FOXBOROUGH — The Revolution seem to have regained their home-field mojo. Now, they have to work on getting their act together on the road.
Teal Bunbury’s 53rd-minute goal gave the Revolution a 1-0 win Saturday night over the Vancouver Whitecaps, their third successive home victory as they remained 6 points out of the sixth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot. Coach Jay Heaps made decisive lineup changes, adding Je-Vaughn Watson at left back and moving Kelyn Rowe into midfield as the Revolution (8-10-5, 29 points) prepared for a two-game road trip.
The Revolution have a 13-match road winless streak, but at Gillette Stadium, the Revolution have been top notch (8-2-2).
Watson’s defending on set pieces helped the Revolution earn their second shutout in three games and his hard-charging run into the penalty area preceded the sequence leading to the goal. Rowe, in his first game in midfield after two starts at left back, helped set up Bunbury’s score, as he played in his fourth game since returning from US national team duty.
“No matter where I play, I’m going to make a difference,” Rowe said. “That’s my goal every time I step on the field, and a positive one, at that.
“And, whether it be going forward or defensive or whatever it may be, whether I play left back, right back, center mid, goalkeeper – it doesn’t really matter. I’m going to make that difference.”
The Revolution’s high-pressure tactics nearly paid off in the opening half as the Whitecaps (9-9-4, 31 points) struggled to play out of the back. And Rowe capitalized on the Whitecaps’ unwillingness to attempt to build from the back on the deciding play, the Revolution scoring shortly after a re-start.
Watson’s aggressive move into the penalty area resulted in contact with goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic, who, after received treatment, lofted the free kick into the center circle. Rowe read the kick and headed to Kei Kamara, then took a return pass. He ran into the right side of the penalty area, then crossed for Bunbury for a point-blank, left-footed volley. It was his fourth goal of the season, all in the last five games.
But the Revolution struggled late. The Revolution had a free kick delayed for a video review, then were caught off guard as Cristian Techera took a long goal kick and was fouled by Watson, who was cautioned in the 69th minute. Techera sent the free kick off the bar, Revolution goalkeeper Cody Cropper injured as he collided with the post.
Cropper then made two key stops in the final seconds as referee Ismail Elfath allowed six minutes of injury time, partly extended because of two reviews as the Video Assistant Referee system made its Revolution debut.
Watson’s caution will lead to a suspension for the next game. But the Revolution should have forward Krisztian Nemeth, who is awaiting an international transfer certificate, for a visit to New York City FC on Aug. 20.
The Revolution are 0-8-3 on the road this season and have not won an away match since a 3-1 result against Montreal on Sept. 17. But Revolution players were talking positive.
“Every game counts now, especially at home,” Revolution captain Lee Nguyen said. “We’ve got to get maximum points at home because clearly we’re struggling on the road. So, we’re hoping to, we need to, win at least a couple on the road to give us a chance going to the postseason.”
Bunbury’s late-season scoring run has added a spark to the offense.
“We need those types of runs up top,” Nguyen said of Bunbury. “That was the type of run that got us to the finals [in 2014], when Charlie [Davies] was in there, and Teal, they did that well. And, now, Teal’s doing that, as well, and we need to continue that.
“You’ve got to make runs like – if they don’t follow then you’re open, if they follow they leave another guy open. But it’s those types of runs that make defenses – can’t track other players.”
The best early Revolution chance was started by Bunbury, who played Nguyen in near the end line, Nguyen’s low, 23rd-minute cross cleared by Kendall Waston. Watson forced a Waston handling foul on the edge of the penalty area, Diego Fagundez sending the free kick high in the 45th minute.
The Whitecaps’ best first-half chance was a 37th-minute header high by Fredy Montero.
Techera and substitutes Alphonso Davies and Yordi Reyna threatened late, but the Revolution defense responded.