FRISCO, Texas – The New England Revolution cannot dwell too long on their bludgeoning by FC Dallas in the 2016 U.S. Open Cup final.
The Revolution lost the tournament's championship game, 4-2, on Tuesday night, but need to quickly shift their focus back to MLS play. As of now, New England sit on the outside of the Eastern Conference's playoff picture. They are one point behind sixth-placed Orlando City, and are competing with both the Lions and D.C. United for that final postseason spot.
If the Revolution want something positive to take away from the defeat to FC Dallas ahead of the season's stretch run, they need only to look at the play of forward Juan Agudelo, who notched a brace in the losing effort.
“Juan coming back from injury has been a really excellent player for us,” Revs’ head coach Jay Heaps said. “Now you can see he’s fully fit. He really had a lot of energy and a lot of grit to his game because he’s strong, but he also has the ability to turn and create.”
Not only were both of Agudelo's goals impressive, but they also served as a continuation of a positive trend for the 23-year-old striker. He has now scored four goals in his last three appearances across all competitions, giving him a good case to start ahead of or at least alongside Kei Kamara.
Even with his personal production on the rise, Agudelo could not see past the team performance on Tuesday night.
“It’s extremely frustrating,” Agudelo said. “I know when I’m older, I’m going to remember this, that we just let it slip through our fingers when we were up 1-0.
“I felt like even if we held on a little bit longer, we would have had more motivation and more belief into winning the game,” he added. “We just let them back in a little bit too easily and a little bit too quick.”
Kamara appeared to be back in form on Tuesday night after coming on late in the first half to pair alongside Agudelo, and that duo could potentially give New England a dynamic 1-2 punch up top for the final games of the season.
That might be a much-needed combo as well, as two of the Revolution's last five games come against Montreal, who are ranked fifth in the east but sit just five points ahead of New England. Another two games are against conference cellar dwellers Chicago and Columbus.
Heaps and company can only hope that Agudelo’s showing in September – three starts, four goals and an assist – is a sign of what is to come during the final weeks of the regular season.
“We’re excited where Juan is,” Heaps said. “But we’re just trying to keep everyone focused on the next game.”