SANTA CLARA, Calif. – It turns out all the New England Revolution needed was a little Goonie magic.
Lee Nguyen’s game winner deep into second-half stoppage time on Saturday night completely rewrote the script at Buck Shaw Stadium, where it’s typically the San Jose Earthquakes who provide the late fireworks. But on this occasion it was the visitors who stole the show en route to claiming a 2-1 victory.
The result ended San Jose’s 21-game home unbeaten run which dated back more than a year, but more importantly it served as a beginning for the Revs, who moved past a frustrating three-game run to open the season in which they struggled to find a breakthrough.
“It’s a big three points for us, it really is,” said head coach Jay Heaps. “We’ve had a tough start, especially with our schedule and being on the road so much, so we had to grind out a result tonight. I thought we did a nice job doing that.”
There was an element of good fortune in New England’s 35th-minute opener – the club’s first goal of the season – when Jordan Stewart and Victor Bernardez combined to put into their own net, but it was just reward for a Revolution side which was well on top throughout the first half.
Saer Sene, Diego Fagundez, Daigo Kobayashi, Teal Bunbury and Nguyen all had good looks before the breakthrough finally came courtesy of a defensive miscue.
“You earn your luck,” said Heaps. “We did a nice job creating some stuff. I think it was a fortunate bounce for us, but I think the way we played in the first half was really worth a goal. In the second half, I thought how [San Jose] played was worth a goal, as well. They were all over us.”
The Earthquakes flipped a switch after the halftime break and put the Revolution on the back foot, eventually finding a stereotypically scrappy equalizer through Chris Wondolowski in the 69th minute. But in the end it simply set the stage for Nguyen’s late heroics.
After being fouled near midfield, Charlie Davies – making his 2014 debut as a second-half substitute – quickly played the free kick to Scott Caldwell, who sprang Nguyen down the left wing. Nguyen then cut inside and used Earthquakes defender Clarence Goodson as a screen to fire past goalkeeper Jon Busch.
“He defended his butt off,” A.J. Soares said of Nguyen’s man-of-the-match performance. “When a guy like that is defending hard in the middle against some big guys and is getting stuck in, I’m happy that he’s rewarded with a goal. He deserved it. He fought all night and he helped us when we needed to keep the ball. For him to get the goal is exactly what needed to happen.”
Soares mentioned a sense of relief having secured the first goals and win of the season, but there’s also a hunger that comes with victory. Having tasted success, the Revolution’s hope is to make it a regular habit.
“Thrilled to get the first three points,” Soares said. “Hopefully we can get more going forward.”