FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- After lighting up their past two opponents for a combined 10 goals, the Revolution knew that the goals wouldn't come so easy against D.C. United on Saturday.
Not only has D.C. engaged New England with a gritty approach over the years, but United has often brandished a punishing defense that only eight weeks ago held the Revolution scoreless in a 2-0 loss at RFK Stadium.
But even though things didn't look especially promising in the first half, the Revolution prevailed in the second stanza to secure a 2-1 victory over their longtime nemesis.
"I thought it was a good, hard-fought match all the way around," Revolution coach Jay Heaps said after the game. "We knew we weren't going to be given anything, and we had to go take it."
Knowing the challenge his team was up against with second-place D.C. in town, Heaps looked for every advantage he could versus one of the most experienced squads in the conference.
To that end, Heaps reintroduced reigning MLS Defender of the Year Jose Goncalves, who'd missed the past five matches due to a quad injury, into the starting XI. Even though the Revolution defense had meshed well over their course of the club's six-game unbeaten streak entering the match, Heaps felt it was important to have his veterans lead the way against D.C.
But the Revolution coach admitted it wasn't an easy decision to make, especially in light of the fact that it would force Darrius Barnes -- an integral part of the team's back line success in recent weeks -- off the field to make room.
"It was probably my hardest decision of this short season so far, because who do you take out? It's not an easy one," Heaps said. "I thought tonight we needed a little bit of an uptick from some senior leadership because that's what [Jose] does so well.
"I thought that if you ever worried about complacency, going into the locker room 10 minutes before the game, and I'll tell you right now, Jose is going to eliminate any complacency in anyone."
With Goncalves reclaiming his spot at center back, the Revolution captain essentially erased Eddie Johnson from the D.C. attack. Not only was Johnson, who was once considered a possible candidate for World Cup action with the U.S. men's national team this summer, limited to one shot on goal, but he was whistled offside four times on Saturday.
But Goncalves wasn't the only veteran who lent his experience and savvy to the Revolution's cause against D.C. While the likes of Chris Tierney, Andy Dorman and AJ Soares kept their club afloat during a scoreless first half, they also steadied the ship after Fabian Espindola answered Patrick Mullins' opening goal.
"I credit our leadership," Heaps said. "I thought that Tierney, Dorman, Jose and AJ really stepped up their game tonight and fought hard, because D.C.'s a veteran team, and after they scored, you saw them ratchet it up. But I thought our senior guys answered the bell and fought really hard."
Although his younger teammates -- i.e., Diego Fagundez, who scored the 77th-minute winner, Mullins and Teal Bunbury -- might have hogged much of the spotlight, Goncalves was just happy to be back on the pitch and contributing.
"As captain of the club, I want to give [Heaps] confidence that I will be on the field and lead the team, at any position, for [better] or worse," Goncalves said. "He knew that I was ready to go as soon as I told him, 'Yes.'"
The presence of Goncalves, along the leadership of the Revolution veterans, was crucial to the club's success on Saturday. And in a game in which Heaps knew nothing was going to come easy, they were tasked with the responsibility of guiding their teammates to another three points.
"There are going to be games where you have to find a way," Heaps said. "Fortunately for us, those last two games, things went our way and bounces went our way, and tonight it just felt like we had to make it happen."