FOXBORO, Mass. – Lee Nguyen’s ninth goal of the season was enough to propel the New England Revolution past the Montreal Impact 1-0 at Gillette Stadium on Saturday night. But whether Nguyen’s strike will play a part in getting the Revolution into the playoffs remains to be seen.
New England are one point behind Atlanta United for the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot – but Atlanta host Dallas on Sunday and have three games in hand on the Revs. But the Revolution are nevertheless trying to keep their slim hopes alive, having now won three of their last five matches ahead of Wednesday’s visit to Atlanta.
“That’s what it’s going to take to try to get above red line,” said Nguyen. “Montreal is a good team, they gave us a good battle. We needed three points and the guys fought through and we were able to get that goal. I was in a spot to finish and it was a good thing I did, because guys fought hard to get that clean sheet, which was important. We needed to step up tonight.”
Montreal proved to be tough for the Revolution to breakdown, as they aligned in a defensive, 3-5-2 formation, with the attack working through Blerim Dzemaili and Ignacio Piatti. The Revolution threatened only a handful of times before Nguyen finally bulged the net in the 68th minute.
The decisive play started with Teal Bunbury feeding the ball forward to Nguyen, who took possession into the box. Nguyen danced past Laurent Ciman, then faked out Victor Cabrera before slotting a shot past Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush and in off the left post.
“He’s a class player,” said Heaps of Nguyen. “He shows it year after the year in crunch time. Tonight was as crunch time as you can get.”
With Montreal needing a response the game opened up quickly; Diego Fagundez, who did not start but came on as a substitute in the 57th minute for Juan Agudelo, shot off the crossbar in the 71st. Kei Kamara volleyed the rebound off the bar again as Montreal scrambled to clear.
The Impact misfired on a pair of close chances at the start of both halves. Piatti went in alone on net off a giveaway in the first minute, his shot blocked from inside the penalty area by Revolution goalkeeper Cody Cropper. In the 48th minute, Chris Duvall’s feed from the left flank reached a wide open Anthony Jackson-Hamel at the edge of the box, but the ensuing shot sailed wide of the far post.
Cropper and the Revolution haven’t conceded a goal at home since a 4-3 victory against the Los Angeles Galaxy on July 22; Saturday marked the team’s seventh clean sheet of the season.
Despite giving up the goal, Bush did a fine job keeping the Revolution at bay. He stopped a drive by Nguyen in the 13th minute and dropped low to deny Bunbury in the 38th.
“For me this is one of the sweetest wins possible,” said Antonio Delamea, who returned to the lineup after serving on the Slovenian national team for a pair of World Cup qualifiers last weekend. “It showed we were all good defending and it was a very good team effort. That leads to our win tonight. There was a lot of pressure on us…We were very focused the whole week. We trained very good. We were locked in this game, and that leads to this win.”
With this result now in the past, the Revolution are turning their attention to their first-ever match against Atlanta at the newly-built Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Heaps noted in his post-game press conference – in Belichikian manner – that he is on to Atlanta, and told his players to do the same thing when he visited the locker room.
“If you want to jump right to Atlanta now, I’m there,” said Heaps. This game is over, we knew we had to win it. We did that, we fought hard, and now everything is on to Atlanta.”