Lee Nguyen and Jerry Bengtson scored first-half goals to help the New England Revolution take third place in the Desert Diamond Cup with a 2-0 win over the New York Red Bulls on Saturday evening.
Nguyen scored what proved to be the game-winning goal in just the fourth minute when he drew a penalty kick before stepping up to convert himself. Bengtson added the Revolution’s insurance in the 36th minute with an opportunistic finish following a Red Bulls giveaway.
The victory closed out the Revolution’s 2013 preseason schedule as the club went 2-3-1 in six games against MLS competition. While the MLS regular season kicks off next weekend, the Revs have a bye in week one and won’t open until March 9, when they’ll visit the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park.
It took the Revs just four minutes to get off the mark on Saturday as Nguyen drew and converted an early penalty kick. Nguyen was clipped by Jamison Olave as he chased a loose ball into the box and the Revolution midfielder stepped up himself to drill the penalty into the lower left corner.
New York came inches from equalizing in the 11th minute when Juninho’s free kick found Thierry Henry streaking down the left and the French striker’s low shot hit the far post. Eight minutes later Fabian Espindola fired a shot on frame from the center of the box which forced Matt Reis into a great reaction save.
The Red Bulls continued to knock on the door and were twice denied in the 28th minute. Nguyen was on hand to acrobatically clear a goal-bound header off the line before Reis comfortably handled the follow-up drive.
After withstanding the pressure, New England capitalized on a New York mistake to double its lead in the 36th minute. Nguyen started the sequence when he tried to pounce on a loose ball, forcing Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles to clear straight to Bengtson. The Honduran’s first attempt was blocked, but his follow-up effort kicked off the inside of the near post and into the back of the net.
Trailing by a pair of goals, the Red Bulls created the better of the chances in the second half – most notably Espindola’s 88th-minute drive which required Reis to stretch and tip the ball over the crossbar – but the Revolution’s backline held firm to secure a second preseason shutout.
The one noticeable improvement in New England this preseason is the number of goals they are scoring. In 2012 they scored 39 goals in 34 MLS games. An average of 1.15 goals per game.
This month in preseason the Revs have played four games, scoring 7 goals. An average of 1.75 goals per game. If New England can keep up that kind of scoring prowess in the regular season then the MLS playoffs are not an unrealistic goal for this season.