With the World Cup group stages taking place, it pretty easy to forget another tournament going on right here in the United States.
With MLS teams entering, and losing, in the fourth round of the 2014 U.S. Open Cup, the New England Revolution put together a solid first half against USL Pro side and D.C. United affiliate the Richmond Kickers en route to a 3-2 victory to advance to the fifth round. First half goals from Stephen McCarthy, Steve Neumann and Patrick Mullins paced the Revs to a 3-1 halftime lead as they held off a relentless Kickers squad late in the match.
The Revs will host their affiliate side the Rochester Rhinos on June 25th at Brown University's Stevenson Field at 7:30pm.
It was a mix of veterans and youth in Jay Heaps' lineup, featuring stalwarts like Jose Goncalves, Lee Nguyen and Diego Fagundez as well as youngsters like Neumann, Mullins and Donnie Smith and veterans in need of more playing time like McCarthy and Darrius Barnes.
The strong lineup put the Revs in front very quickly, with McCarthy getting on the end of a perfect Neumann corner in front of goal which McCarthy powered home for the opener past keeper Joe Willis. The Open Cup match was McCarthy's first minutes and score of the season.
Jay Heaps praised Neumann's set piece delivery after the game.
"When we drafted him that was one thing that was high on our list. When we do attributes and breakdown players, Steve Neumann has always been able to hit a good free kick and when he's in games we want him doing more of it. I think he's someone we put on the ball a lot. Sometimes when we play short we want the dynamic guys, but if Neumann is going to put the ball in the box like that he's going to be on the corners a lot more."
But the lead would be short-lived, because Richmond would equalize in the 23rd minute as McCarthy was unable to clear a Henry Kalungi cross in the near the endline and Jason Yeisley for Richmond would center the ball to a wide-open George Davis who volleyed home. It was not the best moment for the Revolution defense, with McCarthy fanning on the initial header and receiving no help from either Jose Goncalves or Darrius Barnes.
But the Revs almost responded immediately, just four minutes after the Kickers' goal, Chris Tierney smashed a free kick off the crossbar. During another promising build-up in the 33rd minute, Diego Fagundez was dispossessed and then immediately fouled the Richmond player, drawing the game's first caution.
In the 35th, Fagundez would be again on the attack, this time finding Mullins in the box. Mullins would cut back and slide a pass to Steve Neumann who slotted home to put the Revs back in front. It was the first professional goal for the rookie out of Georgetown.
Minutes later in the 39th, Brad Knighton would take a long goal kick that would bounce over the head of everyone, allowing Mullins to slip past the defense and finish the Revs third goal of the match. He also appeared to have his right leg stepped on while scoring on his left foot and stayed down momentarily but would end up playing until the 66th minute when he was replaced by Daigo Kobayashi.
But it was the breathing room the Revs would need against their lower-division foe, and Mullins' effort on the play brought more positive marks from head coach Jay Heaps.
"It was opportunistic and you need your center forward to have opportunistic sense of play. He read that perfectly and never stopped running." Heaps said of Mullins during a post-game conference call. "The defender had a little bit of a miscue and didn't realize where Mullins was. He tracked it down and then fought a defender off and scored an excellent goal. To be fair, both Mullins and Neumann had really good games-really good first halves."
In the second half, the Revs settled in and allowed the Kickers to pressure. At the hour mark, halftime sub Matthew Delicate began to create chances for Richmond but his shot was blocked by McCarthy. Kickers forward Samuel Asante would send in Delicate minutes later but his header was also off the mark. Sascha Goerres would pull down a cross in the in 69th and would find Christiano Francois, who's low shot would force a save from Revs keeper Brad Knighton.
In the 73rd, Richmond would get the goal they deserved, with Delicate heading home from close range after George Davis found him unmarked with a good cross near the six yard box. At 3-2, Heaps would go to his bench, inserting Andrew Farrell into the backline to see out the rest of the game.
Despite a late flurry from the Kickers, they would be unable to find another equalizer despite bringing up Willis on a few corners late in the game. It was a second half the Revs were content to sit back and defend but they were burned by that strategy and Richmond certainly create no shortage of chances in the second half as the tried to comeback.
The Revolution will host their USL Pro affiliate the Rochester Rhinos next Wednesday, June 25th at Brown University's Stevenson Field at 7:30PM. Tickets will go on sale tomorrow per the Revs Twitter account.