NEW YORK – Brad Friedel called upon his New England Revolution side to put forth “a monumental effort” on Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium, where the Revs were staring down the league’s only remaining team with an unbeaten home record, New York City FC.
Friedel’s players heeded that call, scratching and clawing their way to an enormous 1-0 victory, snapping their nine-game winless run and pulling to within three points of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference – with a game in hand – in the process.
“It’s a really big point in our season,” said Brad Knighton, who made five saves to keep a clean sheet in his first start of the year. “For us to come here – they haven’t lost at home all season – for us to get three points and get out of here is something special for this group, and something hopefully we can build on moving forward.”
It was a special night for the Revs, but a particularly special night for a couple individual players, including Brian Wright. The second-year forward made his first MLS start and made it count by bagging his first goal, the game winner midway through the second half.
Wright, who had already hit the post and seen a goal chalked off for offside before making the breakthrough, was on hand to punch home a rebound after Cristian Penilla’s initial shot had been parried away by NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson.
“I knew I was about to come off,” said Wright, who was replaced by Isaac Angking – making his pro debut – immediately after scoring. “It was an unbelievable feeling, to be honest, knowing that it was the game winner, but also to help the team.
“I know people are out right now – suspended, or hurt or whatnot – and it feels good to be able to step into the role that Teal (Bunbury’s) been doing all season, and a great job for us, and show that we do have some depth on this team.”
Wright, who had played just 117 minutes in eight substitute appearances before Wednesday night, was called upon with Bunbury – the Revs’ leading scorer with 11 goals on the year – sidelined by injury.
It wasn’t a decision made simply out of necessity, however – rather, it was a move that Friedel said the 23-year-old forward earned with his efforts on the training ground.
“Brian’s probably the best out-and-out finisher we have at the club – once Krisztián Németh left – just striking ability of the ball,” said Friedel. “Teal Bunbury has been doing so well, it was difficult for Brian to get minutes.
“With Teal not making it through injury, it was very good for him to play tonight.”
Wright will likely have a continued role to play as the Revs push for a playoff spot through the final seven games of the season, and with that first MLS start and goal under his belt, Wright’s confidence will only grow as he continues to see the field more and more.
“This kid stays after training, works on finishing, works on aspects of his game – he was just waiting for a chance,” said Knighton. “He’s come off the bench a couple times this season and it’s tough when you’re coming off the bench and only getting a couple minutes here and there.
“Unfortunately Teal has another knock and it opened the door for Brian, and Brian stepped in. It’s like he’s been in the league forever – stepped in and played his role tremendously, and got the goal that we needed to get the three points.”