By KEVIN KOCZWARA
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Diego Fagundez kept the New England Revolution’s playoff dreams alive on Saturday night. The Revolution forward’s goal in the 76th minute, his 12th of the season, was the difference as the Revs defeated the Columbus Crew, 3-2, in front of a season-high crowd of more than 26,000 fans at Gillette Stadium on Saturday night.
The victory helped keep the Revs alive in the MLS playoff race. They now sit in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, ahead of the Houston Dynamo via tiebreakers, but the Dynamo play the New York Red Bulls on Sunday with a chance to jump back ahead of New England.
Fagundez was awarded the team MVP award before the match, again he proved the difference maker for the Revolution with his fifth game-winning goal of the season. Despite being just 18 years old, Fagundez has already developed a knack for shining bright in the spotlight, even when it appears he has drifted out of a game.
“The bigger the crowd, the bigger the moment, Diego rises to the occasion,” Revolution coach Jay Heaps said after the game about Fagundez’s game-winning goal. “I thought he had a good first half and then he was one of the guys that got quiet, but he never gets silent. I think he gets quiet and in the break game we couldn’t find him – in that transition break – but he just kept going and he just knows how to score when he gets some time.”
New England looked in control of the match in the early stages of the game. Kelyn Rowe sprung Juan Agudelo for the for first chance of the game with a 40-yard pass that split the Crew defense in the seventh minute, but the Agudelo’s chip went wide of Matt Lampson’s goal.
Five minutes later, it was Rowe again setting up a Revolution chance. The midfielder whipped in a free kick from the right-side of the Columbus penalty area that the Crew defense did well to clear, but Rowe followed up the clearance by heading it back into the penalty area towards Agudelo, who headed the ball back across goal toward Andy Dorman. Dorman, who was starting his second game of the season, got his left-foot around on the bouncing ball but couldn’t get the shot past a diving Lampson.
Despite only playing 220 minutes coming into Saturday’s game, Dorman didn’t show any signs of rust. The midfielder put in a Man of the Match effort and had a hand in all three of New England’s goals after missing his chance to open the scoring in the 12th minute.
Dorman drew a foul at the edge of the Crew penalty area in the 31st minute that led to New England’s first goal. Rowe stepped up to take the free-kick from a promising area and whipped a cross into the box with pace. This time, though, it was met by A.J. Soares and the Revolution defender flicked the header past Lampson for his first goal of the season.
“Kelyn Rowe put a beautiful ball in and A.J. attacks the ball,” Heaps said. “He’s one of our best set-piece guys; he’s scored goals like that a few times in his career.”
Columbus went into half knowing they needed to score two goals to keep their slim playoff hopes in tact. Knowing a draw or a loss killed all hopes of a miraculous playoff appearance, coach Brian Bliss brought on Aaron Schoenfeld for Ethan Finlay at half-time. The move paid off almost immediately as Columbus came out and press New England, creating a few chances and taking the Revs out of their rhythm before leveling the score in the 59th minute.
“There was little bit more direct play going and we decided at half-time if both teams are going to play a little more direct and look for second balls that Aaron [Shoenfeld] would be a little more helpful than a couple of the other guys we had on the bench and it proved to be right.
Dorman, again, was the catalyst for getting the Revolution on top again. In the 68th minute, Dorman went down in the box after a Toni Tchani challenge and referee Mark Geiger pointed to the penalty spot, awarding the Revolution a penalty and a chance to go ahead again. Chris Tierney stepped up to the spot and beat Lampson, giving the Revs a 2-1 lead. But it would only last a few minutes.
The Crew leveled the score quickly, again, thanks to Schoenfeld’s ability to work space and play with his back to goal. The second-half substitute was able to hold off the Revolution defense after receiving the ball in the penalty area with his back to goal and did well to turn onto his left-foot and get enough power on the shot to drive it past a diving Matt Reis.
“I thought [Aaron] Schoenfeld did a great job coming in,” Crew defender Will Trapp said after the game. “[He was] dynamic, fought for every ball, made it real difficult for their center backs and defenders.”
Again, though, Dorman was there to in a big moment for the Revolution when they needed him the most. The veteran midfielder burst into the box after solid build-up play to get onto the end of a Dimitry Imbongo pass, and with a tight angle to shoot, the midfielder pulled a pass across goal that found an unmarked Fagundez, and the 18-year-old blasted the shot past Lampson.
“I was trying to shoot across the goal and Diego [Fagundez] is always in those spots to sneak a goal” Dorman said after the game about the game-winning goal. “He got another important goal for the team.”
Here are the match highlights:
Another week, another game attended by 20K plus fans. Wait, what?
Your thoughts on AJ Soares being a potential USMNT call up?
When AJ was first drafted he had USMNT potential, but he has struggled this year and there were a stretch of games where he wasn’t even in the starting lineup. He’s a good CB, but I don’t think it’s USMNT level.
However, Kelyn Rowe should at least be invited to some camps for the 2018 cycle. Also Andrew Farrell, but he needs to work on less turnovers and better crosses into the box.
No thank you. AJ is way too soft for the international game and his distribution skills, which he was once touted for, have seriously regressed. Defensively, his positioning is sound and he is weapon on set pieces (obviously, as displayed in this match) but he’s paper tiger who spends way too much time rolling around on the ground to be included in a discussion about the Nats.
As Revver suggests, Rowe is a better Nat prospect – he has a good touch, moves well off the ball and seems quite coachable. He doesn’t have much bite nor is a pure playmeker, so I’m not sure where he fits into the picture for the Nats but he definitely has enough talent to enter the discussion.
Regarding Farrell – he really isn’t a fullback but he’s playing there out of need. If the Revs could ever get 2 solid fullbacks, he could be slotted in CB or play the DM, allowing Caldwell to play a more advanced role.