The New England Revolution beat Toronto FC 3-1 at Gillette Stadium on Saturday night in front of 21,362 happy fans.
Charlie Davies with two goals and Lee Nguyen from the penalty spot scored the New England goals, who now have a three match unbeaten run going.
I had been looking forward to see Toronto’s dynamic trio of Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco. But was disappointed as Bradley missed the game through injury, Altidore was sent off after 39 minutes for kicking out at Jose Goncalves and Giovinco was invisible, starved of service in the first half with only 11 touches and was replaced at half time.
Revs boss Jay Heaps went with Scott Caldwell and Daigo Kobayashi in the holding roles with Kelyn Rowe, Lee Nguyen and Diego Fagundez ahead of them and Charlie Davies up front.
With fullbacks Jeremy hall and Chris Tierney pushing up high to help in attack, Toronto found themselves outnumbered in the middle of the park and New England dominated. At home, on the artificial turf, New England’s smaller, faster players like Nguyen, Rowe and Fagundez are a real handful to contain, and Toronto could not cope with them all night.
This seems to be Heaps preferred tactical approach. With the fullbacks pushing forward it allows Rowe and Diego to move inside, where they can cause more damage with their quick passing and movement.
Another factor in the Revolution’s recent resurgence has been the improved play of Scott Caldwell.
The third year midfielder does not get the headlines like Nguyen, Rowe and Fagundez but he is a player who is developing into one of the best defensive midfielders in MLS. Caldwell did a good job protecting his back four, his three interceptions and three tackles were both tied for team highs.
The part of Caldwell’s game that has developed the most in the last 12 months is his confidence with the ball at his feet. We often see Caldwell now dropping back and taking the ball from goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth to begin another New England attack. This is illustrated with the fact that Caldwell led all players against Toronto with 92 touches.
So is New England’s summer swoon over? Too early to tell for sure but if the last three games are any indication then NE will be going into the last part of the season playing maybe their most complete soccer of the season.
But the emergence of Caldwell and the return of Jermain Jones will allow New England’s creative midfielders to press and swarm opponents defenses, a combination that led New England to the MLS Cup final last season.