Preseason is the perfect time of year to try different things.
So when Teal Bunbury started the second half for the New England Revolution as a lone striker with Juan Agudelo on the right wing, it was curious tactical decision, if only because of Bunbury's prowess on the wing in recent years.
A goal and an assist later and Teal proved he's still got it as a striker, netting the opening goal and assisting on Steve Neumann's winner as the Revs defeated the Houston Dynamo in the third game of the Desert Diamond Cup in Tucson, Arizona.
#NERevs XI vs. Dynamo: Knighton; Tierney, Goncalves, Farrell, Woodberry; Koffie, Caldwell; Fagundez, Nguyen, Rowe; Davies— NewEnglandRevolution (@NERevolution) February 24, 2016
Starting XI tonight: Willis; Anibaba, Horst, Rodríguez, Mansally; Clark ©, Alex; Miranda, Maidana, García; Manotashttps://t.co/yWCHaFmoyC— Houston Dynamo (@HoustonDynamo) February 24, 2016
The first half started brightly for New England, as they were able to create the early chances with Kelyn Rowe heading over the bar from a Chris Tierney cross. But after the first fifteen minutes, Houston had the run of play, though the Revs scrambling defense was enough to force the Dynamo to settle for long range shots that didn't test Brad Knighton.
The Revs closed the half strong, with good counter attacking play from Chris Tierney and Diego Fagundez down the left flank. Diego drove to the endline and cut back to the middle, eventually forcing Dynamo keeper Joe Willis into a kick save at his near post. The right-footed Fagundez had a chance to find a streaking Charlie Davies in the middle of the penalty area, but the young winger opted to go it alone and forego the left-footed pass.
Lee Nguyen drew a foul at the top of the area close to halftime but his ensuing free kick was high and wide of the target and was the last scoring chance of the game.
(Correction: Tyler Rudy started at CDM next to Herivaux)
46' New XI: Willis; Bourgeois, Ibeagha, Agus, Beasley; Wenger, Rocha, Steinberger, Barnes; Torres, Bruin pic.twitter.com/eRdCB1Kd9L— Houston Dynamo (@HoustonDynamo) February 25, 2016
The second half brought out all new lineups for both teams, save for a short stint at centerback for London Woodberry before rookie Jordan McCrary replaced him in the 55th minute.
Almost immediately the Revolution went back to work on the attack, a turnover in midfield led to a simple over the top pass to Teal Bunbury. The Revs striker went one-on-one with Willis, chipping the keeper who got part of the ball but not enough to prevent the opening goal in the 47th minute.
Twenty minutes later however, it was Houston's turn to capitalize on a mistake. On-loan defender Sambinha from Portugal's Sporting CP was caught in possession in his own half, leading to a two-on-none counter from Will Bruin and Cubo Torres. Bruin was able to find Torres inside the area to slot home past Knighton as Sambinha tried desperately to recover from his error. The 68th minute goal tied the game.
But it was a short lived equalizer for Houston, as two minutes later, Michael Gamble helped cause a turnover in the midfield and carried forward to the halfway line. He picked out a streaking Bunbury who was kept onside by DaMarcus Beasley and Teal was all alone. Steve Neumann trailed the play and all Bunbury had to do was play a simple pass for Neumann to tuck into an near empty net to restore the Revs lead.
That goal effectively ended the scoring chances, however there was still one more moment of action when Beasley fouled Gamble late in the second half. The Revs rookie had rounded the US international and appeared to have lots of space to run into with the ball, but Gamble elected to go down under contact, drawing the ire of Beasley followed by a little pushing and shoving.
Several of the Revs youngster's impressed, including Gamble who continued his strong preseason campaign at the DDC. The second round pick seems likely to earn a contract at some point before the season starts. Revs homegrown Zachary Herivaux had some nice moments, including working a nifty one-two in the attacking third with right back McCrary. Herivaux did however take a bad yellow card with a careless and unnecessary challenge at midfield though neither Bruin or Torres took exception to the play.
The win gives the Revolution five points in three DDC matches, and coupled with a Columbus Crew draw against USL side Swope Park Rangers, likely clinches a spot in the final match. The final game, and the Revs preseason finale on Saturday February 27th however has not yet been announced officially.
The Revolution open the 2016 MLS Regular Season at Houston on March 6th.