Special to CSNNE.com
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – The New England Revolution got its 2013 season off to a winning start with a 1-0 victory over the Chicago Fire on Saturday night at Toyota Park.
Jerry Bengtson scored the game’s only goal in the 62nd minute, finishing from close range after Kelyn Rowe and Juan Toja combined to create the chance. Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis made four saves – including a spectacular sprawling stop late in the first half – to register the clean sheet.
It was the Revolution’s (1-0-0, 3 pts.) first season-opening win since 2009, while it was the club’s first regular-season win in Chicago since July 8, 2006. The Fire (0-2-0, 0 pts.), meanwhile, suffered its second straight shutout loss to begin the season.
The Revolution’s starting lineup featured four players making their MLS debuts, including offseason signings Kalifa Cisse and Jose Goncalves, and SuperDraft selections Andrew Farrell and Donnie Smith.
Cisse was involved early, forcing Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson into the game’s first save when he got on the end of Bengtson’s right-wing cross in the fifth minute.
Reis wasn’t called into action until the 27th minute when Patrick Nyarko forced a turnover inside the box and slipped a quick pass to Sherjill MacDonald, who rushed a shot which was easily handled.
Four minutes later Reis made a much more spectacular stop, stretching to tip Dilly Duka’s long-range drive off the crossbar. Joel Lindpere then tested Reis with another go from distance in the 39th minute, but the veteran ‘keeper was again up to the task.
Rowe entered shortly after the halftime break and was involved immediately as the Revs used some smooth passing to create a chance in the 56th minute. Rowe, Toja and Lee Nguyen all combined to slip Toja into the right side of the box, but Fire defender Austin Berry intervened with a late sliding challenge.
Rowe continued to impact the proceedings and engineered the Revolution’s breakthrough in the 62nd minute. The second-year midfielder won an aerial duel to nod the ball down to Toja and then immediately received a return pass. Rowe delivered a clever chip over the Fire’s backline to Bengtson, who finished with a close-range header.
Chicago made a late push for an equalizer, but the home side’s best chance – a stoppage-time effort from Maicon Santos – was comfortably handled by Reis.
The Revs will be on the road once again next weekend when they visit the Philadelphia Union on Saturday, March 16. Kickoff from PPL Park is set for 5 p.m.