FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New England Revolution took a step forward in turning the tide on what has so far been a miserable season by taking a 3-1 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes at Gillette Stadium on Saturday night.
Goals from Juan Agudelo, Cristian Penilla, and Carles Gil invigorated the Revolution just three days after the firing of head coach Brad Friedel to snap a four-game winless streak.
New England (3-8-2, 11 points) also extended its unbeaten streak against San Jose to seven games.
Interim coach Mike Lapper, who has been an assistant coach with the Revolution since last season, met with individual players privately after Friedel’s departure and told media Friday that he believed the players are capable of more than their record this season suggests.
His players proved him right.
“I just tried to tell them to enjoy the game, to find that passion, love, and desire they grew up playing with,” Lapper said after the match. “I think there was a lot of emotion in the locker room, and we challenged them and upper management challenged them, because we’re all responsible for what happened with Brad.
“You can’t just point to one person — I think that’s unfair — but we know in this business you can’t do what you think you can sometimes, like get rid of an entire team. I thought they rallied, and I’m so proud. The result speaks for itself, the fight and energy they brought. They brought something special.”
New England came out strong, outshooting the Quakes 5-0 within the first 17 minutes and using a high-tempo press inside a 4-4-2 formation.
Juan Agudelo opened the scoring in the 18th minute. He emerged unmarked in the heart of the penalty area to latch onto a service from the left flank by Edgar Castillo, who took possession off a through pass by Cristian Penilla.
Agudelo snuck into the box past his marker and hit the ball first-time past San Jose goalkeeper Daniel Vega for his second goal of the season.
“This means a lot,” Agudelo said. “I feel 100 percent like this is going to be a huge boost of us for the rest of the season and I hope every single one of the players know how big an effort we put in for another today.”
The Revolution doubled their lead from the penalty spot nine minutes later.
Referee Guido Gonzalez Jr. awarded the Revs a spot kick in the 25th minute after Harold Cummings dragged down Teal Bunbury in front of Vega.
After a four-minute VAR delay for a possible red card on the play, Gonzalez booked Cummings. Then, Penilla buried his second goal of the season by firing a low drive into the center of the net from the penalty spot.
Carles Gil made it 3-0 in the 68th minute with his fourth goal of the season – and first at Gillette Stadium.
He finished past Vega from just outside the six-yard box after receiving a pass from rookie Tajon Buchanan, who entered the match in the 66th minute for Diego Fagundez.
Matt Turner also earned his second start of the season in net. After the game, Lapper embraced Turner, who was told Friday by the coaching staff he’d be the starter going forward.
May 11, 2019; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Revolution forward Juan Agudelo (17) celebrates with forward Cristian Penilla (70) after scoring a goal on San Jose Earthquakes goalkeeper Daniel Vega (17) during the first half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Turner made five saves. His best came as San Jose’s Magnus Eriksson crossed into the box for Danny Hoesen, whose flick Turner caught by leaping right in the 67th minute. Turner was also equal to a bid from substitute Chris Wondolowski from point-blank range in the 86th minute.
San Jose (3-6-2) spoiled the shutout in the 88th minute when Vako blasted a shot into the back of the net from 18 yards following a quick restart.
Keeping its opponent to just one goal was a stark contrast to New England’s form in recent weeks, as it entered the weekend with MLS’ worst defensive record after having conceded 18 goals in its last four games.
“I’m disappointed we let in a goal,” Turner said. “Overall, when the coaching staff say they have the confidence in you, you just want to repay that and make the most of it to fulfill it so you can continue to build that confidence and consistency with the team.”
New England host Chelsea on Wednesday night at Gillette Stadium for a special exhibition called “The Final Whistle on Hate,” which is meant to support efforts to raise awareness and root out antisemitism. On Saturday, the Revolution will play the Montreal Impact at Stade Saputo.
While the locker room was buzzing with positivity after the game and Lapper sounded upbeat, he also cautioned that the Revolution, who are still in last place, need to continue improving.
“Don’t get me wrong, we’re excited and this win gets us in the right motion, but we have a long way to go,” Lapper said. “This team is good enough to do amazing things.
“I’m not going to say we’re winning MLS — right now — because it’s only one win. But they can do great things like you saw tonight.”