With the playoffs locked up, the New England Revolution faced the Houston Dynamo with other goals in mind. To wit, they guaranteed themselves a top-three finish on Thursday night with a 2-1 comeback victory, and midfielder Lee Nguyen continued to accumulate support for his MVP credentials by scoring both goals.
The Dynamo opened the scoring with a speed-and-hustle goal from Giles Barnes, but the second half belonged to the Revs. Nguyen put away his first in the 65th minute before burying his 17th of the season in the 87th minute. The goal vaulted him past Gyasi Zardes to make him the highest-scoring American-born player in MLS.
New England should have taken the lead in the 12th minute when Patrick Mullins, making his first start in quite some time, capitalized on a defensive mistake and found himself face-to-face with Tyler Deric. He was, however, shooting point-blank from a tight angle, but nevertheless his effort was poor and did not even force a save, while Kelyn Rowe was crashing the far post, making a lateral ball look to be the better decision, too.
The visitors were punished for their profligacy in the 37th minute. Omar Cummings made a peeling run behind the defenders, using his pace to burn A.J. Soares and latch onto a ball over the top. His effort was saved by Bobby Shuttleworth, but an onrushing Giles Barnes - whose run was not tracked by a ball-watching Jose Goncalves - buried the rebound.
To that point, the Revs probably had more success in the attack, but were unable to put away their chances. Houston, in head coach Dom Kinnear's last home game, seemed more content to play physical in midfield and choke the game, taking their chances on the break. They were lucky to be at full strength, though, as early in the match Luis Garrido could - and probably should - have been given his marching orders for an elbow on Nguyen.
The second half changed things. Early after the interval, Andrew Farrell was stretchered back to the locker room with an apparent right foot/ankle/leg injury caused by a stomp, and had to be replaced by Kevin Alston, who bounced to left-back while Darrius Barnes moved to the right. Not long after that, though, Jermaine Jones was introduced for Daigo Kobayashi, and the complexion of the game shifted.
Jones' involvement was felt in the 65th minute when he maintained possession in midfield before slipping a sublime floor pass behind the defense to Kevin Alston on the left flank. Alston, with all the time and space in the world, calmly collected the ball and cut it back to the top of the box for Nguyen. Lee controlled, cut past a defender, and ripped a beautiful upper-90 finish past Deric to level the scores.
A draw would have been just fine for New England, but instead they went for the win and got it. In the 87th minute, Boniek Garcia gave away a silly free kick just outside the box on the Revs' right. Rowe's delivery was pawed away by Deric, but Scott Caldwell headed it wide left to Jones in space. The U.S.A. midfielder cut inside and had an effort of his own, but it was blocked. The rebound shot to Charlie Davies in the box on the right, who controlled, drove to the byline, and had a shot. That was also blocked, but only as far as the penalty spot, where Barnes simply trapped it and laid it off to Nguyen, who put the ball away for his league-leading eighth game-winning goal.
The Revs are back in action next Saturday the 25th for their home and regular-season finale against Toronto.