It's no secret that rookie Kelyn Rowe has been in impressive form so far this pre-season, but after last night we may be able to label him as certifiably on fire. The former UCLA product scored two goals late against the Red Bulls to elevate the Revolution to the top of the Diamond Cup standings. The Revs sit at the top with 6 points while LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake each have 3 and New York has 0.
The Revs came out in a 4-4-2 with a back line consisting of Chris Tierney, John Lozano, Stephen McCarthy, and Darrius Barnes. The four did well to keep the Red Bulls off the score sheet, but were still a bit shaky at times. Heaps stuck with the same midfield as Wednesday night's match, starting Benny Feilhaber and Kelyn Rowe on the wings and Shalrie Joseph and Clyde Simms paired in the middle. Starting up top for this match was Swedish trialist Bjorn Runstrom and Fernando Cardenas, who both had decent outings, but did not leave much of a mark.
The Revolution began the game with a few unfortunate giveaways, and indeed much of the first half in general saw the two sides trading possession. Rowe came close to opening the scoring in the 14th minute with a good run into the box, but was nudged out of the way by the New York keeper for which no penalty was awarded.
Darrius Barnes showed his defensive prowess in the 25th minute when his well-timed slide tackle stopped an almost certain goal by Jose Angulo. The rest of the first half, though, offered little action. It wasn't until the second half that the game picked up.
Heaps made some changes in the second half, notably swapping out Runstrom and Cardenas for Saer Sene and supplemental draft pick Rick Smith. Darrius Barnes was also shifted to the middle, replacing McCarthy, to make room for trialist Florian Lechner at RB.
Sene's installation into the lineup made a big difference, finding himself in the center of the action for a good chunk of the Revs' attacks. Playing well off of the chances made by the midfield, Sene looked composed and comfortable, which is really encouraging to see as we get closer to the start of the season.
Feilhaber was moved into the center of the midfield at the 66th minute when Luiscito Campisi came in at LM, replacing Clyde Simms, and the Revs' attack suddenly began to find its footing. Sene was on the receiving end of a beautifully threaded pass from Feilhaber in the 75th minute from which he ripped a well-placed shot that hit the crossbar.
It was another Feilhaber through ball that sprung Sene into the box in the 77th minute. Sene did well to charge at the back line but was dispossessed. Kelyn Rowe, however, was the opportunist and netted the dispossessed ball before the Red Bulls back line could clear it away.
Rowe's second goal came in the 84th minute after another good run into the box from Saer Sene, who played the ball off to the rookie. Rowe buried it from distance, putting the game out of reach for the Red Bulls.
Although New York played a largely second-string lineup, the Revs should find a great deal of confidence in their continuing undefeated pre-season run. Heaps made use of this game by getting some crucial minutes in for pivotal players as well as trialists such as Runstrom, Campisi, and Tom Cruise, allowing the staff to get a longer look as they prepare to round out their 28-30 man roster before the start of the season.
Personally, I thought that John Lozano did a very good job anchoring the defense, especially considering that he was paired again with Stephen McCarthy, who is still learning the ropes as a center back after playing much of his career as a defensive midfielder. McCarthy, though, seems to be taking to his new role well, and should provide serviceable depth at the position moving into the season.
The Revs' midfield continues to be the team's greatest strength, and Sene seems to be a good addition up top, but I would argue that there is still a piece or two missing in the attack, which may be filled by Jose Moreno joining up with the team in March, or may be filled by somebody else. The clock is ticking, though, and Heaps and his staff will need to make some key decisions very soon.
With last night's win, the Revs have guaranteed themselves a spot in the Desert Diamond Cup championship game next Saturday. Before that, however, they will take on Real Salt Lake on Wednesday night at 8pm eastern. Be sure to join us then for a live chat during the match.