BOYDS, Md. – Limited to just one substitute appearance in the first seven games of the regular season, Kheli Dube was eager to get a start in a U.S. Open Cup play-in match against D.C. United on Tuesday night.
Dube made the most of his opportunity, scoring twice to help the Revolution claim a 3-2 win and secure a spot in the final round of MLS play-in matches. The Revs will travel to face Sporting Kansas City in the next round – the date and time of that match will be announced on Wednesday, April 27 – with a spot in the formal U.S. Open Cup bracket on the line.
“I like to score and you’ve got to make sure you use every chance you get,” said Dube. “When there’s a chance, you try to prove yourself and hopefully it works out.”
The Zimbabwean was active from the opening whistle and twice went close – in the 26th and 31st minutes – before finally making the breakthrough in the 34th minute. Ousmane Dabo unlocked the United backline with a killer through ball to Kenny Mansally, who fed a pass across the face of goal for Dube to tuck home.
“To be fair, probably that first goal was a little bit against the run of play,” said central defender Ryan Cochrane, who put in a 90-minute performance. “But obviously I think we settled down a little bit in the first half and I think that helped our confidence into the second half.”
New England parlayed that confidence into a second goal in the 47th minute, rookie forward Alan Koger making an immediate impact just two minutes into his first-team debut. Koger was the setup man for Dube, who once again struck a low shot past D.C. goalkeeper Pat Onstad and inside the left post.
Koger added a third for the Revs in the 69th minute – his first professional goal – before Branko Boskovic pulled two goals back for United in the 73rd and 82nd minutes to set up a tense finish.
“When you’re three up, you don’t expect to lose the game,” said head coach Steve Nicol. “It was tight, but in the end I think we deserved it.”
Koger wasn’t the only Revolution player who impressed on his debut, as Dabo was calm and composed in his first appearance since recovering from a right quad strain, while 16-year-old Home Grown Player Diego Fagundez showed flashes of skill in a 14-minute performance.
“It was good because I can get my fitness back a little bit,” said Dabo, who played 76 minutes in central midfield. “(My) sharpness wasn’t the best. It’s obvious. It’s a long time I haven’t played and I’ve been injured, but I’m sure very quickly I will get back to good fitness and be available to be part of the team if [coach Nicol] wants it.”
“He’s not shy, the wee guy,” Nicol said of the 5-foot-8 Fagundez, who came inches from scoring a fourth goal for the Revolution with a curling effort in stoppage time. “He goes on the field and he’s the same as everybody else. He was unlucky with the attempt he had to score. He tried to bend it around the goalie, but the ball just didn’t come around in the end. It was good to see him on the field.”
With their U.S. Open Cup campaign off to a successful start, the Revs will now turn their attention back to league play and a quick turnaround for a cross-country trip to California. After returning to the Northeast on Wednesday, the Revs will head to the West Coast on Thursday to prepare for a Saturday night meeting with Chivas USA.
“It’s a quick turnaround,” said goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth, who made three saves on Tuesday night. “It’s tough, but you’ve got to keep ticking along. Thursday we get on the plane to go to LA, so we have to have a good (training) session (on Friday) and try to get three points on the road.”