Teal Bunbury produced the moment of magic in second-half stoppage time when he put away the deciding goal during the Revolution’s 2-1 win in front of an announced crowd of 17,372 celebrating Pride Night at Gillette Stadium.
Houston, which entered the weekend having gone winless against New England in the teams’ past six contests dating back to April 2014, opened the scoring in the 25th minute when Darwin Cerén capitalized off a corner kick.
The Revolution, now unbeaten in their past six MLS matches, regrouped at halftime and scored six minutes into the second half off a corner of their own, as Antonio Delamea rose to head in Diego Fagúndez’s delivery for his first goal of the season.
“A much-improved second half,” Revolution coach Bruce Arena said. “I thought technically, in the first half, we were very poor and that had a lot to do with the energy Houston brought to the game. I thought they did a great job getting after us in the first half.
“They hit the wall a little bit physically in the last 30 minutes, and it showed. We created some very good chances, and that was a good sign. It would have been disappointing not to walk off the field tonight with three points.”
Saturday’s win against Houston came after the Revolution blew a lead in a 1-1 draw with the Philadelphia Union Wednesday night. After that game, Arena told reporters his team’s fate this year would be decided in the second half of the season, which officially began against Houston – the 18th match of the 34-game calendar.
Maybe Saturday night’s bottom-to-top performance will end up being a metaphor for the Revolution’s season, which began with historically bad results and is now starting to show some promise.
The Revolution (5-8-5, 20 points) are now three points out of the Eastern Conference’s seventh and final playoff spot. Houston (7-6-3, 24 points) is winless in five, but is currently sixth in the West.
“When you win these games, it’s critically important, especially for a team like ourselves when we’re positioned toward the bottom of the table,” Arena said. “So we have to win games, especially at home.”
Houston was the more dangerous team at the start as it played through Romell Quioto and tightly marked the Revolution, who played in a new-look 4-4-2 formation and used a starting lineup that featured six changes from Wednesday.
Quioto’s shot from distance in the 31st minute forced Matt Turner to tip the shot over the bar. The Revolution struggled to deal with Alejandro Fuenmayor’s ensuing corner kick, as Ceren latched onto an intended clearance and belted in the game’s opening goal with a shot that deflected off Andrew Farrell and snuck in under Turner.
Houston, which was also missing starters Alberth Elis, Maynor Figueroa, and Aljaz Struna, took five shots in the first half and seemed to have the Revs on the ropes.
But New England rallied after halftime and going back to a 4-2-3-1 formation.
First, Delamea rose to head in Fagundez’s corner kick into the lower right corner of the net.
“I just played today for my uncle,” Delamea said in the locker room after the game. “He passed away on Thursday. I’m just happy – I know he was there with me, that was for him. I wasn’t thinking of anything else – him.”
Jun 29, 2019; Foxborough, MA, USA; Houston Dynamo defender Chris Duvall (12) controls the ball away from New England Revolution midfielder Carles Gil (22) during the first half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Then, Arena re-shuffled the decks. He pulled Fagundez for Bunbury in the 57th minute, then brought on Cristian Penilla for Justin Rennicks in the 61st.
New England outshot the Dynamo 21-8, but waited almost until the last second to make another shot count.
Moments after the Fourth Official declared three additional minutes of stoppage time, Penilla stormed into the penalty area after a give-and-go with Juan Fernando Caicedo. He squared the ball just before reaching the end line and found Bunbury, unmarked, in the heart of the box.
Bunbury received the slanted pass, then met it with his left foot with a one-time finish. It rolled into the back of the net and past a helpless Joe Willis for Bunbury’s second goal of the season, and Saturday night’s winner.
“You could see the fight from everybody,” Bunbury said. “Everybody wanted to win this game. We kept fighting until the end, and we were able to find it.”