It took 43 days, but the New England Revolution have once again secured three points. Slated against the Chicago Fire on Saturday night at Gillette Stadium, head coach Jay Heaps' side emerged with a 2-0 win, answering the call on what was tabbed as a must-win match.
In what marked striker Kei Kamara's first appearance for the Revs, it was Lee Nguyen who stole the show. The midfielder struck a beauty in the 22nd minute, curling a short corner kick routine into the top corner and past a statuesque Matt Lampson in Chicago's goal.
An insurance tally was added in the 84th minute when Femi Hollinger-Janzen headed home his first professional goal off a Juan Agudelo cross from the left side. Those tallies were all New England needed, as it also recorded its first shutout since April 1 against the New York Red Bulls.
"I think we needed to win for a variety of reasons, but we need to get back up into the hunt," Heaps said. "The reality is I think we've been playing well, but not 90 minutes well ... We needed to put together a complete game and that's what we did tonight. It wasn't our best stuff tonight. This was probably not our best attacking night, our best movement of the ball, but we were complete."
While the Revs held a slight edge in possession, Bobby Shuttleworth was never truly threatened in goal, despite David Accam and Kennedy Igboananike's pace proving troubling at times for a makeshift backline. With Chris Tierney and Jose Goncalves still nursing injuries, London Woodberry and Kelyn Rowe started as outside backs, and Je-Vaughn Watson was deputized in central defense alongside Andrew Farrell.
The biggest takeaway from Saturday was undoubtedly three points earned, but Rowe took great pride in a thorough performance and helping pitch a clean sheet.
"[Tonight] showed that we have the depth in the team, and we have the fight and the desire to win games," Rowe said. "We had guys like Farrell and Je-Vaughn who were very good today, [Scott Caldwell] and [Gershon Koffie] who were very solid through midfield. It wasn't just one or two guys, it was the whole team and I think that's what you want going forward."
Even though Nguyen and Hollinger-Janzen found net, Kamara had an enormous influence on the proceedings. He registered four shots on goal, offered an aerial presence that's sorely been lacking throughout the 2016 season and brought a swagger that only a player of his pedigree can.
Going forward, Nguyen name noted that Kamara's influence should only grow as he acclimates to his new surroundings.
"A great addition obviously," Nguyen said. "He's so smart, so athletic and wins everything. You're going to have to watch him, [because] it adds another dynamic to our attack. Now we're lethal with crosses, and we already know we can play through the middle. Now you've got both."
All things considered, the Revs kicked off their three-game home stand before a break for the Copa America Centenario with a bang. Both FC Dallas and the Seattle Sounders still have to visit Gillette Stadium before the intercontinental tournament, but the Revs' confidence definitely returned against the Fire.
There's still work to do, according to Heaps, but it appears as if a poor run form has been nipped in the bud.
"When you're playing at home you really have to take it to teams, and that's what we did today," Kamara said. "Playing at home, that's all that matters. Three points is what it's all about."