BY CARL SETTERLUND
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – New England Revolution coach Jay Heaps won’t admit it, but the Revs have been on a revenge tour during their recent unbeaten streak.
New England took another victim on Saturday night at Gillette Stadium, avenging an April loss at D.C. United with a 2-1 win in front of a home crowd of 13,589.
“There are going to be games where you’ve got to find a way,” said Heaps, citing a bit of good fortune in recent blowouts over Seattle and Philadelphia. “Tonight it just felt like we were going to have to make it happen. I credit our guys, I credit our leadership.”
Diego Fagundez and rookie Patrick Mullins both continued their recent hot streaks as Mullins scored the opening goal in the 55th minute, and Fagundez put the host back in front four minutes after Fabian Espindola equalized in the 73rd.
“I think Mullins and I are working very well with each other – and you can even add Teal (Bunbury) in that,” Fagundez said. “All three of us are working a lot better than in the beginning of the season. We’re moving off the ball well and making good runs. As long as we keep playing like this, more goals will come.”
The win increases the Revs’ unbeaten stretch to seven games (6-0-1), while they’ve also won the past five games outright to improve to an Eastern Conference-leading 7-3-2 record.
D.C. United, meanwhile, fell to 5-4-3 overall.
The game also marked the return of MLS Defender of the Year Jose Goncalves, who had missed the previous five games with a right quad injury. The team captain was back at center back, with Andrew Farrell returning to right back.
Ironically, Goncalves’ return also marked the end of New England’s home shutout streak, which spanned 433 minutes to start the 2014 season.
Heaps said the decision of who to drop from the back line (Darrius Barnes) was his toughest decision of the season, but he just couldn’t justify going without Goncalves’ leadership.
“If you ever worried about complacency, go in a locker room 10 minutes before a game and I’ll tell you right now, Jose is going to eliminate any complacency in anyone,” Heaps said.
After a quiet first half, heavy rain early in the second half loosened up the play.
The Revs’ first goal came off a long run by Fagundez, who carried the ball in from left midfield, but was halted at the six-yard box by a Jeff Parke tackle.
“I tried to cut inside and take some players on,” Fagundez said. “When I saw that I was one on one I tried to shoot it and even though it didn’t work out, luckily Patrick was there.
Before D.C. could clear it, Mullins swooped in for his fourth goal in as many games, tiptoeing past Parke and slotting past Bill Hamid to make it 1-0.
“The things that people aren’t realizing is his hold-up play, his movement,” said Bunbury, whose move to the right wing has facilitated Mullins’ expanded role. “He’s just creating a lot of havoc for defenses, which don’t go on the stats sheet.”
The visitors got their revenge in the 73rd minute, as Espinolda ended up on the end of a left side cross by Cristian, sending a low shot past Bobby Shuttleworth.
“It’s mostly just that I’m proud about the way we went about the game, barreling back to get to 1-1,” D.C. United coach Ben Olsen said. “We should find a way to get a result out of that, but overall I’m very pleased with the way we played and fought.”
With a run of strong play to keep their confidence from waning, the Revs went back in front soon after as Bunbury continued his effectiveness from the right wing with a centering pass from the end line that made it to Fagundez.
Hamid got his fingertips on it, but ended up directing the ball straight over to Fagundez, who was unguarded at the far side, burying the golden chance.
The 19-year-old Fagundez now has four goals in the last three games after going without one over the Revs’ first nine fixtures.
“After I scored that first goal this season it opened up a lot for me,” Fagundez said. “I think a lot of other players will tell you the same thing.”
New England has run into some good fortune in its recently, as its last three opponents (Seattle, Philadelphia and D.C.) all came in off of mid-week games.
“Coming off three games in a week, I think we came here, we matched them, and then some,” said D.C. midfielder Davy Arnaud.
The Revs will look to keep their streak going next weekend at 7 p.m. EST, playing away to Montreal, while they’ll finish up before the World Cup break with an anticipated home match against the New York Red Bulls on Sunday, June 8.
D.C. faces another challenging stretch, playing three games in 12 days starting with Sporting Kansas City at home at 7 p.m. EST next Saturday.