NEW YORK – Bruce Arena urged his New England Revolution squad to get off to a fast start on Sunday afternoon at Yankee Stadium, and they very much obliged.
Teal Bunbury opened the scoring in just the third minute and Lee Nguyen added a necessary insurance strike in the late stages as the Revs took down New York City FC, 2-1, improving their road record to 4-1-0 since the re-start in mid-August and climbing to within one point of NYCFC for 5th place in the East.
“I think it was huge,” Bunbury said of the early goal, his fifth of the season to tie the injured Gustavo Bou for the team lead. “We were talking about getting the first foul, first goal, and really wanted to take it to them. We know it’s a tough place to play here at Yankee Stadium, so I think that was huge for our morale.”
Bunbury, starting as the No. 9 for the first time since September 12, exploited NYCFC’s high line from the jump. Playing a quick one-two with Nguyen near midfield Bunbury sprang in alone, held off the challenge of two backtracking NYCFC defenders, and poked a left-footed shot past goalkeeper Sean Johnson.
It was the perfect illustration of how the Revs had hoped Bunbury could impact the game.
“We know NYC likes to play a high line and there were going to be opportunities, if we were able to find time on the ball, to find (Bunbury, Tajon Buchanan and Cristian Penilla) in the space,” said Nguyen. “When you have three fast guys up top, that’s heaven for me, to have all those kinds of options.”
“The pressure was coming on my back and Sean Johnson is a great keeper; he was coming out,” Bunbury said. “I had a feeling he was going to try to get low, so I maybe wanted to try to scoop it over his legs a little bit and I’m just fortunate it went in.”
There was a sense that perhaps the Revs had scored too early, as NYCFC somewhat predictably responded by taking control of the game towards the end of the first half. But the Revs held firm, and Nguyen’s late penalty helped the seal the deal on an important victory.
“Obviously, in our sport, a one-goal lead early in the game is important,” said Arena. “However … we still had 87 minutes, and it certainly wasn’t easy. 87 [minutes] plus four [minutes of stoppage time]. So, it was challenging, but certainly getting off to an early lead was critically important.”
Sunday’s win will give the Revs a boost of energy as they head into their quickest turnaround of the season, with just two days to prepare for Wednesday night’s return trip the Tri-State Area, where they’ll visit the Montreal Impact at Red Bull Arena.
“I’m really happy and proud of the way we played tonight,” said Bunbury. “We worked for each other. It was a battle. I think we got stuck in some tackles, weren’t easy to play against. There’s still some things to work on, but coming in here, and we’ve been talking about these six-point swings, so this was huge for us.”