A solid and consistent 90 minute effort from the New England Revolution produced a 3-1 victory over the Chicago Fire on Tuesday night to give the team their first appearance in a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final since 2007.
Throughout the first half, the Revolution controlled play and held significant possession time in Chicago’s side of the field. They seemed to have difficulty in the first few minutes increasing the tempo and converting key passes in the final third. However, their possession time finally earned an opportunity in the 16th minute when Kei Kamara knocked a penalty kick past Matt Lampson. The foul was drawn by Kelyn Rowe, who was clipped by Rodrigo Ramos when he tried to cut back on the edge of the box.
After the first goal, the Revolution initially looked like they might put another away, and allow Jay Heaps to start thinking about the final. Minutes later, a flick-on header by Kamara gave Teal Bunbury a golden chance in behind the defense, but his shot inside the box went just wide of the net. Another scary moment for Chicago came when a sprinting Kamara deflected a kick from Lampson and almost scored.
Soon thereafter, Chicago finally caught a break due to some sloppy defensive play by New England. After Diego Fagundez intercepted a pass in front of the Revolution’s box, he immediately turned it back over to David Accam, who worked his way past Fagundez and Je-Vaughn Watson for an easy giveaway goal to tie the game just before halftime.
Two minutes later, Je-Vaughn Watson responded with a goal off a corner kick for the decisive goal. The cross was curled in by Chris Tierney and deflected off the heads of Kei Kamara and Razvan Cocis before reaching Watson, who nudged it against his body to beat Lampson.
From that moment forward, the game settled down with very few scoring chances, particularly for Chicago. Kelyn Rowe and Teal Bunbury each had a couple of chances on counterattack breaks, but were unable to convert. Rowe filled in for Lee Nguyen most of the game until the veteran entered for the final 30 minutes and took over for Diego Fagundez. For Bunbury, the near misses have compiled over the season, with this game being no different until the 86th minute. To insure the victory, Bunbury skillfully maneuvered outside the box and found some space to unleash a left-footed shot that narrowly curled past the outstretched arm of Lampson.
“Whenever you score, it’s great, but the biggest thing is winning the game. We all want to win here,” Bunbury remarked. “You know, we’re going to a finals, and that’s important.”
Although the final handful of minutes seemed to be a mere formality given Chicago’s offensive struggles, there was a scuffle in the 88th minute. A hard and late challenge by David Accam on Kelyn Rowe sparked a heated reaction from the Revolution midfielder, who began shouting in Accam’s face. Accam did not back down lightly and ended up shoving Rowe before the two were separated by teammates. After sorting out the incident and allowing cooler heads to prevail, head referee Edvin Jurisevic sent off Accam and gave Rowe a yellow card, leaving Chicago a man down. With significant displeasure and frustration, Accam left the field loudly and knocked over a corner flag on his way to the locker room.
For Chicago, the loss represents their last chance to salvage some positivity from their dumpster fire of a season. Veljko Paunovic conceded after the game that he could not expect a much better performance from his team, given the state of the roster at this time.
“We want to be the team, who imposes its style, but we are not ready to play that kind of soccer,” Paunovic said. “I’m really proud of our guys….This is the best we can do at this point.”
What the win means to New England is unclear. Facing the MLS’s worst team at home and getting a victory is not too impressive, but advancing in the Open Cup with a CONCACAF Champions League slot on the line, is undoubtedly important. With the exception of Nguyen, who sat most of the game, Heaps did not appear to hold back in the starting lineup or substitutions, even subbing in for Nguyen during the 62nd minute when the Revolution only had a one goal lead. For Heaps, he hopes this kind of performance can yield better outcomes in MLS play, even referring to when New England made it to an Open Cup Final and MLS Cup Final in 2007.
“I’d love like to do what we did in ’07. We were sputtering a little bit in ’07, and we made it to the Open Cup Final, then we went on to the MLS Cup Final,” Heaps said.
The Revolution will either play in Dallas or Los Angeles for the Open Cup Final, depending on the outcome of that game Wednesday night. Next up, they play the Philadelphia Union on Saturday in Charlie Davies’s return home to New England.