Tactical shift sparks offensive explosion in Revolution’s romp over Minnesota

Juan Agudelo and Lee Nguyen goal celebration

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – A minor change helped spark big results for the New England Revolution in last weekend’s home-opening, 5-2 win over Minnesota United FC.

Juan Agudelo, deployed in a deeper play-making role in the Revolution’s first two matches against Colorado and Dallas, pushed higher alongside Kei Kamara. That meant Lee Nguyen, used as a second forward in the first two games, slid back into his more customary attacking midfield spot.

Although the personnel in that attacking triangle was the same, the shift in starting points showcased each players’ strengths, and Minnesota had fits trying to defend New England’s dynamic movement.

“We hadn’t gotten Lee a ton of the ball in the last couple games,” said head coach Jay Heaps. “I wanted him doing a lot of the work. I wanted to just get a little bit of a feel. They can still interchange, as long as we define the roles a little bit more.

“[Against Minnesota], we did that by design just to get a little bit more for Lee underneath.”

The result was more touches for Nguyen in playmaking positions – he completed three key passes and picked up one assist – and more scoring opportunities for Agudelo, who turned his eight touches inside the box into a pair of goals and a drawn penalty.

The benefits were felt by others, as well, as an Agudelo run opened up space for Kamara to score his first goal of the season, and Diego Fagundez found both Agudelo and Nguyen for a pair of assists.

“I thought we had a bit more mobility up top,” said Agudelo. “(We were) just trying to be a handful. Me and Kei are big, tall, strong guys, so we made it tough on their defense, made them play safe and conservative, and we were able to play underneath them.”

Swapping Agudelo and Nguyen was done, in part, to exploit particular matchups with the Minnesota defense, and pushing Nguyen higher and dropping Agudelo deeper remains an option. But there’s little question that putting the pair in their more natural positions paid big dividends this past weekend.

“It was great,” said Nguyen. “Me and Juan have always been able to interchange and he was able to play up top more. It gave [Minnesota] a different look that they probably hadn’t seen on film yet.

“It was good to be able to intertwine like that, and give the opposing team a different look.”