FOXBOROUGH - The 385-mile bus ride back to New England from Harrisburg, Pa., was a long one, made longer for the Revolution by the loss to the Harrisburg City Islanders last Tuesday. So when they arrived at Gillette Stadium Saturday night for a game against the Chicago Fire, they were intent on washing off the stench of that letdown.
They were one of seven Major League Soccer teams to lose in the US Open Cup Tuesday, and the way it happened was a sort of puzzling catastrophe: a blown three-goal lead in a game that was decided by penalty kicks.
“I was definitely tired,’’ Kelyn Rowe said of the trip.
Fatigue was one thing. Pride was another.
Rowe saw his penalty kick ring off the crossbar.
Benny Feilhaber saw his shot stopped by Islanders goalie Nicholas Noble.
“That was a nightmare for all of the guys that went there,’’ Feilhaber said. “It was depressing. It was everything you could possibly think it was.”
They found some redemption against the Fire, a longtime rival. Over a three-minute span in the second half, Feilhaber assisted on Rowe’s goal that let the Revolution exhale after playing 69 scoreless minutes, and then Feilhaber scored in the 73d minute that gave them enough room to breathe, pushing New England to a 2-0 victory.
“It was huge,’’ he said. “That comeback wasn’t something that you see in an everyday game. And it’s something that was definitely disappointing to the team and to the club. We wanted to get back and we wanted to make sure that we won today.’’
The goals came in a quick burst.
First, Feilhaber found Rowe streaking toward the middle box with Fire midfielder Gonzalo Segares chasing him.
Feilhaber sent a pretty through ball Rowe’s way and Rowe polished the play off with a right-footer to beat keeper Sean Johnson.
In a matter of minutes, Feilhaber found himself on the right side of the box, taking a feed from Rowe and beating Johnson low and left to give the Revolution the insurance goal.
“It was really nice to get that Open Cup game out of my head,’’ Feilhaber said.
Rowe had only been in the game a short time before finding the net, getting the call from coach Jay Heaps in the 64th minute.
“He’s been pushing hard lately and I think you saw when he came in the game there was a different buzz about him,’’ Heaps said. “Kelyn is all go and you love that about him.’’
Rowe said, “Jay told me to come in, give some energy, make an impact.’’
Rowe nearly scored barely a minute after stepping on the field, when he took a through ball from Saer Sene in the middle of the box and nearly beat Johnson with a right-footed touch.
When Feilhaber found him, Rowe cashed in on his second chance.
“I think he kind of gave us something a little different,’’ Feilhaber said. “Kelyn came in there with new energy and was able to right off the bat get in behind [the defense]. He made those two great runs that allowed us to get those opportunities. He probably should have scored the first one but then he made up for it with a much tougher one on the second one.’’
Feilhaber notched both his first goal and first assist of the season, working in the middle of the field most of the night rather than on the wing where he had seen most of his action this season.
“I thought Benny did everything right tonight,’’ Heaps said. “He defended when we needed him to defend and when he had his chances to change the game, he did.’’
Matt Reis stopped three shots, including one in the 52d minute, when Sebastian Grazzini shook Chris Tierney and booted one with his left foot that Reis got in front of to keep the game scoreless.
The Revolution were looking to snap some trends.
They had played eight one-goal games this season and lost six of them.
The past two weeks they had allowed late goals that led to their demise.
Beyond that, in their rivalry with Chicago, the Fire had gone unbeaten in the past 10 meetings with the Revolution.
Now, with a two-week break on the horizon, the Revolution (5-7-1) moved into a tie for sixth place and have some momentum.
“There’s games where you’re just going to try to plug away,’’ Heaps said. “I love the resiliency. It’s good that our guys, when given the chance, took it. That’s what I’m really proud of.’’
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.