fb-pixel Skip to main content

Rhode Island teenager Damian Rivera got his first start for Revolution, and he kick-started a win

New England Revolution midfielder Damian Rivera (72) is the center of the celebration after his quick strike for a goal in the first half against Inter Miami CF on Saturday at Gillette Stadium.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

FOXBOROUGH – Rhode Island teenager Damian “Tico” Rivera capitalized on his first professional start and Matt Turner made his season debut in goal as the Revolution took a 2-0 victory over Inter Miami before a crowd of 25,501 Saturday night.

Rivera, 19, scored in the first minute as the Revolution (3-5-1, 10 points) took control early and capitalized on Miami’s (3-5-1, 10 points) injuries and red cards for their second successive home victory.

Rivera, from Cranston, roofed a left-footer over Nick Marsman 56 seconds into the contest. The sequence was set up when Matt Polster picked off a Marsman pass intended for Jean Mota, then Carles Gil found Rivera with a perfect lead pass on the left side of the penalty area.


The Revolution, who play host to the Columbus Crew next Saturday, went with a one-striker setup, and Adam Buksa’s presence and hold-up play helped change the balance in the second half. Buksa drew fouls that led to red cards and the Revolution capitalized on a numerical advantage as Buksa headed in a DeJuan Jones cross in the 64th minute.

Miami striker Leonardo Campana and defender Aime Mabika went out with what appeared to be non-contact injuries in the first 19 minutes, then Miami lost two central defenders to a second caution, Damion Lowe (60th minute) and Jairo Quinteros (76th).

The game opened up in the second half, and the Revolution were able to pull the Miami central defenders out, leading to cautions issued to Quinteros (53d) and Lowe (54th). The rapid pace of the second half was displayed within a few seconds, as Buksa had a close-in shot saved (63d), Miami countered, then the Revolution returned on the attack, Buksa flicking on a Jones cross for his third goal of the season.

“It was a more complete effort on our part against a team that’s not easy to play against,” Revolution sporting director/head coach Bruce Arena said. “They get good numbers behind the ball, they’re good in pressuring on the ball. Getting the first goal was important. I thought we had moments in the first half to get a second goal and we kept them in the game. And the second goal was important and then, obviously, the red cards were a big factor in the game, as well.”


Observations from Saturday’s game:

▪ Arena’s switch to a one-forward alignment was effective because of Rivera’s advances on the left wing; the holding midfield combination of Tommy McNamara and Matt Polster; and Buksa’s physicality in the penalty area and in back-to-goal situations.

▪ Arena noted this was the first time the Revolution had Turner; central defenders Andrew Farrell and Henry Kessler; plus McNamara and Polster in the lineup since last season. Farrell made his team record 306th appearance, one more than Shalrie Joseph’s total, continuing to exhibit a combination of physicality and clean play (in seven games, Farrell has committed one foul). The McNamara-Polster pairing provided “a little more stability in midfield,” Arena said. “I think we’ve been susceptible to counterattacks, whatever the reasons are for it, whoever knows.”

Revolution goaltender Matt Turner makes a save during the second half of Saturday night's 2-0 shutout over Inter Miami in Foxborough, MassMichael Dwyer/Associated Press

▪ Turner played for the first time since sustaining frostbite in a US national team game in St. Paul, Minn., Feb. 2. Miami seldom pressured Turner, but his ability to anticipate attacks and advance out of the goal area helped the Revolution back line deal with counters. Miami defeated the Revolution, 3-2, on three Campana counterattack goals April 9. “I choked up, to be honest,” Turner said of his reaction to pre-game introductions. “It’s been really hard for me to be away from the game, away from this team. I love it here. I love playing here. I love playing soccer in general.” Turner, who will join Arsenal FC on a $7 million transfer in July, added: “It’s a nice start to a weekend, and I’m getting married tomorrow.”


▪ Arena prepared for a difficult early-season schedule by acquiring veterans Jozy Altidore, 32; Omar Gonzales, 31; and Sebastian Lletget, 29. Lately, Arena has been going young, adding goalkeeper Djordje Petrovic, 22, and winger Dylan Borrero, 20; and inserting Justin Rennicks, 22, and Rivera into the lineup.

“He’s just getting better, it’s his third year, we saw improvements this year preseason,” Arena said of Rivera. “He continues to make progress. We have to pick the right times to get these young players an opportunity. I think it’s important that you don’t put them in at the right time and damage their confidence, so the timing has to be right. It’s never perfect trying to figure that out. I think he’s been brought along in a manner where he can step on the field, especially in a home game, and try to produce.” Arena said Petrovic “is going to be very good, and we’re looking forward to seeing him play.”


▪ Rivera scored twice in a preseason game against the Colorado Rapids and seemed on the verge of earning a starting role two years ago, but had performed in only four matches before Saturday. “Yeah, I would say I progressed a lot in those two years, I think I’ve gotten more fit over the two years,” said Rivera, who was performing in front of a crowd that included his former club, Bayside United, and “a bunch of family, bunch of friends. To score a goal tonight was, you know, very, very — I was very happy. I couldn’t describe the feeling of when I scored a goal.”

Rivera’s goal was the Revolution’s earliest since Kei Kamara converted 22 seconds into a 3-1 win over Montreal Oct. 22, 2016. Jose Cancela set the Gillette Stadium record (19 seconds) in 2005.

Revolution midfielder Damian Rivera (72) was surrounded by his teammates after scoring an early goal in the first half for a 1-0 lead. It was his first MLS goal in his first career start New England. Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Frank Dell'Apa can be reached at frankdellapa@gmail.com.