The New England Revolution kicked off their 2013 MLS season in historic fashion, earning a 1-0 victory over the Chicago Fire in Bridgeview, Illinois on Saturday night. It was the Revs' first win at Toyota Park since 2007.
Jerry Bengtson finally managed to translate his Honduras form into club play, netting the winner in the 62nd minute off a "delicious" chipped cross from Kelyn Rowe. The sequence evolved after Jeff Larentowicz cleared a corner only as far as Juan Toja at the top of the box, and the flamboyant Colombian settled the ball with a deft touch before laying it off to Rowe.
The Revs fought through a tough first half where they shared possession evenly with Chicago but conceded the majority of the chances. The second half, however, was a far different story, with New England finding themselves in more and more attacking positions before getting the goal.
The match definitely changed for the Revolution with the introduction of Rowe for rookie Donnie Smith in the 53rd minute. Smith had a fairly average showing in his pro debut, managing to avoid serious mistakes but finding himself unable to make a significant impact on the match. Rowe, on the other hand, proved that he'd learned considerably from his first season in MLS.
He was part of a tricky, attractive sequence in the 56th minute where quick passing interplay involving Lee Nguyen, Toja, and Rowe put Toja in free on goal. However, before he could get his shot off from the edge of the six, Fire defender Austin Berry put in an incredible last-ditch tackle that just took the ball off the playmaker's feet.
Bengtson nearly had a goal in the 59th, too, but he tripped over the keeper and Yazid Atouba before Berry came in and cleared. Of course, three minutes later, Bengtson made good on his next chance and gave the Revs the winner. New England managed to weather a storm of attacks from the Fire in stoppage time and held on for the win.
The final statistics made a pretty good illustration of how the game really turned out. The Fire ended up winning the possession battle 54%-46% and also put more shots on goal, but the Revs out-fouled the fire 21-13. Given the way the game went, that number isn't indicative of how the fouls really happened. Hilario Grajeda left a lot of calls on the field, and while the Revs may have fouled more than the Revs, it wasn't that much more.
Rookies Andrew Farrell and Donnie Smith made their debuts this evening, and both showed well. Smith was average, but failed to make mistakes. Farrell, on the other hand, had an excellent match. He showed his determination to get out of situations through his technical ability instead of lumping the ball up field. In the first half, he lost the ball a few times doing this, but in the second half, he picked his spots better.
Farrell also did a bang-up job containing Chicago's left wing attacks, including the lightning-fast Patrick Nyarko. Both defensively and coming forward, he had an excellent debut.
The Revs will continue their 2013 campaign next week against Philadelphia in Chester, PA.