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Antonio Delamea, second half subs spark New England Revolution comeback

Antonio Delamea equalized with his first goal of the season, while second half substitutes Cristian Penilla and Teal Bunbury combined for the game-winning goal.

The New England Revolution scored twice in the second half to come from behind and beat the Houston Dynamo 2-1 on Saturday night. The result extends New England’s unbeaten run in league matches to six and places it just three points out of the seventh and final playoff spot.

Here are three takeaways on the performance from New England’s point of view:

Halftime subs Penilla, Bunbury spark Revolution

Saturday night’s contest didn’t start the way the Revolution wanted.

They conceded a goal off a set piece, kept getting burned on the flank by Romell Quioto, and looked lost in a new 4-4-2 formation that featured six lineup changes from their last game.

Coach Bruce Arena said after the game that he made most of those changes with fitness in mind, though he also wanted to try out some new players. Regardless, the Revolution’s tactics to start the game didn’t really work out and Arena made the required changes at halftime, starting with switching to a more familiar 4-2-3-1 formation.

After going even on shots with Houston in the first half, the Revs’ offense took over and ended the game with a 21-8 shooting edge.

Cristian Penilla and Teal Bunbury were a big help in that as well. Both players stretched the Dynamo back line and ultimately combined for the clincher in second half stoppage time.

Bunbury did the easy part – slamming the game-winner into an open net – after Penilla did the dirty work. Penilla’s speed overwhelmed Houston defenders, who had appeared to tire, as Penilla raced to the end line after a give-and-go with Juan Fernando Caicedo. He then squared the ball to an open Bunbury for the easy finish.

The rest is history.

Delamea makes first start since May 9, makes immediate impact

Let’s go back to the six lineup changes Arena made to start the game.

Antonio Delamea earned his first start since May 9, finally emerging after a brief bout with injuries, plus the promising play of Andrew Farrell and Jalil Anibaba in central defense, kept him on the sidelines.

Delamea headed in the equalizer in the 51st minute as he rose to meet a Diego Fagundez corner. It was Delamea’s first goal of the season.

But Delamea doesn’t only deserve the spotlight because of his finish. He connected 86% of his passes, which was second only to Luis Caicedo’s 88%, and won five aerial duels to go along with two clearances and an interception.

Go back and watch some of the highlights: Delamea’s positioning helped keep it a one-goal game in the first half.

How Arena uses Delamea going forward remains to be seen.

This is a player that isn’t used to being on the fringes, and Saturday night’s performance seemed to prove he’s a worthy starter.

Second half of season begins

Arena told reporters last week that the second half of the season will decide whether the Revolution sink or swim.

Well, the Revolution officially crossed the halfway point in the season against Houston. Maybe their come from behind victory is a good omen considering they started the year a wreck and are now just three points out of the seventh and final playoff spot.

But there are some definite challenges ahead. The Revs completed the first half with only won win against an Eastern Conference team. That record needs to improve if New England has any hope of snapping a three-year postseason drought.

The remaining schedule isn’t kind, either. Only seven of the team’s final 16 matches are at home, while six of the nine road games are against Eastern Conference opponents.

New England has to get used to life away from home immediately. It plays at altitude in Colorado on July 4 to kick off a four-game stretch that features three games away from Gillette Stadium.

The Rapids are also in the thick of a renaissance of their own. After going winless in the first 11 games of the season, Colorado is now unbeaten in seven.

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