Four days earlier it was Je-Vaughn Watson who carried the New England Revolution into the semifinals with a goal and clinching penalty kick in a 4-2 shootout victory over Philadelphia.
Yesterday, Watson was the hero again as he headed in a corner kick in the 85th minute to give the Revs a 1-0 win over the Chicago Fire.
In a game where the Revolution put 11 shots on target to Chicago's none and Sean Johnson was spectacular right until the end, it was a much needed win for a weary Revs team that played an extra time Open Cup game midweek.
Following two long range shots that Chicago put over for corners, Chris Tierney lined up a corner and fired it towards the penalty area. Johnson came off his line only to flap at the ball and Watson simply redirected it towards the center of goal where two Fire defenders on the posts could only watch the ball into the back of the net. It was Watson's first MLS goal in two years.
Right place. Right time. @NERevolution lead late on. #NEvCHI https://t.co/bRn9YhzAwR— Major League Soccer (@MLS) July 24, 2016
"That's the thing with me; whenever I score one goal, I just keep scoring," Watson said after the game. "When I used to play in Jamaica, when I used to play in Dallas, whenever I scored one goal, I just want to get off the mark."
With the win the Revs maintained their sixth place position in the Eastern Conference standings and will have a two big chances coming up with games against 7th place Orlando and 5th place Toronto on the road the next two weeks.
The Fire and Revolution will rematch at Gillette Stadium on August 9th in the US Open Cup semifinals on ESPN2.
Here's three thoughts from last night's game:
1. Je-Vaughn Watson is good at soccer.
I'm going to let everyone in on something that shouldn't be a secret but I don't talk about much. I love utility players and still think Mark Derosa could help the Atlanta Braves in 2016. If you can play three or four different positions and/or both sides of the field in soccer, you'll always have a spot on my roster/bench because of the value said player has depending on the situation. And Je-Vaughn Watson is quickly proving that versatility is still an asset in a game where we spend half the time wondering what a player's best position is. Right now, Watson's best position is on the field.
So with a multitude of injuries up front, it was actually the injury to Gershon Koffie that opened up a spot in the holding midfield and with Andrew Farrell now at right back, Watson has plugged into the midfield and continues to impress. The Jamaican international has played all over for both club and country in his career and his two goals this week, in the USOC against Philly and yesterday against Chicago are just more positive returns from a preseason trade.
2. Keep Shooting From Long Range
There are times when it can be said that New England doesn't shoot enough, often passing the ball around waiting for a good chance instead of trying to make a half chance work. The Revs put 11 shots on target against Sean Johnson including 7 from outside the box. Watson's equalizer was scored in theory on the "third chance" after two previous long shots were tipped over by Sean Johnson for a corner and scrambled away for a second one moments later.
This doesn't mean the Revs should only shoot from long range, especially with a keeper of Johnson's caliber being so hard to beat from distance, but it's chance like Teal Bunbury's near post run in the first half that the Revs need to start capitalizing on instead of putting off target. But if long range shots are going to lead to second chance opportunities, either from set pieces or direct rebounds, then by all means Diego Fagundez and Kelyn Rowe should have the green light whenever and wherever they want.
3. Is the Revs defense good?
Hmm..."good" is perhaps not the best phrase, but the Revs defense does seem to be improving. Was yesterday a perfect game, considering that Chicago put zero shots on target? No, but I think the Revs having a consistent backline has helped after recovering from early season injuries. Since moving Farrell out wide the Revs seem to be doing a little better dealing with crosses though Jose Goncalves almost put one into his own net yesterday. A combination of consistent lineups and a little bit of good luck and that throwback 2014 scrambling (7 blocked shots) have seen the Revs pitch two shutouts in three games.
Earlier in the year, this game probably finishes a frustrating 0-0 draw where the Revs dominate for most of the match but don't have three points to show for it. The Revs have been able to grind out results recently and are currently on a three game unbeaten streak in MLS. With two road games coming up in MLS as well as the Open Cup semis rematch with Chicago in August, the Revs defense is going to need to stay on the top of their game as the attack continues to get healthy.
What did you think of the Revs victory yesterday? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.