Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By KEVIN KOCZWARA
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Saer Sene’s 65th minute goal was offset 11 minutes later by a Will Bruin strike in a cagey 1-1 draw between the Houston Dynamo and New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium on Saturday night.
The feisty affair had the air of the tight postseason game with both teams trying to keep their playoff hopes intact while not giving away too much to the other side.
Neither team was able to establish a rhythm in the first half and chances came at a premium as both defenses clogged lanes and played physical. Midfielders found space hard to come by to create or move the ball.
A well-worked free-kick by Lee Nguyen and Chris Tierney in the 39th minute was the best chance of the first half. Nguyen tapped the ball to the left-footed Revs defender and Tierney struck it just wide, hitting Tally Hall’s post.
Houston’s best chance to open the game up came in the 54th minute when Bruin was able to find a bit of space inside the Revolution’s penalty area after a free kick rebound fell to him, but the Dynamo forward wasn’t able to get anything behind the shoot and New England goalkeeper Matt Reis smothered the shot.
It took an injury to Revolution forward Dimitry Imbongo and the introduction of Juan Agudelo in the 61st minute to open up the game.
Agudelo’s movement opened up space instantly for Nguyen in the midfield in the 65th minute and the Revolution midfielder used it well, running at the Houston defense before laying releasing Sene into the Dynamo penalty area. Sene then smashed a shot pass Hall from a tight angle.
Houston didn’t wither after giving up the goal, though. The Dynamo looked for an opening and picked their spot to bring the score level 11 minutes after giving up the goal to Sene.
Boniek Garcia picked out Bruin, who found space just inside the New England penalty area, with a pass and the Houston forward turned with no one on his back unleash a short hat hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced into the New England goal. Bruin was able to find space in the penalty area because New England’s defense was down a man after A.J. Soares went to ground at midfield after getting hit in the ribs, but Houston didn’t slow down and Bruin profited with space and time to turn score.
“I think we showed some character after giving up a goal, and keeping our heads in it and pushing for that goal,” Bruin said after the game. “Boniek [Garcia] and I made eye contact when he picked the ball up and he gave me a great ball, and I just turned and hit it.”
The Revolution tried to pull-back a winner in the final stages of the game with a Sene free-kick, which whistled just wide of the Houston goal in stoppage time, being the best chance to grab a late-winner.
But it wasn’t meant to be for New England, and Houston coach Dominic Kinnear felt the result did justice to both sides and that he was happy with leaving Gillette Stadium with a point.
“It’s a good result,” Kinnear said after the game. “I mean, obviously, coming from down a goal makes it even a little bit better, but I thought it was a pretty evenly matched game. A tie seems to be a little bit fairer – two teams that are fighting for everything now as we are getting close to the end of the season and we’ll take the point.”
With the Philadelphia Union beating Sporting Kansas City on Friday, the Revs fall to sixth in the standings, one point behind Philadelphia and just outside of the playoffs, with the draw at home. New England has four games left, all against Eastern Conference opponents. They head to New York next week to take on the Eastern Conference leaders the Red Bulls. The road doesn’t get any easier after that with a game in Montreal against the Impact and then a home-and-home with the Columbus Crew to close out the season. Heaps knows that no matter what happened at home against Houston, life was always going to difficult for New England in the final weeks of the season as they try to get back to the playoffs.
“I think no matter what happened tonight it was going to be a tough four games coming up,” Heaps said.
Houston keeps hold of the fourth spot in the East with the draw, and with three of their final four games at home, Bruin admits the point on the road is a positive and he hopes it the team can build on the comeback during the final stretch of the season.
“Coming down to the final stretch of games, all the points you can get are the best, especially picking up points on the road are huge,” Bruin said. “Hopefully this can bring some momentum coming home this weekend.”