The New England Revolution moved temporarily into the 5th and final Eastern Conference playoff spot tonight after a 0-1 win over the Montreal Impact. Captain Jose Goncalves, who has played every single minute for the Revs this season, scored the lone goal in the 31st minute in the chaotic aftermath of a Revolution corner. The win brings New England to 45 points on the season and brings the impact (46 points) into what's now a 4-way dogfight for the 4th and 5th playoff spots in the East.
The Revolution looked to dominate the first half in both passing percentage as well as possession, with a clear mission in mind to fight for 90 minutes and take 3 points home with them to Foxborough. Meanwhile, the Impact looked utterly flat for the first 45 minutes and were unable to cope with the Revolution's persistent attack.
However, Revs fans feared the worst in the 21st minute when winger Saer Sene was brought down in the box by temporary right back Davy Arnaud, resulting in what was later confirmed by NBC Sports to be a full-fledged broken ankle.
Sene's injury was a harsh blow, but his teammates responded with even more intensity and in the 31st minute their persistence paid off when captain Jose Goncalves found himself on the edge of the Montreal penalty area during a Revolution corner kick and drove home a rebounded ball past Impact keeper Troy Perkins for the lead and eventual winner.
The Revs did well for the rest of the half, pressing Montreal on the counter attack while limiting striker Marco Di Vaio's chances in and around the New England 18-yard box. In the 41st minute, goalkeeper Matt Reis kept the Revs in the lead with an absolutely crucial save on a Di Vaio attempt from close-range on the right side of the box.
After the half, Montreal clearly had a mission of their own in mind, which was to take back control of the game on their hold pitch. The Revolution's situation became even more dire when Dimitry Imbongo, who replaced Sene after the first half injury, suffered an injury himself in the 63rd minute and was replaced by Kevin Alston.
Alston slotted into the left back spot, a tactical shift that moved Chris Tierney up to left-midfield and provided more defensive cover, especially against the speedy Sanna Nyassi. Montreal had already used up all three subs by time Alston came on, opting to bring on Felipe Martins, Blake Smith, and former first overall SuperDraft pick Andrew Wenger all before the 61st minute mark.
In the 69th minute, the Revs got arguably their 2nd best chance on goal of the afternoon when they earned a free kick at about 20-25 yards out. Chris Tierney attempted the on-goal effort but it deflected off the crossbar and was eventually cleared out by the Impact defense.
With a little over 10 minutes to go, New England brought in veteran defensive-midfielder Clyde Simms for the relatively quiet Diego Fagundez to try to secure the win. The Revs played intelligently and cautiously, limiting the Impact's rhythm and clearing out dangerous balls as often as possible, leaving nothing to chance.
One minute into extra time, which was determined to be a minimum of five minutes, Kevin Alston collided with Sanna Nyassi, leaving both players writhing in pain on the ground. Alston seemed to get the worst of it, with the images on TV clearly showing a good amount of blood around the right side of his face. Fearing that the same situation they faced last week in New York was happening all over again, the Revs surely were looking to prevent a potentially devastating case of deja vu when designated player Hernan Bernadello stepped up to take the Montreal free kick. In the end, though, it amounted to nothing and the Revs cleared the ball out of danger.
Come the final whistle from referee Chris Penso, Jose Goncalves goal was the difference maker and assured the win for New England. Back to their stout, defensive ways, the Revolution pulled off the improbably (but clearly not impossible) win at Stade Saputo, bringing their playoff chances back to life. They now will face the Columbus Crew for the final two games of the season--one at home and one away. Depending on the results from tonight's other Eastern Conference matches, the playoff picture could look very different come the end of the month.
Strap in, folks. It's going to be a crazy finish.