By KEVIN KOCZWARA
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. —The New England Revolution made a statement to the rest of the Eastern Conference on Sunday evening.
The Philadelphia Union had no answer for the Revolution’s young attacking tandem of Diego Fagundez, Juan Agudelo, and Kelyn Rowe, as the trio scored four goals and forced an own goal from Amobi Okugo, who was also sent off, in a 5-1 rout at Gillette Stadium. The Union (10-8-8, 38 pts.), who had two goals called back in the second half, struggled to continue their recent strong defensive form, while the Revolution (10-9-6, 36 pts.) was able to exploit space and finish their scoring chances..
“I think there’s some plays that are made early in that second half and we felt like we did all the right things coming out of the locker room at half-time and had the momentum and get the equalizer and feel like we got the go-ahead goal twice and for whatever reason the officials felt otherwise,” said Union head coach John Hackworth to reporters after the game. “It’s incredibly hard to take that part of it because it changes so much. And then you got to give New England credit because they were really good. I mean, Kelyn [Rowe] has two fantastic goals and they kept going after it.”
Rowe opened the scoring in the 26th minute with a low shot that beat Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath. The Revs’ midfielder found space after patient build-up play from center-back Jose Goncalves and Chad Barrett, who set up Rowe with a pass into space. Rowe took Barrett’s pass and, thanks to Agudelo and Fagundez dragging defenders with separate runs off the ball, was able to place a shot low and out of MacMath’s reach.
The Revolution had a chance to put the game out of reach for the Union in the waining minutes of the first half when Fagundez found space down the right of the field and set-up Agudelo, alone inside the Philadelphia penalty area, but the forward couldn’t turn his shot on frame and sent it wide of the goal.
The Union came out in the second half and put the Revolution under pressure and, if not for some unlucky calls and timing, could have taken the lead.
“I thought it was a good start for us. We came out with the right mentality and we had a nice goal. I thought our first half was really good, and we probably should have had a second goal right before half,” said Revolution head coach Jay Heaps after the game. “And then the second half, really credit John Hackworth and credit Philly.
“They came out and changed their formation and really changed the tempo of the game and unfortunately we didn’t react real well until we were tied. But then, as we managed and figured out what we were doing, we had a couple communications that opened it up and we were able to turn the game around.”
Danny Cruz equalized for the Union in the 50th minute after getting on the end of a Conor Casey through-ball and rounding New England goalkeeper Matt Reis to put the ball in the back of the net.
The Union were then unlucky in the 53rd minute when defender Sheanon Williams shot blistered past Reis off the far-post and fell to Sebastien Le Toux unmarked in the box, but the Union forward was ruled offside and his goal was called back.
The visitors had a second goal called back by referee Allen Chapman in the 56th minute. Casey, again, was in the middle of the mess. The forward from Dover, NH, collided with Revolution defender A.J. Soares and Reis as the Revolution goalkeeper seemed to lose control of the ball in his hands and Casey poked it into the back of the net. But Chapman blew the whistle for a foul on Casey and called the goal back. It was the second goal called back on the Union, and Cruz felt it was harsh to bring it back.
“I think that calling back that second goal – the second goal that Conor [Casey] had – I think it was unfair to us,” Cruz said after the game. “We worked very hard to get in the position that we were in and unfortunately, I feel like the refereeing was very one-sided and that goal kind of epitomized the night for us, I feel like.”
The Union would never recover from its missed opportunities and New England was able to make the most of a stretched and frustrated Union side. The Revolution fought back, recouped and stormed the Union goal with one counter-attack after another.
“I thought we came out flat at half and I hate that,” said Heaps. “I am really disappointed in that, but I am proud of the way the guys reacted.”
The Revolution regained their composure and took back the lead in the 58th minute when Fagundez found space on the right and laid off a pass to Agudelo, much like int he first half, and the 20-year-old forward struck a low shot off of a sliding Okugo and wrong-footed MacMath.
Rowe then gave New England a cushion and put the Revolution on their way to a rout with a 30-yard strike that dipped and swerved into the top-corner of MacMath’s net in the 65th minute. The Union goalkeeper never had a chance to save the shot. It was Rowe’s third goal in the last two games.
“It’s one of those where if you make one, you want to make two, three, four,” Rowe said. “For me, [the first goal] just gave me that little bit of confidence to hit that second one.”
Fagundez added a fourth goal in the 71st minute on another quick counter-attack that was started by a pass from teammate Scott Caldwell that put the 18-year-old one-on-one with Okugo and the Revs’ forward got the best of the Union defender and snuck a shot just inside the near post.
Agudelo put the game out of reach two minutes later when he blasted a shot into the top of the net after a slick pass from Fagundez to Dimitry Imbongo, who flicked the ball to Agudelo alone inside the Union penalty area.
The Union came into Sunday’s game with the Revolution in good form, especially defensively. Philadelphia had kept four clean sheets in it last five games. The Union will be without Okugo, who was sent off in extra-time, when they host the Montreal Impact next weekend.
With the win, New England moved ahead of the Houston Dynamo into the final playoff spot, fifth place, in the Eastern Conference and just two points behind Philadelphia with a game in hand on the Union. The Revolution have a short week this week, though, and will visit Toronto FC on Friday.
Here are the match highlights: