The New England Revolution kicked off their 2016 MLS campaign on Sunday afternoon on the Gulf coast of Texas, taking on the Houston Dynamo. The two teams met previously in the preseason, with the Revs taking a 2-1 victory, but it would not turn out much the same in the regular season, with the Revs drawing 3-3 in last-minute, dramatic fashion.
Very questionable officiating marred some of the match, but it was certainly not without excitement. Five different goalscorers got on the sheet during the match, with the Revs pulling out the draw with nearly the last kick of the match. Je-Vaughn Watson and Gershon Koffie made their Revolution regular-season debuts, as well.
Diego Fagundez opened the scoring in eye-popping fashion. After a poor clearance from the Dynamo defense, he chested the ball down and ripped a volley of the bounce, bulging the far side of the net to herald the start of the MLS season with aplomb. It was only the third minute.
Revolution head coach Jay Heaps had made the interesting decision to start Kelyn Rowe over Scott Caldwell in the center of midfield, and while Rowe looked active, Caldwell's absence appeared to hurt the Revs as the half wore on. After dominating the first 15-20 minutes of the first half, the Revs' midfield struggled string passes together and began to get overrun by the Dynamo.
New England likely feel aggrieved by much of the officiating by Juan Carlos Rivero on the afternoon, but perhaps their greatest gripe will be with a no-call in the 45th minute. Lee Nguyen streaked in the box toward the byline with the ball, and he was dragged down by the arm by DaMarcus Beasley. It was rather obvious both in real-time and replay, but Rivero waved off complaints.
Just a moment later, Houston took down a long ball and Cristian Maidana ran onto it in the box. Jose Goncalves and Bobby Shuttleworth appeared to get crossed up, and the keeper bowled over his defender, leaving the ball behind him for Maidana to leisurely slot into the empty net for the Dynamo equalizer.
Houston looked to take control not long after the second-half whistle. In the 50th minute, Teal Bunbury attempted to carry out a cleared ball, but instead dribbled straight into the path of Andrew Wenger. Wenger laid the ball off and the ball ended up in the box with Will Bruin, who watched Andrew Farrell fall over before slipping the ball to Wenger, where the latter finished easily past Shuttleworth.
The Revs bounced back just two minutes later from a goal down. Diego Fagundez flicked a ball through to Charlie Davies, who was played onside by Beasley. Davies got in alone on the keeper but his initial shot was saved by Joe Willis. The rebound fell to Davies again, though, who switched to his left and did not miss to make it 2-2.
Much of New England's improved play might be attributed to the introduction of Caldwell at the half. He replaced Rowe - who may have been injured at the end of the first half - and immediately made his impact all over the pitch, picking up loose balls, pressuring Dynamo players, and connecting the various pieces of the attack in tidy fashion.
As the minutes crept into the 70s, the game started to take on a sense of a lull. It was the Dynamo who capitalized. Bruin took down a long ball and held up at the edge of the box, before playing a cut-back to the top of the box. Substitute Boniek Garcia dummied the ball expertly, allowing Giles Barnes to run onto it and fire home with the Revolution defense failing to track their runners.
The Dynamo will ultimately rue not killing the game in the 89th minute. Andrew Wenger made a great run behind Chris Tierney at the far post and was delivered a perfect chipped ball, but his shot from about six yards out was dragged wide.
In stoppage time, New England laid on the pressure, and it paid off. They stuffed the Dynamo in their own box and pinged balls in relentlessly, and in the third minute of stoppage time, Fagundez - who had a huge game, it must be said - whipped in a cross that an unmarked Daigo Kobayashi headed home at the near post to lock up a 3-3 opening-day draw.
The Revs open up their home slate next week on March 12th against D.C. United.