The Eastern Conference's fifth and final playoff place is now the Revolution's to lose after they jumped into it by beating DC United 2-1 on Saturday at RFK Stadium.
The Revolution, who are ahead of the Houston Dynamo on goal differential, now occupy a playoff place for the first time this season. They needed a victory against DC and got it, as goals from Dimitry Imbongo and Diego Fagundez helped the Revolution overcome an early deficit put up by United's Luis Silva.
“It’s kind of like a playoff environment for us," said Andrew Farrell of the game. "It was a must-win. We beat Columbus [Crew] and we wanted to gain back some momentum."
D.C. [United] is a good team. Their record doesn’t show how good of a team they are. They got some new additions. Luis Silva is a good player. They've got a lot of good pieces."
DC, who entered the game as the league's worst team, scored in the eighth minute, on a sequence started by John Thorrington. Silva, about 25 yards from goal, took control of Thorrington's pass and went one-on-one with Stephen McCarthy before right-footing a blast from outside the penalty area that skipped off the turf and over an outstretched Bobby Shuttleworth and into the back of the net.
Daniel Woolard provided another scare moments later, as he had a header off a corner kick cleared off the line by Fagundez in the 10th minute. From there, the Revolution began to take control of the game.
They had two good chances to equalize in the first half; one came in the 20th minute when Saer Sene went in alone on DC goalkeeper Joe Willis, though his close-range effort was knocked away. The other came in the 36th minute when Willis stopped Kelyn Rowe's volley from inside the penalty area by diving left.
Revolution Head Coach Jay Heaps brought on Scott Caldwell at halftime for Clyde Simms, who was having a more defensive performance in central midfield. The move was meant to open up the Revolution's passing lanes and create space on the flanks. Heaps' decision worked, as both Imbongo and Fagundez' goals came from plays that initiated on the wings.
"We had a tough first half, some poor giveaways that cost us," said Chris Tierney. "We made some good adjustments at halftime, started using the width which we needed to do with DC defending very narrow. We made the adjustments, created some chances, and won the game.
Imbongo scored in the 54th minute, poking in a left-footed cross by Chris Tierney for his third goal of the season. Imbongo got the tip of his right cleat on the ball, leveling the game by finishing in between two defenders.
“You’ve got to get back in the game and go from there, added Heaps. "We just felt that if we play the way we want to play and how we know we can play. The game would change and we could get more opportunities and that’s what happened."
Imbongo set up the the Revolution's go-ahead goal, too. In the 63rd minute, he made a run down the left side of the field and then cut toward the penalty area before outletting the ball wide to Sene on the right side of the box. Sene got off a curling shot that came off the underside of the crossbar, but Fagundez ran into the six-yard box to head the rebound into the net for his seventh goal of the season.
The Revolution dropped off to defend their one-goal lead after Fagundez scored. DC brought on Sainey Nyassi, Dwayne DeRosario and Lionard Pajoy, all offensive substitutions, in hopes of leveling the game.
Imbongo appeared to hurt his knee in the 83rd minute, which allowed Heaps to bring on Kevin Alston, who made his first appearance since March 31 after successfully treating chronic mylogenous leukemia. Alston slotted in at left back, pushing Tierney forward as a left winger.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been laying in bed or in the shower just thinking about it and just playing,” explained Alston.
“It felt unbelievable. I was excited to be on the pitch, but at the same time I was telling myself to not mess up. But it felt great.”
Shuttleworth and Alston combined in the final moments of the game to thwart the United trio and preserve the victory.
In the 81st minute, Pajoy went in behind the defense off a pass from DeRosario, but had a point-blank effort blocked by Shuttleworth. Then, in the 86th minute, Alston ran to force a shot by Nyassi from the top of the penalty area wide of the far post.
“It was awesome," said Heaps of Alston's return. "I thought he did great. He’s exactly what we needed—a shot of energy. He’s been itching to get on the field and you could see when he came on he was like a shot out of a cannon.”
In stoppage time, match referee David Gantar disallowed what appeared to be a valid goal by Sene. Sene walked the ball into an open net after he received the ball at midfield off a cleared DC corner kick. The net was open because Willis ran into New England's penalty area as a last ditch attempt to tie the game from the corner kick.
Gantar blew the final whistle before Sene's shot rolled into the goal.
The Revolution's next game is Aug. 4 at Gillette Stadium against Toronto FC,
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