It only took 11 minutes Saturday for the New England Revolution to find itself in an all-too-familiar position this preseason: backed up against a wall.
In their first three games of the winter, the Revolution had failed to secure a single lead, and had been outscored 6-1 within that span. So when Juninho’s blast from outside the 18 gave the Red Bulls the early advantage, well, it didn’t seem to bode well for the Revolution.
Then came the second half.
Lee Nguyen, Jerry Bengtson and Marko Jesic all scored to help the Revolution earn their first preseason victory on Saturday.
“What we were preaching was (the) response,” Revolution head coach Jay Heaps told the media following the 3-1 win. “They scored on their first opportunity, but the response was really good.”
The first half may not have gone the way Heaps scripted it, but the second stanza showed that his players were ready to break out of an offensive funk that saw them score only once this winter.
It began in the 52nd minute, when rookie Donnie Smith gave it a go before it smacked off Jamison Olave’s arm inside the area. Moments later, Nguyen chipped it through from the spot to score the equalizer.
“After their first goal, we didn’t panic,” Ngyuen told the media afterward. “We kept playing and we knew eventually we were going to get a couple of more chances and we put them away. We kept playing the ball and we stuck to our style.”
Smith, who’s currently on trial, boosted his chances on of making the squad only six minutes later. From the left channel, the second-round SuperDraft pick floated it far post to Jerry Bengtson, who flicked it through right on the doorstep.
“The ball kind of bounced up to me and I saw a couple of guys at the back stick,” Smith told the media following the match. “I just tried to serve it in there and Jerry had a great header and put it into the net.”
Although a half hour remained, it was clear that the Revolution were firmly in the driver’s seat. New York undertook wholesale substitutions in the wake of Bengtson’s goal. It was just a matter of holding the lead.
New England did that, and then some. With fulltime approaching, Juan Toja sent Jesic into the area, where the Australian trialist buried it to put the game out of reach.
Heaps challenged his players to respond, and they did just that. While he acknowledged that his team has to do better out of the gate, the early deficit allowed him to convey an important lesson.
“When you do give up a mistake, things shouldn’t change,” Heaps said. “Just (show) a little more energy, a little more response and the guys showed it.”