By CARL SETTERLUND
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — It was nothing new for the New England Revolution on Wednesday night as Gillette Stadium as Lee Nguyen delivered again for the playoff-hopeful Revs.
For a third straight week, the in-form central midfielder found a game-winning tally for the Revs, this time curling a 48th-minute volley into the upper right corner for the first goal of a brace as the Revolution took a come-from-behind 3-1 victory over reeling MLS Cup holders Sporting Kansas City.
“They put me in great positions to put the ball in the back of the net so I’ve got to reward them (by scoring),” Nguyen said. “Kelyn (Rowe) played me a great ball there in the first one and (Patrick) Mullins did a great job to get it through (Matt) Besler.”
Nguyen wasn’t done after the go-ahead strike, adding another in the 94th minute. In a show of his two-way ability, Nguyen created the turnover to start the counterattack on both goals.
“When Lee turns it over and you can’t get a guy to him and he has a little bit of space he lights up the field,” said Revs coach Heaps, who described Nguyen as a “double threat.”
The win was the third straight for the Revolution (11-12-3), while Sporting KC (12-9-6) lost its third game in a row. The Revs entered the day in a three-way tie in points for the final Eastern Conference playoff spots, but they now sit alone in third place just six points behind Sporting KC.
“When you don’t play with the kind of intensity that you need in this league, you’re always going to come up on the losing side,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said. “If there’s any lesson to be learned, it’s going to be that for our team.”
Sporting KC played without offensive stars Dom Dwyer and Benny Feilhaber, who were both suspended due to yellow card accumulation.
Nguyen’s heroics again overshadowed star acquisition Jermaine Jones, who started his first MLS game and made his home debut, going 45 minutes before subbing out.
Heaps said due to Jones’ long layoff since the World Cup, he wanted to get him a full pre-game warmup rather an abbreviated one at halftime. Either way, he was only fit for 45 minutes.
“We really thought we wanted to attack the game from the beginning, kind of put our foot forward, knowing that (Jones) was coming out at halftime,” Heaps said.
Jones committed an early gaffe, heading it on to the far post off a long left side throw in by Matt Besler to help set up Sporting KC’s opener in the ninth minute. Soony Saad got in front of his marker, Teal Bunbury, to head it home past goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth.
Both would redeem themselves before the day was done, however, as Jones sent a long ball ahead to Bunbury from midfield. The former Sporting KC man got a friendly bounce off a defender, but was still credited with the 45th-minute equalizer.
“We talked a lot about that play in training,” Jones said. “I told (Bunbury) that I was going to play the ball over the top, and it was funny that it actually worked out today during the game. We practiced that play a lot, and I am happy to see that it worked out.”
Bunbury did not celebrate in front of his former club.
“It’s just another game,” Bunbury said. “Yeah, I was playing there and everything but I have great friends there. I have all the respect in the world for that organization, their fans.”
It was the second goal in as many games for Bunbury, and his fifth on the season, giving him the second-most goals on the team behind Nguyen, who now has 12 overall.
Nguyen, who leads all MLS midfielders in scoring, is also tied with the LA Galaxy’s Gyasi Zardes for the most game-winners in the league with six.
“He’s really special,” Heaps said of Nguyen. “He’s got the quickest feet in the league and if you give him a little bit of space, he can hit a ball as good as anyone.”
The Revolution are back in action at home on Sunday against the Chicago Fire, while Sporting KC has an even tougher turnaround, playing away to the New York Red Bulls on Saturday.
Adding to the storyline for the Revs is that the Fire were the other team involved in the blind lottery to acquire Jones.
“I’m not really sure why everyone keeps saying that (I am from Chicago), I am not from Chicago,” Jones said. “It’s a special game because it was one of the teams that wanted me. Now I am a player for New England and I will try to win for us.”
Here are the match highlights:
What did you think of the game? Where does Lee Nguyen rank among all MLS players right now? Who else impressed you tonight? How can Sporting KC snap out of its losing streak?
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