FOXBOROUGH - There was barely enough time to blink.
Chris Tierney wasn’t expecting to have as much space as he did. He expected the Portland Timbers to crowd things, make it tough for the Revolution to get balls in the box.
But in the first few seconds of the Revolution’s home opener Saturday, Tierney found himself drifting down the left side with enough room to send in a long cross.
He had no doubt that Saer Sene would be able to get his blond Mohawk on it.
“Saer’s great at getting at the end of crosses, so I figured why not whip one in?’’ Tierney said. “I just tried to put it in a good area and Saer did great to get on the end of it.’’
Sene sent a header that bounced off the crossbar and past Timbers keeper Troy Perkins for New England’s first goal of the season. It came 28 seconds into the game and was enough to lift the Revolution to a 1-0 victory.
The goal, Sene’s first in MLS play, tied for the eighth-fastest regular-season goal in Major League Soccer history.
“The eighth?’’ asked captain Shalrie Joseph, amazed that it wasn’t higher on the list. “I thought it could have been the first two.’’
The Revolution went the first 180 minutes of the season without finding the net. Trying to shake off two road losses, they didn’t wait a minute longer.
Tierney said the message from coach Jay Heaps coming into the game was, “Let’s put balls in their box, let’s put them under pressure to start the game.’’
Sene, 25, had a strong preseason but missed the season opener with swelling in his knee.
“Saer’s a player that we’ve seen a lot from in preseason,’’ Heaps said. “He took a little bit of a knock and he was out for our very first game of the year so he’s still coming back from that and he’s not 100 percent yet.
“I think that, as he gets adjusted to the physicality of our league and he gets adjusted to travel and kind of the entire game, you’ll start to see that he’s a player that can adapt.’’
Once Sene got the goal, the challenge for the Revolution was making it stand up for 90 minutes.
With the team thin at center back because of injuries and the suspension of Stephen McCarthy, Joseph stepped in, breaking up a handful of Portland scoring chances.
The Revolution were hoping to have new defender Flo Lechner ready to play, and Joseph was practicing at midfield during the week. But when Heaps learned Lechner needed additional medical testing, he leaned on Joseph to play center back.
“Shalrie had to be reactive and be the captain that he is,’’ Heaps said. “I’ll tell you right now I thought he was spot-on all night.’’
The Timbers had a chance to even it up in the 61st minute, when Kris Boyd found himself in front of Revolution keeper Matt Reis, but pushed the point-black header wide of the net.
From there, their chances were few and far between. In the 85th minute, Franck Songo’o ripped one from straight away that Reis denied, keeping the Timbers scoreless.
With three stops, Reis reached the 1,000-save mark.
“The more I make saves, the more the team has a chance to win,’’ Reis said.
The victory didn’t come without its share of bruises. In the first half, Portland’s Hanyer Mosquera was taken off after a nasty collision with Blake Brettschneider in the 22d minute. The Timbers replaced him with first-round pick Andrew Jean-Baptiste. Mosquera was taken to a local hospital for facial injuries.
The Revolution’s Kevin Alston, who spent last season wearing a protective mask after breaking his nose in April, took a kick to the face in the 63d minute by Songo’o and left the game.
“Kevin’s nose is crooked,’’ Heaps said. “It’s not pretty. He’s got to get a second [mask] fitted because this one, his nose is so the other way now.’’
The Revolution were already banged up, with Darius Barnes, Zak Boggs, John Lozano, and Sainey Nyassi all sitting out.
“The most special part of the night was when it got tough, we got tougher,’’ Heaps said.
For Heaps, who replaced longtime coach Steve Nicol in the offseason, there was something special about picking up his first win in front of the home crowd of 12,935.
After struggling to score in the season opener and having an early red card derail them in the second game, he finally got what he felt was a true glimpse of what the team could be.
“I felt that we were unjustly clipped of our confidence,’’ Heaps said. “That’s a tough thing to try to get guys to believe again, believing in what kind of group we have.
“But make no mistake, there was never any time in any one of those games where those guys weren’t fighting for each other.’’Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.