FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Although the Revs squandered yet another late-game lead in their 2-2 draw with New York, the silver lining had to be Milton Caraglio’s exquisite two-goal performance Saturday night.
The 22-year-old striker, who was signed Aug. 2 as the Revs' first-ever designated player, was kept off the score sheet during his first three games in a Revolution uniform and undoubtedly wanted to prove that he was worthy of the designated-player tag.
He wouldn’t have to wait long. Against the Red Bulls, the Argentine striker made his mark in a big way. By scoring two goals and nearly netting a third, Caraglio not only gave New England an encouraging two-goal cushion going into the locker room at halftime, but also showed why he deserved the tag.
“He made a huge difference to us getting out [to a lead],” Revolution coach Steve Nicol said. “It’s just exactly what you want from a center-forward.”
The 6-foot-2, 195-pound center-forward nearly found his first MLS goal six minutes into the match when Kenny Mansally played it ahead to the far post. But Caraglio nodded it hard off the turf before it bounced over the crossbar.
Despite the miss -- one that the striker visibly rued -- it wasn’t long before he made up for it.
In the 15th minute, Caraglio collected a loose ball in the box and fired away, but saw the shot stopped by Bouna Condoul. But Caraglio collected the rebound, took a touch around defender Chris Albright, and left-footed it into the twine for his first MLS goal.
“I found an opening [after Coundoul’s save] and scored on my second try,” Caraglio said through a translator.
While Caraglio made it sound simple, the degree of difficulty on the goal wasn’t exactly low. On the play, Caraglio not only had to reclaim the rebound and shake his defender, but also crack a perfect shot to put it through.
But the Argentine wasn’t done. With the interval approaching, Caraglio took hold of another Mansally pass -- this time from a free kick on the right flank -- and nodded it into the net to give the Revs a stunning two-goal lead against the dangerous Red Bulls.
“Obviously, scoring two goals is great,” Nicol said. “He held the ball up great and put [some] shots in.”
Even with a pair of goals already in his pocket, Caraglio was still trucking in the waning minutes of the half. From a Shalrie Joseph header, Caraglio had the ball right in front of him deep in the box. But with Condoul closing in, the striker couldn’t get a quality shot off in the 40th minute.
And while he may have come up short of a hat trick, it was evident that he and recently-returned Rajko Lekic formed the kind of strike partnership that the Revs’ attack -- which has averaged a lethargic one goal per game this year -- has been lacking.
“I think it’s huge,” Nicol said. “It’s a big difference when you have two guys up front who can hold the ball up and obviously it gets us a step further up the field.”
Indeed, with Caraglio and Lekic working in tandem to sharpen the Revolution attack, the Red Bulls were pressured often in the first half, even though it was the first time the duo had played together in a match.
“The truth is [playing alongside Lekic] was very good,” Caraglio said. “We understand each other very well and it is good to find a striker with similar characteristics.”
But after Caraglio’s two goals gave the Revs a promising start, New York would eventually respond in the second half. In the 53rd minute, Dane Richards cut the lead in half on a breakaway goal, then equalized it with three minutes remaining as the Revs, who watched another first-half lead evaporate, were left to wonder “what if?” for the third straight game.
“In the final minutes of play, we tried to maintain the lead and avoid conceding a goal but we couldn’t do it,” Caraglio said. “Those are the things that we need to improve and continue to work on so that it doesn’t happen again.”
In the wake of the disappointing draw, the Argentine couldn’t help but feel that some of the gloss on his breakthrough performance was tarnished.
“It’s a bittersweet moment,” Caraglio said. “We didn’t get the victory, and we still have a lot to work on.”