BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — New England Revolution officials came into the new MLS season hoping this would be the year the team turns the corner and gets back to a winning tradition. Those hopes were bolstered Saturday night.
Forward Jerry Bengtson headed home a chip pass from midfielder Kelyn Rowe in the 62d minute as the Revolution defeated the Chicago Fire, 1-0. For the Revolution, who had a bye in the opening weekend, it was their first win at Chicago since July 2006.
“Our guys were ready and we had that extra week of preparation and I think that helped us,” said Revolution coach Jay Heaps.
The biggest play of the match occurred when Rowe, who had entered in the 53d minute, took control of a corner kick, and chipped it to Bengtson, who headed it past Chicago goalie Sean Johnson.
“Kelyn came in and changed the game,” Heaps said. “He came in and showed a little bit of class in terms of receiving the ball, finding the gaps, and of course setting up the goal.”
Rowe expected to connect with a teammate when he secured the corner kick and was not surprised Bengtson got to the chip.
“Jerry finds way to find space to find a goal,” Rowe said. “It’s my job to put it there and he put it away.”
Matt Reis was in the nets Saturday night as he has been for the Revolution most of the time since 2003. With the start, Reis became only the third player in MLS history to play in 16 seasons and now ranks fourth in goalkeeper starts (277). He made four saves for the 71st shutout of his career, 62d with the Revolution.
It was a very satisfying evening for the goalie, who will turn 38 on March 28.
“At the end of last year, there was a chance I wasn’t going to be picked up,” Reis said. “Knowing that the end is around the corner and any game could be my last, I’m really trying to stay in the moment and take each game as it comes. Hopefully, I can still help this team get some points.”
Reis came through in the 31st minute when Chicago midfielder Dilly Duka launched a shot from just outside the penalty box. Reis jumped and got enough of the ball to push it off the crossbar, keeping the match scoreless.
“He hit a knuckleball that was moving all over the place,” Reis said. “I knew they were going to get that one chance and I really needed to step up and make that save to keep us in the game.”
Juxtaposing Reis’s longevity, Andrew Farrell got his first start in a New England uniform. The Revolution traded up to get the first pick in the 2013 SuperDraft and took the 20-year-old defender out of the University of Louisville.
Farrell was the right defensive back and got a bear hug on the field from fellow defender Jose Julio Goncalves moments before the action started, as if to wish him well at the start of what could be a promising career.
Farrell assessed the night favorably as he and his team soaked in the opening night victory.
“We had a clean sheet, so I think I did my job as best I could,” he said.
Reis also liked what he saw from Farrell.
“He didn’t look like a rookie out there, and that is probably the best compliment you can give him,” he said.
The Revolution played without forward Saer Sene, their leading scorer in 2012, who is recovering from ACL surgery last year. He is expected to return to action in four to eight weeks. Also missing was defender Chris Tierney, sidelined with a bad left ankle.