TORONTO — A shiny new star, an opportunistic attack, and a complete road effort have the New England Revolution feeling like this could be a special season.
Lee Nguyen and Kelyn Rowe scored in the first 21 minutes and Bobby Shuttleworth kept a clean sheet as the Revolution jumped back into playoff position with a 3-0 win at BMO Field in Toronto on Saturday.
“This is the time when you want to be going forward,” said Rowe, who added an assist on Teal Bunbury’s 58th-minute goal.
“You want to be catching a stride really and we found that. The way that we can add Jermaine [Jones] into this and get him his first minutes today, was great.”
Jones, the US national team member, made his Major League Soccer debut with a 65th-minute substitution for New England, winners of consecutive games for the first time since the conclusion of a five-game winning streak May 24.
“Today was a perfect game,” Jones said. “The first 20 minutes was amazing. Today there was only one team who could win and we showed it. I think it’s correct that New England wins.”
The Revolution (10-12-3, 33 points) moved into a three-way tie for third in the Eastern Conference with Toronto (9-9-6) and Columbus (8-9-9). The top top five teams in each conference make the playoffs.
Columbus lost in Montreal, 2-0, Saturday night, while sixth-place New York (7-7-10, 31 points) plays Sunday.
The Revolution’s victory was salted away long before Jones made his appearance thanks to Nguyen, who scored his 10th goal of the season in the second minute and later added his third assist.
Darting to intercept a pass that missed target Michael Bradley, Nguyen took two dribbles before hitting a bounding shot past Toronto’s Joe Bendik.
New England doubled its lead in the 21st minute when Rowe intercepted another poor Toronto pass, working a give and go with Nguyen before hitting a hard shot past Bendik from the just outside the 18-yard box.
“Toronto’s had some backline injuries and that’s tough to deal with, so part of our game plan was to try to put them under pressure early,” said New England coach Jay Heaps.
The game went to half with the Revolution up, 2-0, and the fans at BMO Field responded by booing Toronto into the locker room.
The game was Toronto’s fourth straight home match without a win, and Bunbury all but ensured that when he scored in the 58th minute. Rowe fed Charlie Davies down the left wing, and both picked up assists when Bunbury found the empty goal.
Shuttleworth made a leaping lefthanded save on Jonathan Osorio in the 62d minute after the Toronto attacker had a shot blocked.
“AJ [Soares] does a good job of cutting out the right post and closing him down, so I figured he was going to try to bend it with the inside of his foot and lucky enough I was there to make the save,” Shuttleworth said.
It was one of the few times trouble found Shuttleworth, thanks to a strong performance by center back Jose Goncalves and the New England defense.
Heaps said Goncalves was instrumental not only in the on-field win, but in keeping the unit together during an unorthodox week.
“Jose was excellent,” Heaps said. “He’s been really good through this process. He’s our captain. You add a big player during the week but everyone’s focus remained on Toronto.”
Jones had little to do in his 25 minutes of work, but won a corner kick and started a few combinations. And though he neither featured in the scoring nor the result, his addition was felt throughout the team.
“It was a big morale boost for the team,” Nguyen said. “Jermaine helps us out so much as well, not just on the field but off the field, mentally. “
Now the Revolution prepare for a midweek home clash with second-place Sporting KC, now 9 points ahead of New England in the standings.
And while the third goal came from a beautiful build up, the first two came from taking advantage of Toronto errors. Heaps doesn’t care how the goals come, only that they score enough to win.
“Every team wants to have 26-pass sequence like LA,” Heaps said. “That’s what you strive for, but at the same time the game is played defensively. You’ve gotta roll up your sleeves and put the work in. More times than not, it’s going to be a good game when you do that.”