New England Revolution win clutch 3-1 victory over K.C.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - Jay Heaps hates to see his team concede right after the break. Hates it with a passion. But not long after the Revolution conceded a 49th minute equalizer on Saturday vs. Sporting Kansas City, Heaps actually felt pretty good about his team's chances.
In the wake of Dom Dwyer's equalizer, Heaps watched his players recommit themselves, and before long, they were able run away with a critical 3-1 win that kept the seventh-place side afloat in the playoff race with two games to go.
"Unfortunately, we laid an egg during those first three of four minutes (of the second half) and that was just not good enough and disappointing," Heaps said. "But the reaction after that was really good, and we started to (get) ourselves back in the game. From the 52nd minute on, I felt like (a goal) was coming."
But that goal didn't come immediately. In fact, it took a slight tactical adjustment and a 23-minute wait before the floodgates finally opened.
Sensing that something was needed to steer his team back on the right path, Heaps asked target forward Juan Agudelo to drop back and let Lee Nguyen push up. The idea was simple: give Agudelo more touches, which in turn, opened more space for the likes of Kelyn Rowe and Diego Fagundez.
"I thought the way Kelyn was moving, and the way Diego was moving - they were really fighting for everything," Heaps said. "So that energy picked up, and then you saw the sharpness of our passing pick up and that was key for us."
Although delicate touches aren't what 6-1, 180 lbs, Agudelo is known for, the physical forward was able to make the most of his opportunity as the No. 10. He connected regularly with Fagundez and Lee Nguyen, and all three did their part to back Heaps' belief that the go-ahead was coming.
"I love getting touches on the ball because it gives me confidence for the next first touch, "Agudelo said. "I thought it was fun at times. There was a couple of give and goes where it was entertaining for me, and it made me smile. It was great."
While Agudelo may have enjoyed his time as the playmaker, time started to become a factor with the 75th minute approaching and the scoreboard still reading 1-1. The belief, though, never wavered. Not with Heaps, and not with Agudelo either, who told his teammates to stay "calm, consistent and composed."
In the 75th minute, Kamara, who exploited Kansas City's high line all night, found Nguyen at the left edge of the box, where the midfielder had plenty of space to plot his next move. He fired a shot that smacked off the post before it ricocheted off the leg of defender Kevin Ellis and into the back of the guests' net.
"We were on top of them so any way that it went in would've helped us out," Agudelo said. "So I think the pressure of (allowing) a goal just showed (on that play)."
Hijinx certainly wasn't a factor on the goal that ultimately put the match to bed. With Kansas City overcommitted defensively, Kamara sent it central to Agudelo, who popped his shot under the crossbar to solidify the win and, more importantly, keep the Revolution's playoff hopes alive with contests against two very beatable teams - Chicago and Montreal - to close out the regular season.
"The (own) goal was a nice reward, but I felt like there were a lot of chances and we were inches away from getting the second," Heaps said. "Once when we got the second, I thought the third would come if we just continued to play, and not drop off."