Photo by USA Today Sports Images
By CARL SETTERLUND
The New England Revolution’s record signing Jermaine Jones made his debut in the 65th minute Saturday night against Toronto FC, but, frankly, the Revs did fine without him.
After squeaking out their first ever win at BMO Field back in May, New England was the far superior squad in their second meeting north of the border vs. Toronto this season. Revs catalyst Lee Nguyen got the visitors started just 80 seconds in and Kelyn Rowe and Teal Bunbury followed suit to grab a 3-0 victory in front of an announced crowd of 22,591 in Toronto.
“Lee has been excellent for us all year,” Revs coach Jay Heaps said. “The harder he works and the more plays he breaks up, it gives him the freedom to attack. When he (Nguyen) is at his best he is receiving the ball off of turnovers in between their defense and midfield.”
Nguyen provided the winner for the Revolution for a second consecutive week and he also had the go-ahead penalty kick in the Revs first meeting with Toronto. Nguyen has now scored the winner five times this season, while his 10 goals are the most of any true midfielder in MLS.
The central midfield force turned the tide in New England’s favor from the start, jumping on a giveaway by Jonathan Osorio at the edge of the Revs’ offensive third. Nguyen carried the ball 20 yards before sending a low bouncer inside the far left post past diving TFC goalkeeper Joe Bendik.
New England (10-12-3) at least temporarily moves up from the sixth-place spot in the Eastern Conference into third, although Columbus and New York have yet to play this weekend.
After a disheartening nine-game losing streak during the summer the Revs seem to have found their footing again. The early-season win over Toronto was the second in a five-game streak for New England, and a similar run might be in the fold with the addition of Jones and a midweek home fixture up next against Sporting Kansas City, which will be without Dom Dwyer and Benny Feilhaber.
Toronto (9-9-6) was playing without three of its projected starters, including star forward Jermain Defoe, who is out through the end of September with a right adductor strain. Regular back line starters Steven Caldwell and Justin Morrow were also absent as was reserve Warren Creavalle.
TFC has stumbled in their quest for the franchise’s first-ever playoff appearance in recent weeks, managing just two wins in the last nine games. They’ll look to correct that Wednesday against Philadelphia.
“Whenever you play at home against an opponent you want to feel more times than not that you are coming away with points,” said Toronto midfielder Michael Bradley, who was held off by Rowe on the second goal. “We weren’t good enough right from the start so we have nobody to point the finger at, nobody to blame but ourselves.”
After scoring one goal in each of their last three games, the Revs weren’t willing to settle on Saturday, getting a beautiful volley from Kelyn Rowe in the 21st minute to make it 2-0.
Rowe took advantage of another poor pass by TFC, this one by Bradley Orr, and played a one-two with Nguyen to move him into space in the middle of the field past Bradley.
Toronto boss Ryan Nelsen said afterward that “you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see that” TFC had some culpability in each of New England’s first two goals.
Unleashing from nearly the same spot as Nguyen, Rowe ripped it from over 25 yards inside the left post, further deflating the hosts.
“That is credit to our defense,” Nguyen said of the early goals. “Charlie (Davies) did well up front closing down space and making it hard for their defense to play the ball out. We played great defensively as a team and we were able to create some chances off that as a result.”
Rowe factored in again on the final goal in the 58th minute. He dribbled the ball from midfield on a counterattack and played a smart through ball to Charlie Davies, who then unselfishly cut it back across the middle to give Bunbury a simple finish.
The goal was Bunbury’s first since May and since being moved out wide with the Revolution.
With the result all but decided, there was little pressure on Jones as he made his anticipated MLS debut in the 65th minute. Jones came on for central midfielder Daigo Kobayashi instead of defensive midfielder Scott Caldwell, who was already on a yellow card.
“Jermaine has been really good all week and for us it’s all about fitness,” Heaps said of the brief debut. “Jermaine has been excellent with our group and we wanted to get him in there.”
It was the first competitive action for Jones — who signed for the Revs six days ago — since starring for the U.S. Men’s National Team at the World Cup.
“It’s a lot of fun with New England,” Jones said. “There is a lot of talent on this team and today was a perfect game. The first 20 minutes was amazing and I would say there was only one team who were going to win this match and we showed it.”
New England goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth made three saves en route to his seventh shutout of the season, although it was clear that Toronto dearly missed the presence of Defoe.
“Unfortunately, when you have a few key pieces missing, they are influential when you are salary capped,” Nelsen said. “You wish you had cover at every single position.”
New England had five shots on goal to TFC’s three, but the hosts led in nearly every other major statistical category, including possession (60 percent), total passes (432 to 285), passing accuracy (76 percent to the Revs’ 65 percent), and duels won (55 to 41).
Here are the match highlights:
What did you think of the match? Surprised by the Revs’ dominance before Jones came on? Think Lee Nguyen should be entered into the MVP discussion?
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