The New England Revolution picked up their first win of the 2012 season - and the first of head coach Jay Heaps' young managing career - over the Portland Timbers at Gillette Stadium tonight. Saer Sene scored his first MLS goal in the first minute of action to make the Revs' home opener a sweet occasion for players and fans alike.
"It took a little time for us to settle in," said Heaps after the match. "But I think as the game went on, there were some things against us and some things that hurt us, but we fought through it. I think that was the most important thing tonight - when the going got tough, we got tougher."
New England wasted no time breaking their duck for the season. After winning a quick throw-in, the ball was worked to the left side by Clyde Simms where Chris Tierney was open. The Wellesley native bent in a great cross, and Sene rose highest above all to nod the ball home over goalkeeper Troy Perkins. It took just 28 seconds, tied for the 8th-fastest goal scored in MLS history.
"Saer's great at getting at the end of crosses," Tierney remarked. "So I figured, why not put one in and try to put it in a good area? Saer did great to get on the end of it."
Portland troubled the Revolution goal a few times afterward, but the normally-lethal Kris Boyd did not bring his best game to the Northeast, fluffing several headed chances when anyone would have bet the farm that he'd at least get it on target. New England, for their credit, also created more chances through the inspired midfield play of Kelyn Rowe, Lee Nguyen, and Ryan Guy, but were unable to convert. In the end, it was just the one goal that decided the contest.
Shalrie Joseph, playing in defense due to the Revs' injury woes in the back, surpassed his head coach as the Revolution's all-time leader in minutes played. The captain played a commanding game at center back, winning aerial challenges and dealing handily with the dual threat of Boyd and pacey forward Darlington Nagbe.
"It feels good to have that sort of longevity with this team and this league, and I look forward to playing a lot more minutes," he said of the milestone after the match.
Speaking of milestones, goalkeeper Matt Reis made his 1000th career save in the 69th minute when he gobbled up a shot from distance by Timbers substitute Franck Songo'o. Reis was instrumental in the Revs shutout effort tonight, making three saves and commanding his box well.
"I didn't know till they told me after the game," said the modest Reis. "It's nice. It just means that I've been playing for a long time and faced a lot of shots, but it's nice to have the longevity and keep making saves. I think the more I make saves, the more the team has a chance to win, like we did tonight."
The match was not without its battles, and both teams lost a man to injury. Timbers defender Hanyer Mosquera was stretchered off in the first half and eventually sent to a local hospital for facial injuries after colliding with Blake Brettschneider, and Kevin Alston suffered an apparently broken nose when Songo'o caught him in the face with his boot.
New England resumes MLS action next Saturday when they travel to Carson, California to take on the defending champion LA Galaxy.