishments despite the improved display, but they finally came through in second half stoppage time to claim a 2-0 victory at Columbus on Saturday night.
“I'm really proud of our guys because this is not an easy road trip,” Heaps told reporters after the match. “There was a schedule change early in the season, so it was a tough trip any way you slice it. Coming from Colorado to here, we knew how important this game was, how important it was after having two losses and [how] we needed to at least have a better performance. And I think we did that tonight.”
Heaps admitted after the match that he considered physical and tactical concerns as he plotted out his game plan for the back half of this taxing road trip. He ultimately opted to drop the likes of Diego Fagundez, Juan Toja and Lee Nguyen and insert Clyde Simms and Chris Tierney to inject a bit of steel into the group heading into the affair.
The alterations paved the way for an improved display and provided some latitude for belated reinforcements to turn the game. Fagundez, Nguyen and Toja all climbed off the bench as the second half progressed to break the deadlock and secure a first win in three attempts.
“That was exactly the game-plan,” Heaps said. “It never really works that way. There are certain things that you have to do. But I thought that all three of those guys were willing and ready, knew exactly where they were going in and watched during the game to see where they could impact [the match]. And, quite frankly, they went in and did an excellent job.”
It showed as the match entered stoppage time. Nguyen provided the service for José Gonçalves' winner and then slotted Fagundez through for the second after the Crew turned the ball over inside its own half. The influence of all three substitutes validated the decision to change the lineup and paved the way for the sort of victory the Revs craved to end a stretch of three matches in eight days.
“I think everyone seems satisfied with the effort today – like we had been saying during the week, this was an important game,” Gonçalves told reporters. “We had to bounce back from two bad results and we just wanted to do better. So this was the kind of mentality we came into the game with today and you can see that everyone worked hard. We created the best chances in this game and I think we deserved to win.”