WASHINGTON, D.C. – Locked in a scoreless draw and searching for a late breakthrough against a tired opponent on Sunday night at Audi Field, Bruce Arena turned to substitutes Adam Buksa and Cristian Penilla for an attacking spark.
The duo delivered with aplomb, as Penilla set up Gustavo Bou’s 86th-minute strike to break the deadlock before adding a second assist on Buksa’s insurance goal four minutes later, sealing the New England Revolution’s 2-0 win over D.C. United and lifting them into fifth place in the Eastern Conference.
“The substitutions from the 60th minute on are designed to get guys on the field to bring energy and to be dangerous going forward in the attack,” said Arena, noting they’d given instructions for Penilla to take on D.C. United’s left back, Joseph Mora, who tired late and was playing on a yellow card. “Simply, the reason that Adam is in the game, Penilla is in the game, [Diego] Fagundez is in the game, etc., is to try to get a goal.”
Perhaps more so than anyone else on the Revolution roster, both Penilla and Buksa were hungry to contribute after being frustrated in recent weeks. Arena has specifically said he needs more out of Penilla, who entered Sunday night with no goals and two assists in 853 minutes of action before doubling that haul in a four-minute span.
Buksa, meanwhile, hadn’t scored since the Revolution’s 1-1 draw with D.C. United on July 17 at the MLS is Back Tournament, snapping a string of nine appearances without finding the back of the net.
“First of all, I’m very happy to have scored a goal,” Buksa said. “For a player it doesn’t really matter how the goal is scored, what’s important is that it’s in the net. Obviously, I think it was a nice one. I’ve been waiting a long time for that, so I’m very happy.”
Bou’s goal may have been the game winner, but Buksa’s was a thing of beauty. Sent into the left side of the box by Penilla, the 6-foot-3 striker showed a delicate touch, deftly chipping the ball over onrushing D.C. goalkeeper Bill Hamid and settling it inside the far post.
The celebration showed just how much it meant to him.
“What a finish. I feel like the ball was in the air for like an hour as he chipped it,” joked Andrew Farrell, who helped the Revs keep their fifth clean sheet of the season and lower their team goals against average to 0.86. “We love having him on our team, and he’s a great teammate and great player on and off the field, so that’s why you saw everybody running to him and celebrating, because he hadn’t scored in a while so I know it meant a lot to him.
“What a great finish, what a good performance defensively, and also for Penilla who also hasn’t scored in a while getting two assists on the night in a big way coming off the bench. Our bench is really important.”
Sunday night’s substitute-fueled performance gave the Revs their first back-to-back wins of the season, and now they’ll look to make it three straight when they host expansion side Nashville SC for their first-ever meeting next Saturday evening at Gillette Stadium.
“I think we’re getting into a rhythm, and like I said, with guys coming off the bench scoring and assisting like that, and our starters doing well and putting in a good shift, we’ve got a good team here,” said Farrell. “We’ve got to take every game one at a time. We’ve got a game against Nashville coming up.
“We’ve just got to be ready for all that, and I think we’re prepared and we’ll be prepared for each game coming up.”