BOSTON -- For Jay Heaps, there’s nothing like a U.S. Open Cup game to bring out the competitive fire amongst his players.
“We had a lot of guys that were ready to go,” Heaps said after the game. “You could tell that we started really well. We created a lot of chances and scored some goals.”
It was certainly evident early on that Rowe, in particular, was ready to make a positive impression with his head coach. Only four minutes into the match, he collected a short pass from Gabe Latigue -- another player auditioning for minutes with the Revolution -- and fired it inside the near post for the opening goal.
“[Gabe Latigue] gave me the ball, and I saw an opening and thought ‘Might as well,’ it’s the first couple of minutes of the game,’” Rowe said after the game. “I wanted to test the goalie.”
He tested Red Bulls keeper Ryan Meara again in the 37th minute. With the game deadlocked at 1-1 thanks to a 30th-minute Fabian Espindola effort, Rowe cracked another long-range shot that Meara simply couldn’t get a piece of before it settled into the net.
“(On) the second one, I think Gabe made a run inside and pulled the defender out,” Rowe said. “And I thought, again, ‘I mean, I made the run, may as well shoot it’ and it ended up going far post.”
Rowe’s first-half strikes made it two straight Open Cup contests in which he’s tallied twice. Against Rochester on May 28, the sophomore midfielder struck in each half of a 5-1 third-round victory.
“When he shoots in on goal, it's usually going in,” Heaps said. “He's got one of the best shots I've seen, right or left foot. He was fired up for tonight. Right from the open, his touch was on. His movement was good. His pressure was good. He had a nice night.”
Meanwhile, another Revolution reserve player was making a case for more minutes, and his strongest argument came in the 51st minute.
With the Revolution holding onto a tenuous one-goal lead, Imbongo chased down a long ball from Darrius Barnes, his defender, then acrobatically placed his shot past Meara at the near post to score what proved to be the game-winner.
Then there was Barrett, the consummate pro whose tireless work ethic kept the Red Bulls back line on guard for much of his 83 minutes on the field.
All in all, the performances put in by Rowe, Imbongo and Barrett all served to highlight the heightened competition for spots on the Revolution roster. And with Saturday’s league game against the Whitecaps coming quickly, Heaps couldn’t help but see how hungry some of his players are for minutes.
“What I take from tonight is that guys want to be on the field in Vancouver,” Heaps said. “There’s going to be competition for every spot. It’s a healthy competition, but when they get on the field like this and they perform, it makes the coaches have to make decisions.”