Typically, a victory in late-March doesn’t mean a whole lot in the grand scheme of a 34-game season. But don't tell that Revolution coach Jay Heaps.
While Saturday’s 2-1 comeback victory over the Earthquakes might seem insignificant in once the summer rolls around, Heaps could be forgiven for savoring the win that eluded his club during the first three weeks of the season.
“It is a big three points for us,” Heaps told the media after the match. “It really is. We have had a tough start, especially with our schedule with (us) being on the road so much.”
The road map to the Revolution’s first win of 2014 didn't put Heaps’ side through a gauntlet, per se. But the route wasn't exactly smooth, to be sure.
It started with a 4-0 thumping to the Dynamo during First Kick, a performance that saw both offense and defense struggle in the club’s worst loss in nearly four years. And the fallout would linger into Week 2.
Seven days later, club captain and Defender of the Year Jose Goncalves was left off the 18, and the Revolution trudged through a 1-0 loss that saw the attack rarely threaten. It didn't look as bad as their previous performance, but it sure wasn't encouraging, either.
Last week, the Revolution started coming together in the home opener, and nearly got on the board in the fifth minute from an Andy Dorman header. But a victory – not to mention the first goal of the season – would have to wait another week, as the Revolution were forced to settle for a 0-0 draw to Vancouver.
On Saturday, the stars seemed to finally align for New England. Not only did they get off to a bright start against the Earthquakes, but the soccer gods seemed to finally smile upon them when Victor Bernardez inadvertently sent the ball into his own net in the 35th minute.
“I thought we were really positive early,” Heaps said. “Offensively, we moved the ball well, kept possession and got good chances in the first half and we kind of got gifted a goal, but I thought we earned it.”
Chris Wondolowski’s equalizer leveled terms in the 69th minute, and with the Earthquakes, who entered the match with a serious appetite for late-game dramatics, pressing for another, it appeared that the first win of the season for Heaps & Co. wouldn’t come in San Jose.
But then came the 90+3 minute. With Lee Nguyen coasting through the midfield, he approached the Earthquakes defense. He examined his options. He had Teal Bunbury to his right, and an Earthquake defender Clarence Goodson in front.
So he casually dribbled into the box, took a slight hesitation, and fired away. And when his shot settled into the back of the net, the Revolution were well on their way to their destination: win No. 1.
“We have a lot of great finishers,” Nguyen told the media after the match. “So I always want to give it to someone who can finish it. Luckily, everybody was making good runs at the end and put me in and that helped me out to get the goal.”
But Nguyen wasn't about to grab the spotlight and shine it upon himself. Knowing there were many who played critical roles in Saturday’s win, the veteran midfielder was sure to remind everyone of that.
“The team fought really hard, and now it is time to go back home and rest, get our legs back underneath us and get our minds right again,” said Nguyen. “Getting this on-the-road win will allow us to have confidence on the road next week.”
Another thing it’ll allow them to do? Put to bed the questions about that once-elusive first win.