WASHINGTON, D.C. – It took every bit of an hour for the New England Revolution to find their footing on Wednesday night at Audi Field, but when they did, they did so to devastating effect in a come-from-behind, 3-2 win over D.C. United.
New England got to halftime scoreless but started the second half slowly and conceded the opening goal in the 51st minute, Nigel Robertha capitalizing on a poor giveaway in the midfield. But for the fifth time this season the Revs claimed three points despite conceding first, and they did so on the back of their trio of Designated Players.
Adam Buksa, Carles Gil, and Gustavo Bou all scored in an 18-minute span between the 61st and 79th minutes – the first time all three DPs have scored in the same game – and the Revs held on for their 21st win of the season, and their 10th away from home.
“An odd game. A sloppy game on our part,” said head coach Bruce Arena, now one win shy of matching Sigi Schmid for the most regular-season victories in MLS history (240). “I think we were outplayed in the first half. Conceding the first goal is not a formula to win games, yet we showed the kind of character we’ve shown all year. I thought Adam had a great goal. Certainly, the next two by Carles and Gustavo were outstanding goals, as well.”
One adjustment that helped spark the Revolution’s comeback was a shift in Gil’s positioning following the halftime break. D.C. midfielder Felipe man-marked Gil throughout the first half, so Arena opted to push Gil wide right in the second half, hoping that would open up space in the middle of the field.
It did, and the Revolution exploited that space to the tune of three goals.
“All this season, we’ve had so much confidence in everyone, in every teammate,” said Gil, a league MVP frontrunner with four goals and 17 assists on the year. “Yes, of course, we know it’s a difficult league. We had a difficult moment, but we always have confidence. We know we can score in every moment.”
That quiet confidence has carried the Revolution in recent weeks. Wednesday night was the third time in the past seven games the Revs have conceded the first goal, but they’ve responded on each occasion to the tune of a 2-0-1 record. They also conceded first when D.C. United visited Gillette Stadium back in mid-August, and responded in similar fashion with a 3-2 victory.
As the playoffs approach the Revs know they’ll need to avoid falling behind moving forward, but there’s also a belief that an attacking outburst like Wednesday night’s is always lurking just beneath the surface.
“We have a lot of experience on the team,” said Tommy McNamara, who registered the second multi-assist game of his career on Wednesday. “Maybe when things are going against us or things aren’t quite how we want it to be, we kind of have experienced that before and as a group we’re like, ‘Okay, it’s alright, we can come through this. We just need to survive this period and then we’ll shift the momentum back into our favor again and we’ll have opportunities.’
“So, I think it’s just the overall quality that we have, and the different characteristics give us a lot of different ways to play. And then I think it’s just the experience of the group.”
That experience has the Revolution on the verge of the first Supporters’ Shield in club history, as their magic number to clinch is now just two points following Wednesday night’s win combined with Seattle Sounders FC’s draw with the Colorado Rapids. They could do so as early as Saturday afternoon should the Sounders lose or draw at home against Sporting Kansas City.
“It was good to get the win tonight and have the correct approach to the game and the correct mindset,” said McNamara. “Not so great that we went down a goal at first, but to win the game was very important for us and the way that we did and in the fashion that we did it. Hopefully we can kind of continue to improve and finetune our performances, because we can still be better as a group.”