FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — New England defender Chris Tierney deduced how Saturday night's 1-0 victory over Houston might play out before he and his teammates took the field.
In this slog of a match between two bitter rivals, Tierney thought the decisive blow would probably come from creating one opportunity and finding some way to bury it.
HIGHLIGHTS: New England 1, Houston 0
“We knew it was going to be a battle and the chances were going to be few and far between,” Tierney said. “We knew it was going to come down to us taking one chance and luckily, Stoli took it for us.”
New England signed well-traveled Serbian striker Ilija Stolica earlier this month to decide matches like this one, and he marked his full debut by collecting his first MLS goal, thereby securing the victory.
In a move that summed up the night rather perfectly, the opportunity arrived when Sainey Nyassi skewed his attempted volley toward goal into Stolica's path at the edge of the Dynamo penalty area. Two adroit touches later—one with the left to settle the wayward shot on goal and the other with the right to thrash it inside the far post on the volley—and Stolica provided the touch of class required to separate the sides.
“I think for any striker, it's important to have a quick reaction,” Stolica said. “You always have that one moment. If you take it, you score.”
New England coach Steve Nicol lauded his new signing after he marked his first start with his first goal and suggested his work in other areas will help the Revs as they continue their search for fluency in the attacking third.
“It was a good goal,” Nicol said. “He took it really well. You can see the experience he has, the way he holds people off. There's a lot of small stuff that probably goes unnoticed, but it makes a huge difference.”
Two tidy touches made all of the difference on a night when neither side could quite find a rhythm on the ball, according to Nicol.
“It was kind of a strange game, to be honest,” Nicol said. “Both teams were coughing it up for each other, but, obviously, we're pleased. We've won the game, we've got three points and we'll move on.”
The victory extended New England's unbeaten streak to eight matches in all competitions—including three wins and a draw in MLS play—and pushed the Revs within five points of the final playoff spot.
With a difficult trip to face fellow playoff rivals Chicago and Kansas City on tap this week, the Revs needed to secure three points against the Dynamo to boost their playoff hopes and sustain their momentum heading into a critical week.
“We need points on the board,” Tierney said. “That's the bottom line. This is three more points on the board and we're heading in the right direction. Hopefully, we can go on the road and get some good results.”