Jones nabs winner as Revs tops Red Bulls in MLS East final first leg
New England took a significant step toward MLS Cup by securing a 2-1 victory at New York in the first leg of the Eastern Conference final on Sunday afternoon.
Jermaine Jones proved the hero once again for the Revs as he bundled home Teal Bunbury’s cross five minutes from time to separate the sides on the day. Bunbury and Bradley Wright-Phillips exchanged goals in the first half, but Jones’ late effort ultimately separated the sides in front of a sold-out crowd at Red Bull Arena.
"I was still hungry to score a goal," Jones said. "Teal saw me. I don’t know if he wanted to shoot or if he passed, but it was – end of the story – a good goal. We’re happy to win.”
The final result rewards the Revs for their persistence on the day and leaves New York to rue its poor finishing after equalizing through Wright-Phillips. The inability to convert gilt-edged opportunities now places the Red Bulls in a position where they must claim victory in the second leg at Gillette Stadium next Saturday in order to reach the final in Los Angeles or Seattle.
Most of the early exchanges favored a New England side willing to press high at the outset and unsettle the oddly languid Red Bulls. The visitors procured a series of set pieces in the early stages through their endeavor, but they failed to take advantage of those opportunities.
Bunbury created another route to goal to punctuate bright start with a precious away goal. The winger collected on the right side and sliced inside Ambroise Oyongo -- included at left back with Roy Miller suspended for both legs -- on the edge of the penalty area. He then completed the play by curling wonderfully inside the far post to open the scoring.
The jolt from distance spurred the Red Bulls to life a bit belatedly. They found their footing in possession and started to ask some questions of the Revolution with their work on the ball. It finally paid off 10 minutes later as they restored parity through direct service out of the back.
Oyongo atoned for his defending on the opener with a cultured ball over the top. Henry gracefully allowed the ball through for Luyindula to chase. Bobby Shuttleworth saved the initial attempt, but he watched as Luyindula hit the second attempt off the bar. Wright-Phillips beat his marker to the spot to nod into the vacated net to spark wild celebrations among the home supporters.
By this point in the first half, the balance tipped firmly in favor of the home side. New York enjoyed the majority of possession and pushed the Revolution further and further back inside their own end. It allowed them to create chances, but their inability to take them gave the Revs reprieve after reprieve.
Wright-Phillips once again served as the primary culprit. He managed to head an inviting Henry cross from the left over the bar from six yards. Lloyd Sam then screwed into the side-netting after Shuttleworth saved Henry’s initial attempt early in the second half. Wright-Phillips squandered another chance before taking a silly booking to rule himself out of the second leg for caution accumulation.
"There's four of them," Red Bulls coach Mike Petke said after the game. "I'm not going to point them out. You can look at the video. Obviously, they didn't miss them on purpose. That's life. Sometimes, it just doesn't go your way. We can sit here in the locker room and sulk and fight and cry or we can realize we have a game next weekend."
New York continued to commit numbers forward in a bid to tilt the calculus in its favor. The gambit largely worked with the Revs posing less of a threat as the second half unfolded, but the home side struggled to translate its territorial superiority into clear-cut chances with the visitors organized in defense.
The fleeting opportunities piled up with neither team quite prepared to take them. Jamison Olave headed a corner kick over the bar, while Jones poked over from a decent angle as the match entered the final quarter of an hour or so.
New England finally punished the Red Bulls for their wastefulness and stepped firmly toward MLS Cup by producing a winner in the final five minutes. Nguyen distributed out to Bunbury on the left. Bunbury picked up his head and slotted a ball toward the back post. Jones somehow eluded the offside flag to bundle home the winner and give the Revs a meaningful result to take back to Gillette Stadium next Saturday.