FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – New England Revolution head coach Bruce Arena sent a clear message when he opted to make three changes at halftime of Wednesday night’s meeting with D.C. United.
His players then sent a clear message right back.
Emmanuel Boateng, Tajon Buchanan, and Adam Buksa provided the necessary spark off the bench and the Revs turned a 1-0 halftime deficit into a 3-2 win, stretching their unbeaten run to eight games (7-0-1) and their lead atop the Eastern Conference to a staggering 14 points.
“I think you roll the dice at times with substitutions,” Arena said. “Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t, you know? Today, I think those three players that came in in the second half certainly helped our team.”
The trio didn’t just provide a spark of energy, they directly contributed to all three goals as the Revs burst out of the gates in the second half following an uninspired opening 45 minutes. Boateng was involved in the buildup to all three goals, Buchanan scored the second with a stunning volley, and Buksa battled inside the box to help set up DeJuan Jones’ eventual game winner.
“It was great,” Boateng said. “Adam made a lot of great runs that helped stretch the defense. Great volley by Tajon, making those runs. I think we just brought the energy, and even the guys that were on the field before also responded. The eight guys that were on the field when we came on, it just feels like an energy shift and everyone stepped their game up a little bit.”
Two of those who responded were Tommy McNamara and Arnór Traustason, who had played wider roles in the first half but shifted into central midfield when Boateng and Buchanan came on. The duo combined on the Revs’ first goal, Traustason teeing up McNamara for a 20-yard blast.
“I thought we needed a little bit more bite in the midfield,” Arena said of the shift. “We weren’t getting around the ball at all in the first half and I think that they did a better job there.
“The beauty of Arnór and Tommy is that they’re versatile players. They can play a lot of spots on the field. Over a season and on a week like this, where we’ve got players banged up and fatigued, to have those players with that kind of flexibility is important.”
That flexibility will be important once again this weekend as the Revs will have just two days to recover and prepare for a Saturday night showdown with FC Cincinnati. Traustason will be suspended for that match after being sent off on Wednesday night, but just as the Revs have done all season, they’re confident their depth will continue to shine through.
“Everybody really wants to play, so when you get your chances, guys that come on, everybody’s trying to prove their worth,” said Boateng. “So you work hard, the guys that are on the field get their chances, and if you look at our games, too, we’ve been rotating a lot. That’s not because Bruce just wants to rest guys. He knows that there are other guys that are on the bench who are doing well in training and deserve the opportunity, too. So, just compete hard in training and leave it up to the coach to make the decision of who plays.”