The New England Revolution kicked off their 2013 campaign in the best way possible, defeating the Chicago Fire 1-0 at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois. The win was the Revs' first at the venue since 2007, and only their fifth since the Fire joined the league in 1998.
Jerry Bengtson had the winner for the Revs in the 62nd minute after some good skill from Juan Toja and Kelyn Rowe. A corner kick was cleared by Fire midfielder Jeff Larentowicz, but it only fell as far as Toja near the top of the box. The Colombian's sublime first touch allowed him to control the ball and lay it off to Rowe, who clipped a looping cross to the far post. Bengtson got on the end of it and nodded it inside the post, providing the advantage the Revolution needed.
The first half was a little tough on the Revs. Although they split possession evenly with the Fire, it was obvious as the half went on that Chicago was winning in terms of quality of possession. One needs only look at the chances created to see that.
The Fire nearly scored after just three minutes when Steven Kinney cut back for Sherjill MacDonald, but the striker ballooned over the bar from pretty close range. The Revs hit back in the fifth when Bengtson crossed to the penalty spot for Kalifa Cisse, but the big midfielder's header was saved by Sean Johnson.
MacDonald had another great chance in the 27th minute, but instead of burying from about seven yards, he fluffed his chance and Matt Reis smothered easily. Then, in the 31st, Dilly Duka had an excellent blast saved in acrobatic fashion by Reis, who managed to punch it off the crossbar. Reis also saved a low drive from Joel Lindpere minutes later.
The second half looked much different. Rowe came on for Donnie Smith in the 53rd minute and irrevocably changed the game. In the 56th, what might have been the best chance of the match occurred, arising out of some excellent and tricky interplay between Toja, Rowe, and Lee Nguyen. It resulted in Toja charging in on the six-yard box with the ball at his feet, but a fantastic last-ditch tackle from Austin Berry took the ball right off Toja's feet.
Rowe nearly scored himself on a drive from distance in the 74th minute, but his knuckling shot didn't dip under the bar. Chicago nearly pulled one back in the second minute of stoppage time when substitute Maicon Santos ripped a high-velocity shot on goal, but Reis made the save.
The possession finished in Chicago's favor, with the Revs only grabbing 46% of the ball. They also out-fouled the Fire 21-13, but that may speak more to referee Hilario Grajeda's inconsistent application of the whistle than any overtly physical play from the Revs.
Also, rookies Andrew Farrell and Donnie Smith received debut starts in this match. Smith showed decently, while Farrell played very well, demonstrating that he is committed to playing the ball out of the back rather than lumping it forward at any opportunity.
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