Last year Kevin Alston was diagnosed with leukemia and missed several months while receiving treatment and getting back into game shape. While he started the season opener at right back for the injured Andrew Farrell, he lasted only 20 minutes before sustaining his own injury and was subbed off.
Now recovered from that earlier injury and starting at left back for the injured Chris Tierney, Alston's second career professional goal and first in MLS play proved to be the winner as the New England Revolution defeated the Houston Dynamo 2-0 at Gillette Stadium.
It was a rather uneventful start to the game, with neither side generating much offense and the Revolution in particular having trouble maintaining possession. But the Revs settled down and started putting pressure on Houston's goal. Winger Diego Fagundez forced Dynamo keeper Tally Hall to make a smart save on his near post in the 24th minute. Later in the half, Ricardo Clark slid in late on Revs captain Jose Goncalves but referee Edvin Jurisevic waved play on and the Revs capitalized on the counter with Lee Nguyen stinging a hard shot that forced Hall to redirect the ball over the crossbar.
Goncalves would have to be subbed out of the game however with what the team is calling a right quad injury. Even though on the replay Clark slid into Goncalves' left leg, it was clear that Jose would not be able to continue after being helped off the field with the assistance of the training staff. Clark was cautioned for the foul and Darrius Barnes replaced Goncalves in the lineup at right back with A.J. Soares and Andrew Farrell pairing in the center.
But in the 68th minute the Revolution would find the breakthrough from one of the more unlikely sources. Alston and Daigo Kobayashi attempted to play a one-two but it was disrupted by the Dynamo defense. The ball was still not cleared however and after a deflection off of Teal Bunbury, Alston smashed a first time shot into the upper corner of Tally Hall's net.
Houston attempted to get more players forward, and subbed on big striker Omar Cummings but also left themselves open on the counter attack. Teal Bunbury was played in towards the end of regulation but his shot was forced wide by some last ditch defending by Houston. The Revs' second goal also came on a ball over the top when Jerry Bengtson ran onto a long ball from A.J. Soares deep into stoppage time, beat Tally Hall who had come well out of his area, and slotted home from close range to seal three points for the Revs.
It was a tremendous team performance for the Revs who are still struggling to create quality chances and find the target with their shooting. But the day belongs to Alston, who scored just his second career professional goal, the only other tally came in the 2010 SuperLiga final versus Morelia, and first in MLS play. For a player who had to overcome so much to even get on the field last year to rewarded with such a moment as scoring a game winner is truly special.
The New England Revolution (2-3-1) will head back on the road next week as they square off against the Chicago Fire on April 19 at 4PM on a nationally televised game on NBCSN.