The New England Revolution strung together three consecutive league wins for the first time in 2013 - first time since 2009, actually - by pummeling the league champion LA Galaxy 5-0 at Gillette Stadium on Sunday afternoon. A national audience watched on the NBC Sports Network as Diego Fagundez and his teammates ran riot, scoring four second-half goals to put LA to the sword.
The last time New England even scored five goals or won by that many? A 6-1 win over the Rapids on September 18, 2004. That's nine years ago. George Bush was campaigning for his second presidential term, I was starting my senior year of high school, and the idea of a mid-2000s Revolution dynasty was still just that: an idea.
Despite gaining the lead in the first half, the opening stanza was far from satisfying for the Revolution. The Galaxy had five first-half shots, forcing Bobby Shuttleworth to make three saves.
"To be honest with you, I thought we were fortunate to be up 1-0 in the first half," said Jay Heaps. "It was not our best stuff."
Luck or no luck, the score was indeed 1-0 at the interval. Saer Sene, who was playing wide right in his first MLS start since tearing his ACL last year, received the ball in the channel and made a move to the inside before passing to Diego Fagundez near the top of the box. Diego immediately fed Saer again, and the lanky Frenchman took a touch into the box before curling a clinical finish past Carlo Cudicini and inside the far post.
The second half appeared to open up a little, and with the 57th-minute introduction of Kelyn Rowe in place of Juan Toja, the Revs began to find their way. Los Angeles was still dominating play, but little was created in the way of clear chances for the visitors.
New England solidified their lead in the 71st minute after a heady play from Fagundez. A foul was called on Landon Donovan for taking down Andrew Farrell on the right touchline. While the assistant referee appeared to indicate a throw-in, the head referee clearly indicated a free kick, and with the Galaxy defense in confused disarray, Fagundez put the ball down and played a quick pass on the floor to Lee Nguyen streaking into the box. The playmaker cut in on his left into the box and fired low, beating a wrong-footed Cudicini at the near post.
"It was weird, because the linesman called it a throw-in for them, and the referee in the middle called it a foul," said Fagundez. "So as soon as he called the foul, I got the ball and put it in the field, and played it to Lee, and Lee just did it on his own and scored his goal."
The following fifteen minutes or so saw renewed pressure from the Galaxy. The Revs seemed content to retreat further and further into a defensive shell, allowing acres of space for the L.A. attackers to exploit. Bobby Shuttleworth was called upon to make a couple more saves, and it seemed inevitable that the Galaxy were going to get one back.
Then the floodgates opened.
It began in the 87th minute when Juan Agudelo ran down a Fagundez ball to the left of the box. Agudelo found Diego again, who turned and fed Rowe. Rowe held the ball up and took a touch before slipping it into space in the box for Fagundez, who used his right foot to fire a low shot inside the near post.
A 3-0 victory over the Galaxy would have been more than enough, but the Revs weren't done. In the first minute of stoppage time, Rowe was again the creator, receiving the ball on the left with the entirety of the L.A. defense converging on that side. Chad Barrett, who had come on as a substitute just three minutes prior, was all by himself on the right, and Rowe's ball found the former Galaxy striker. Barrett made no mistake, and looked as though he really enjoyed scoring against his former club.
After coming on and creating two goals, it was Rowe's turn to get on the score sheet and complete the rout. In the third minute of stoppage time, Andrew Farrell played a ball in to Barrett, who held onto the ball for a moment before laying it back to Rowe. The former youth international side-footed it first time, bending the ball around Cudicini and inside the near post.
"We didn't have our best start of the year," said Rowe. "But we kept going. You know, I think that's what it was. We kept going. It was hot, we were playing on turf; a lot of things that could discourage a team. And we never stopped."
A look at the stat sheet quickly turns into an exercise in learning that statistics don't necessarily tell the whole story. A neutral observer who hadn't seen the game would think that Los Angeles dominated. They outshot the Revs (13-9), out-passed them (460-308, 79.6%-76.6%), and out-possessed them (60.1%-39.9%). The Galaxy had ten corners, 25 open-play crosses, and forced six saves.
New England had it where it counted, though; on the scoreboard.
"We weathered the storm, which is what you have to do sometimes," said Chris Tierney. "Bobby kept us in the game with some big saves early. We just made enough plays, when it came down to it, to keep them out. And then, obviously, found our feet a little bit in the second half."
The Revs are back in action next week on Saturday when they welcome heated Eastern Conference rivals D.C. United to Gillette.