FOXBOROUGH — Revolution coach Jay Heaps made five changes to his lineup that faced the Chicago Fire on Saturday night, following a shutout loss to Sporting KC a week earlier.
Those changes — notably the inclusion of forward Juan Agudelo, who returned from injury — paid dividends in a 2-0 Revolution win.
Agudelo grabbed the first goal in the 54th minute, smartly knocking a bouncing ball over Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson with the side of his right foot.
Heaps was pleased with the changes he made, and praised the play of Agudelo as a lone striker.
“[Agudelo] is not afraid to receive it, and when he receives it, he’s actually always dangerous as he holds it,” Heaps said. “He’s not just holding it to play it. He’s holding it, drawing people in, then giving it up.”
The addition of Agudelo doesn’t just give the Revolution a scoring threat. Heaps noted that Agudelo helped the players around him as well.
“He makes players like Lee [Nguyen] and Kelyn [Rowe] have a little bit more time to find the gaps, and Diego [Fagundez] as well,” Heaps said. “When you have someone who can do that, it really opens up what we’re trying to do.”
The Revolution (9-9-6, 33 points) slowly took over the game as the first half went on. Heaps’s team enjoyed 65 percent of possession in the first half and was defensively sound from the start.
The lone, clear-cut chance for Chicago (9-10-4, 31 points) came when forward Mike Magee hit the post with a shot from 7 yards in the first half.
But it was the closest the visitors would come to goalkeeper Matt Reis’s net. Reis made his first MLS start since March 23, taking over for Bobby Shuttleworth.
Magee, who has scored eight times in the Fire’s past 11 games, was lurking around New England’s defense. But without much possession, one of MLS’ top goal scorers was shut down. He managed just three shots all night.
Heaps credited the shutdown defense as more of a team effort, as opposed to solely praising the defenders.
“I think it was the effort from everybody,” Heaps said. “We were closing down on every opportunity, and that’s what we need. I think when we do that — from Lee to Kelyn to Scotty [Caldwell] — when we can limit them, and there’s a little bit more urgency, we do a lot better.”
New England continued to control possession in the second half, but the need for a second goal grew.
Rowe, who missed a sitter in the 88th minute, scored just two minutes later as substitute Saer Sene drove a ball across the 6-yard box. The goal doubled the Revolution’s lead, and put the game out of reach for the Fire.
“[The first chance was] probably harder to miss than it was to make it, but I’m not going to miss twice,” Rowe said. “[On the goal] Saer did great work. I was just fortunate enough to be there.”
Rowe did admit not scoring in the first half was a little bit frustrating for the team. But the persistence paid off, and it was a long time coming for Rowe and his teammates.
“It was frustrating when we had chances [in the first half], but it’s one of those where you just had to come out in the second half and do the same thing,” Rowe said. “We got that chance, and we still had a lot of chances. I think we did really well.
“Obviously yes, it’s frustrating to get a lot of the possession and not get something, but it’s nice for us, because we haven’t had that in a while.”
New England, which started the night in seventh place in the Eastern Conference — one spot behind Chicago — now sits one place shy of a playoff spot.
“Last week we were really disappointed with the way the game went,” Heaps said. “Just top to bottom. We were really disappointed with Toronto [a 1-0 loss Aug. 4] as well, because we played decent enough to do something in that game, but we didn’t and that was a real hit to our psyche.
“We needed a win.”