Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By TIM FONTENAULT
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New York Red Bulls went to Gillette Stadium without Jamison Olvae, Roy Miller and Thierry Henry. They left with three points.
Luis Robles registered his third clean sheet of the season, playing hero Sunday in play after nerve-racking play for the Red Bulls, who ended a four-match winless run with a 2-0 win over the New England Revolution.
Robles was challenged after 30 seconds on a long strike by Patrick Mullins, but he easily handled it for the first of his 10 saves on the afternoon.
Most of New England’s chances were like the first, long-range efforts with a lot of pace. Robles stopped them all.
“Luis, like he has all year, he made some key saves for us, 100 percent,” New York manager Mike Petke said. “Obviously, I’m a little concerned on how we gave up some of the opportunities we did, but it’s a great feeling to know you have someone back there who – nine out of 10 times – you feel is going to make those saves.”
The Revolution maintained control of possession for most of the half, keeping the ball away from New York for long stretches of time. However, the Red Bulls were able to take advantage of a rare goalkeeping mishap from Bobby Shuttleworth and put the Eastern Conference leaders in a situation they had yet to face at Gillette Stadium this season.
Shuttleworth came off his line in an effort to clear a corner kick, ignoring the multiple Revolution defenders in position to deal with Lloyd Sam’s service. The lapse in judgement pinned Shuttleworth between multiple New York players, and it left the net wide open for Eric Alexander, who headed the ball into the empty net, giving New York a 17th-minute lead. New England had not trailed in its first five home matches, and Alexander’s goal was only the second the Revolution had conceded at home all season.
Even after scoring the opener, New York found itself pinned back, defending against the fast-paced attack of the Revolution. Despite the absences of Olave and World Cup-bound Miller, the Red Bulls were able to force most of the Revolution’s opportunities to come from outside the box.
A key factor in the back for New York was 18-year-old Matt Miazga, who earned his first start in Major League Soccer on Sunday. Petke and Robles sang his praises after the match, crediting him for showing no fear against such a big opponent.
“We said, ‘You know what, maybe this is a game for Matt Miazga,’ ” Petke said. “Perhaps the moment is going to be so grand for him that he’s not even going to feel the pressure, you know, as a young guy. And I thought Matt did very well on his debut tonight. I’m very proud of him.”
New England’s chances in the box were few and far between, but Diego Fagundez nearly made one count in stoppage time of the first half, making a run that brought up memories of Sergio Aguero’s run to win the Premier League for Manchester City in 2012. Fagundez was able to beat Robles with a shot across the goal, but his effort slammed off the post and bounced away.
The game became more of a back-and-forth affair in the second half, but again, it was New England getting the better of the scoring chances. Robles continued to answer the call for New York.
New England nearly equalized, albeit through a potential own goal around the 70th-minute mark. A free kick swung into the box and bounced around before deflecting off a New York defender with enough pace to find the net, but Robles made a sprawling save and recovered a ricochet to keep the ball safely out of the net.
Minutes later, Peguy Luyindula secured the three points for the Red Bulls, registering his third goal of the year with a powerful shot that beat Shuttleworth from outside the box, doubling the Red Bulls’ lead with 14 minutes to play.
A critical change in the second half was that New York was able to keep the ball for longer periods of play, preventing New England from going forward on the counter attack as they looked to get back in the match.
“What Mike was saying is that, ‘Hey, there’s no reason why we can’t three points,’ and he kept reiterating that all week,” Robles said. “And we not only came out and put pressure, but we kept the ball. So we’ve had a bad habit on the road of kind of letting them dictate the play, and today we did a good job of dictating the play. And we were lucky to get that goal to start off, so that also put us in a good position.”
New England struggled to create opportunities after that, only getting close to scoring on a cross that again missed everyone in the 89th minute. The Revolution enter the World Cup break on a two-match losing streak after going unbeaten over the previous seven matches.
New York, meanwhile, is feeling confident after taking three points on the road against a team they consider to be one of the best in MLS, and now they have the confidence to go forward into the break and come back ready to go at Toronto FC on June 27.
“We have a great locker room,” Robles said, “and the reason I say that is because when you go four games without a win, it’s easy to start getting down on yourselves and start pointing fingers, but that’s not something that happens here. The guys are very positive, and we know that we believe in each other and our abilities.”