HARRISON, N.J. – The floodgates opened on Saturday night at Red Bull Arena as a trio of New England Revolution goals secured a thrilling 3-2 victory at New York City FC, extending the Revs' winning streak to four games and stretching their lead atop the Eastern Conference standings to five points.
As the Revs finished the first half with a 1-0 lead thanks to a critical penalty save from goalkeeper Matt Turner and a stunning wondergoal from Gustavo Bou, the two teams traded chances in the final 45 minutes.
The sides were level at 1-1 until the 78th minute, when magic happened for center back Jon Bell.
Off service from Carles Gil, Bell put away a perfectly-placed header to give the Revs a 2-1 lead, and secure his first career MLS goal.
“[It was] unbelievable,” Bell said as he described the milestone. “I didn’t even know what to do after I scored. I was just in shock and I just started running, basically. I didn’t even know what I was going after.
“Really happy to get my first professional goal, but most importantly we got the three points. It was a really rough second half, but we were able to pull through and get three points on the road.”
Set pieces were a big area of focus in training leading up to the match against New York City, and Bell made the most of the opportunity in the game setting.
“We practice it on the training ground a lot, the free kicks,” said Bell. “I just made sure I was staying onside.
“The second it went past [Adam Buksa], I just knew I had to use my neck and just head it to the left and get it away from the keeper. I had a close one against Red Bulls a couple of weeks ago in that same type of ball from Carles and I messed up on it, so I wanted to make sure I got this one right.”
Head coach Bruce Arena echoed that Bell is still learning following his fourth 90-minute performance, as Bell made his debut just over a month ago at the Philadelphia Union on May 12.
“[He was] good,” said Arena. “He’s still learning. A young defender in our league – his first year in the league, second year for Henry Kessler. We’re giving these guys opportunities to play because we do believe over the length of the season, we need to have three center backs prepared to play.”
Bell also made history as the first Revolution II alum to score in a first team game.
“It was a special moment for me,” said Bell. “Especially because I had a couple of my family that lives in New York, they were there at the game, so it made it even more special for me just to do it.
“It’s definitely going to be a moment I’m never going to forget.”
What is extremely promising about Bell is his ability to honestly assess his performance, and to truly look to improve each and every game. The 23-year-old seeks to get better with every opportunity he gets to go on the field.
“Overall, I think besides the goal I’d probably give myself a C-plus,” said Bell. “I’m a defender first and it’s to defend goals, and we didn’t do our job. We conceded early in the second half and then we conceded in the last 10 minutes of the game, and for us that’s unacceptable.
“For myself, I think overall I did alright, but still a little bit disappointed we conceded two goals.”
Bell and his teammates will look to build upon this performance and improve the Revs' winning streak to five games when they host the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday June, 23 at Gillette Stadium.