FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – A halftime tactical adjustment and a little help from Mother Nature spurred the New England Revolution to a 2-0 win over the Houston Dynamo on Saturday afternoon.
It was a tepid first half at Gillette Stadium as neither side managed to generate a shot on target, but head coach Jay Heaps urged the Revs to be more aggressive after the break, exploiting the Dynamo’s high line and using the shifting winds to their advantage.
“The wind was very difficult to play in,” Heaps said. “In the first half we were a little bit out of sync, we weren’t moving the ball and the tempo wasn’t great. At halftime the conversation was, ‘Let’s speed up the tempo, let’s make sure now that we have a little bit of the wind behind us.’
“We knew how hard it was to play out (of the back); balls were getting slowed up, so we wanted to make sure the tempo changed, that we were going to come out flying.”
The hosts did just that, generating five shots in the opening seven minutes of the second half, capped by Kei Kamara’s second goal of the season in the 52nd minute, a sequence that featured a penetrating through ball from Lee Nguyen to spring the eventual goal scorer on a breakaway.
“The real tactical shift was to leave Kei and Juan a little higher because they were going 2-v-2, and to make sure we hit the early ball,” Heaps said. “It was on in the first half and we never found the early ball, but I think a perfect example of it was Lee to Kei for the goal.”
Agudelo added New England’s second in the 72nd minute – his third goal of the young season – to make the lead a bit more comfortable, but in reality, the Revs were rarely troubled.
Rookie Josh Smith put together another clean performance in his second-career appearance, Kelyn Rowe was solid in his first-ever start at left back, and Xavier Kouassi played a key role in midfield, cutting out passing lanes and snuffing out Houston attacks before they developed.
Goalkeeper Cody Cropper also did his part, rushing off his line to collect the ball of Erick “Cubo” Torres’ foot on a 61st-minute breakaway and pushing away a Ricardo Clark drive three minutes later to help preserve the Revolution’s first clean sheet of 2017.
“That was our main objective today,” Agudelo said of keeping Houston’s high-flying attack off the board. “We could’ve won the game 1-0 and been happy. That’s the first thing I did when the (final) whistle blew was go up to the defenders, because they deserved it.”
The win pushed the Revs into a tie for third place in the Eastern Conference – at least temporarily – and stretched their league-best home winning streak to six games dating back to last season.
More importantly, New England are 2-0-1 in their last three games and confidence is growing ahead of next weekend’s trip to visit the Chicago Fire for their first meeting with an Eastern Conference foe.
“When you go away on a road trip and you get a tie, and then you come home and you get three points, that’s huge,” said Diego Fagundez. “That’s what we need to keep doing. This team knows where the mindset is right now, so we just have to keep going and keep focusing on the next game.”